POSTCARD #90: Delhi: Now it’s September and there’s been some proper rain, temperatures have started to drop. Wonderful, no need to have the AC running, I go around the house in the morning when it’s not raining and open every single door and window that’ll open. Screen doors closed to stop the insects but fresh air passes though, enters into these enclosed spaces where only the Hoover has refreshed the air for so long. Indoor plants sway in the breeze for the first time since June. Glass doors to the garden are pushed back on their hinges – so widely open it feels like outside is ‘in’, or inside is ‘out’… I don’t know which. The walled garden that used to be situated ‘out there’ is now a contained part of my room ‘in here’. The roof is the sky; birds fly through and inhabit my world.
Playing a music track on the speakers, and why does it sound so different? It’s because it’s echoing through the open doors, into the new acoustics created by the walled garden, the space by which my room as been extended. And what’s this? I’d forgotten about the sounds from the neighbourhood; people chatting on the other side of the fence, a phone rings: “hello?” Somebody somewhere, banging with a hammer. A shout, a barking dog. A Hindu ceremony far away – maybe a wedding. I hear reed instruments with drums – it must be on the other side of the park. Sounds carry a sense of location, near and far; the distance I’m aware of measures my world. I can explain this in terms of sound frequency, wind direction, but that’s not it. The experience itself is more than can be accounted for in words. When I become aware of something larger than I can find a reason for, it becomes a miracle. Science says there are no miracles, explains it all away by means of technical descriptions; telling us, the uninformed, that this is how a miracle works – yeh, but it’s still a miracle, isn’t it? Butterflies in the rain, (Sue Vincent’s Post)
It reminds me of the bell. A long time ago I lived in Japan. For three years, I had the top floor of a simple house in the grounds of Zuisenji Temple, high up on a cliff face near Kamakura. It was completely quiet there of course and I became acclimatised to the silence of the place. Except that sometimes the monks would ring the large bell… a horizontal pole suspended on chains swings over and hits the bell DONG! I’d be at home, alone in my house down below, sitting in my chair reading a book and WOW! this extraordinary sound suddenly hits the atmosphere. Jump with the shock of it; the acoustics – not the loudness… the pitch, deep and resonating, something from the 14th Century is suddenly intimately present in my small space… staggered by the closeness of it.
For the duration of that one chime, the sound had presence, it entered the rooms immediately and was everywhere at the same time. Then an indefinite period before the next one – waiting to see… but maybe it’ll not ring this time – and then it happens just as I’m thinking it’s not going to. Pause, turning the page in my book: DONG! Same thing, heart-attack stuff, a curious presence of sound, an event that extends beyond hearing; more than something just felt, almost seen… can’t be explained, a miracle.
Held by the memory of it, fixed in that time and I discover I’m not there at all, I’m here in Delhi, more than twenty years have passed unnoticed, hair has turned white, sitting by the glass doors looking at the rain and not seeing anything…
“People usually consider walking on water or in thin air a miracle. But I think the real miracle is not to walk either on water or in thin air, but to walk on earth. Every day we are engaged in a miracle which we don’t even recognize: a blue sky, white clouds, green leaves, the black, curious eyes of a child — our own two eyes. All is a miracle.” [Thích Nhất Hạnh]