Meditations on the Noise 9/12/2019

Meditations on “The Noise”
By Mindy Pollack-Fusi
Today, the day after 9-11, I opened the sliding glass door to my deck, high on a hill. Woods, homes, road, nature surrounded me. I smelled oregano-scented Monarda, or “Bee Balm,” enjoying its last days of summer.

I set up two comfy-enough deck chairs facing one another and settled into one, my legs resting on the other. I pulled a light blanket over me. My dog jumped up and settled on the chair seat beside my legs. I made room for his sleek, compact body.

My morning coffee consumed, I needed a moment before starting the busy day a head. I wanted to acknowledge the 18 years since September 11, 2000, the day my daughters returned from school, one crying, one saying “it doesn’t affect us.” The older was hugged and comforted; the younger one, old enough to know better, was swiftly educated about all humans being connected.

I also needed a break from the oppressing late summer news: The damage and pain in the Bahamas from Hurricane Dorian and difficult news about those who lost homes and livelihoods being turned away. The pain of Odessa and all the other unnecessary deaths. Funerals for people—and now also for a glacier, climate change demonstrating its dangers.

A Catbird wailed for her mate. I glanced at my watch. Eight a.m. Could I achieve this? Twenty minutes?

I closed my eyes and silently said the words “breathe in,” and then “breathe out.” With the next breath I said “relax,” and felt my shoulders un-bunch from my neck. With an exhale I thought, “I am blessed,” and I briefly tucked thoughts of this troubled world behind a temporary partition of self-indulgence.

I stayed focused on my breathing—until I heard the whirring of large construction machinery through the woods on my left, and a staccato drumbeat echoing from the right. This chaotic symphony reflected the daily sounds of two more neighboring teardowns. Contractors everywhere are busy creating oversized residences that burst to property lines; more woods, and land for the wild animals living beside us, being destroyed for opulence. A problem to worry about later; I needed to relax and escape right then.

Feeling the smallest movement of wind in the near-Autumn air, my thoughts turned to my friend’s daughter’s would-be 37th birthday the prior week. Gone three years, way too soon; that day, we honored her memory doing acts of kindness. I visited an elderly neighbor and fed a traveling family’s cats and fish. Trivial, but all part of the big scheme of things. I never feel I do enough, or there’s never enough one can do.

I asked myself in that moment: Am I meditating if I am also mentally recalling each thought, yearning to capture all in words? I checked in with my mind’s eye, that “third eye.” For weeks, while trying to meditate, I had seen a deep-blue clouded orb behind closed lids and wondered if that meant I was finally “plugging in” to universal energy? Right there on my quiet deck, however, I saw only bold, disturbing gibberish, perhaps a foreign alphabet. Chinese? The inside of my eyes, or association to the trauma in Hong Kong? I settle again.

I breathe in. I breathe out. I whisper silent prayers, then close myself off to thoughts, until an itch on my eyelid disrupts. Do I scratch? I wink it away. Minutes later an itch on my chin. Let it go! But this one I cannot ignore; I lift my hand and scratch. The dog shifts. I open my eyes long enough to resettle him, his soft furry paws now near my bosom. I hold one in each hand and close my eyes. He skillfully licks fingers and palms, a warm, wet tongue massaging my hands. I envision my Bubbe massaging the dough while shaping dozens of rugelach for loved ones. Who will continue her tradition? An aggressive snout shoves my hand to the other side and continues to lick. Love? Or pursuit of hand cream? A woodpecker announces itself with a steady peck, the tympani complimenting surrounding rhythms. Cars hum by now and then. Work. School. Errands. My nest long empty; dabbling with retirement. Where to volunteer? Here, or at the borders? Both?

I had no idea how much time had passed when a neighbor’s beagle howled its familiar disruption. There’s nothing like a hound dog! I opened my eyes. I felt at peace. I glanced at my watch. Truly? 8:20 a.m. Exactly. I knew I could carry this refueling “time-out” everywhere I go. We all can. Even children—and politicians—if we teach them how. Everything makes a difference; we are all connected.

Mindy Pollack-Fusi is a writer and novelist from Bedford, Mass.