Precarious Kites
(Grace Notes)
Go Easy > Cadence

Grace-Notes #27 – for Sunday, July 16, 2006

I can still picture Friday night dinner in my neighbor’s kitchen. We sat at the Formica table, in orange Naugahyde chairs, our rear ends damp through our flowered shorts from running for hours in the sprinklers. “Eating over,” we called it and did it all the time – she at my house, and I at hers.

The sun had set in the desert of Southern California – the sky red as a new scar, the air stuffed tightly and hot down between the hills. Inside, the table was heavy with food, all heads were bowed, the candles were lit, and then came the words. They were familiar and foreign at the same time: “Barukh atah Adonai, Elohaynu…” “Blessed are you, Lord, our God….” The beginning of the Jewish Shabbat prayer.

To this day, when I hear these prayers I do not really know, my body moves with the sound. It can catch me like a baited line – hook me into a rhythm and a translation that goes beyond literal meaning.

Thanks. Praise. Light. We carry these in the body, in an open store room. Sound can help you find your way into the room.

We belong to time of cell phones, PDA’s, and Blackberries – shrill and intricate – jingling, jangling, jolting us silly all day long. A whole alphabet-soup of news channels, talk channels, and music channels vie for our auditory attention. I-Pod’s pump lyrics directly into our heads. Computers talk, alarms buzz, doctors’ waiting rooms have TV’s hanging from the ceilings making noise.

Sounds abound. – loudly and constantly.

At times our ears become overburdened, overwrought, and achy – and we don’t even know it.

Needing to stand down from the noise of our life is nothing new. Surely, many years ago, you could find a person gone-out-back-to-the-porch for a moment of get-away from the fullness of too much conversation, the buzz and din of laundry, or repairs, or tidying, or radio.

But, it is so much harder, today, to un-plug and un-hook, to modulate the sound of our lives.

I tell my sons to listen hard when the wind picks up to a jaunt, and begins the limb-bending troll through town: “Hear it?” I ask and they strain, eyes closed, to identify the picture the sound carries – of salt and sea and air. The light-dark-light of cottonwood leaves fretting against each other sounds like the ocean and even if they are still they sway with the imagined noise of the tide-pull. The wind’s cadence stops them for a moment.

Cadence has a sound we hear in our bodies, a sound that rocks us until we are sated and calm.

Cadence can be anything that paces you, that gives you a steady beat, back and forth and back and forth, until your breath evens, until the day falls away, until you are gone for a moment from all that heaves in on you or holds you under or keeps you back.

The sound of a soccer ball kicked again and again against the garage – thud-unk, thud-unk, thud-unk – in the early morning, in the mid-afternoon, in the late evening rush of dinner and calls and flowers bent and dry from the sun.

The sound of scrubbing a sink until your arm is lost in the swoosh of the pad around and back, around and back, around and back, and you stop thinking about the rest of the house a mess; you hear only the water falling and the steel wool scuffing.

The sound of Gregorian chant, the Latin words rising and spreading out full in your ears, the voices a deep knock on an old door resonating.

Catholic monks at Vespers, Jewish men singing, Muslim prayer.

Leaves. Waves. Foot-fall. Breath. A cadence can be anything that takes you in and moves you close to where you need to live.

You will find more than one your whole life long. Sometimes you will find one a day. A cadence can become your entry into a finger-snap place of far-away-gone, your entry into a place of light, of root, of calm tied and anchored tight.

Cadence will be a sound that catches your soul and holds you still. It will be a prayer.