white snake.jpg It's amazing what I cannot think of when my head is filled with the noise of the modern world. Names and places and dates and descriptions which would come so easily to me on an ordinary day, cannot be coaxed or conjured between sirens and loud voices... they cower in the corners, shaking.

It's the technology they fear. The brightness of my LCD laptop screen, the forensic science, the elegant blood spatter, the alcohol, the senseless banter of an afternoon sitcom. Can you blame my thoughts for curling up in the fetal position on the damp, gray floor of my brain? The world is too much with us these days.

Edward Abbey escaped to the desert. He watched cloud formations for days, let himself melt into the sand and the slabs of red rock until he was one of the crows, the lizards, the cacti. When he sat down to write himself a letter (in preparation for writing his elegy to the Arches of Utah, Desert Solitaire), the simple hum of the generator was enough to disturb his thoughts. Silence was his most effective fuel.

But today, we consider silence an obstacle. If the house is too quiet, we switch on a movie or a TV show or some music. We surround ourselves with family and friends. We howl at each other, just to make sure everyone is having a good time.

I'm the worst of all. The sheer volume of my own voice is enough to peel paint from fences, pull trees up by the roots. I can feel my lips contorting around my teeth, fighting to open wider and wider, forcing every fragment of sound out. It screams from the base of my diaphragm up my throat and echoes between my molars. All of this effort in the interest of distraction.

Every once in a while I find myself alone. I sit down on my couch, twiddle my thumbs. A possible moment of silence peaks out at me from behind a bookcase. If I allow it, the moment will approach me, nose quivering like a rabbit's. In its big, hopeful eyes, I see my childhood. Lots of quiet time. Quiet so thick and comforting that I dragged it everywhere with me, like a blanket by its corner. There were havens everywhere around my little neighborhood, places to sit cross-legged, prop my chin in the small palms of my hands and gaze up into the clouds.

If I were smart, if I was actually serious about pursuing my dream of being an author, I'd scoop up the soft, curious little moment of silence, kiss it on the nose, place it on my lap and let the aura of quiet pulse around us. And eventually, the pulse in my ears would be like a heartbeat, would push the blood of the story through my fingers and out onto the page.

I'm not smart, though. You see, if I have a quiet moment, I'll plop onto the couch and sigh. And then the TV will be on. Law & Order: SVU, Friends, Gilmore Girls, Mad About You. The plots and visions and dialogue of other people. Characters which are not my own and cannot be my own. They infest my mind, buzzing like gnats, swirling around and around until I cannot think of anything else.

The blood remains in my fingers. The story remains in my brain. And I am encircled in self-doubt, self-loathing. I'm a poor excuse for a writer, for a human being.

Last night I could not sleep. The noise of my life, my own decibel levels, my constant echoing, kept me awake. A din roaring my ears. So, I'm sick. Sick with myself. It hurts.

Next time, I will remind myself to cherish the silence. I'll walk in Edward Abbey's steps, learning to love the loneliness, crawling on my belly in the sand to watch the bull snakes wind through their mating rituals, considering God and god, slowing my world down so that I can hear myself think again.