Tuesday, May 17, 2005
So Here I Am Again

My trip started with the customary rain and thick fog, but thank god for once that finally gave way to patchy clouds, and eventually on the second day to bright sunshine. I was starting to think I was cursed, y'know? I've gotten to the point that I don't even need a map to make this trip -- I know exactly where my interstate interchanges are, I know where my refuelling stops are, and I recognize the territory I'm travelling without thinking about it. That geographical relaxation makes it easier to consider the landscape... I was struck this time by the number of mountain ranges I pass through on the road between Vermont and Mississippi. I start in the Greens, then pass through the Adirondacks, the Catskills, the Poconos, the Cumberlands, and the Great Smokies -- all of which, of course, are subsets of the larger Appalachians, but driving through them in rapid succession you can sense the differentness of them all. The Poconos are high but gentle; the Smokies are lower but still bear the shadows of the cragginess they must have possessed in some remote geologic age. To lump 'em all together as Appalachians seems unfair to their distinctive nature. But then, maybe I'm just thinking about it too much.

Thinking too much, of course, being one of the major characteristics of a long, solitary trip. I think driving encourages meditative thought; the act of driving requires a certain low-level mental engagement, but doesn't require so many mental resources that you can't apply some of the effort to other things. Every trip produces its own minor epiphanies; sometimes they're just old material recycled, but sometimes something new comes up. Yesterday I was considering noise and my own tendency towards silence.

I'm a pretty quiet person -- I don't speak loudly (in fact, I find it physically difficult to shout much above my normal range), I walk and move around quietly, I'm careful about closing doors, and I find accidentally making loud noises (dropping something, slamming a door behind me, that kind of thing) deeply embarrassing. That's one side of things, most of which could be put down to social grace or politeness. The other side, I think, is more metaphysical and has to do with voice (or rather voicelessness.) I tend to be socially reserved, I don't often speak to people unless they speak to me first, and while I can speak publicly with no problem (provided I don't have to work too hard to project to the back of the room) that's about all I can do. And that seems strange to me... I don't think I was always like that.

When I was a little girl (5, 6, 7 years old) I sang my ass off. I sang to my mother, I sang to my grandparents, I was happy to sing in public -- the music teacher at my elementary school used to give me solo bits on a regular basis because I was one of the few kindergarteners who could carry a tune, and I loved it. But by the time I was ten, that was gone -- I can remember by the fourth grade the idea of singing in front of people produced the total vocal shutdown effect that it still produces today: my throat closes up, my chest constricts, all the blood rushes to my face, and it requires enormous effort even to speak a few words. I have my theories about what produced this, but that's probably beside the point (and too personal for a blog... nobody wants to hear about it). The point is, somewhere along the way I lost it. And that seems... sad.

So I'm thinking maybe I should make some attempt to reclaim some of that ability. Because it isn't just about singing in public or playing an instrument -- it's not as if I'm going to make either of those things a major focal point in my own life -- but rather about feeling okay about making myself heard. That's something I'm not so good at, and yesterday, driving in the car and letting my mind wander, it occured to me that these two things might be connected.

So I'm opening the floor to suggestions -- especially from you noisy people. What do y'all think?

PS: And then there's my mother -- without going into too much detail, she suffers from a physical disability that strangles off her voice. It can be treated, but it's a curiously apt physical metaphor for how I feel sometimes, and it's interesting that we share that in common, even on different levels. If she reads this post (and she will eventually), maybe she'll comment on her thing -- she's been on television for it, so I'm sure it's no big deal, but it's her medical condition, not mine, so I think I should leave it up to her.
10:39 AM ::
Amy :: permalink