Wednesday, July 10, 2013
Rumi & Leaf-Blowers
Every Monday morning in the summer, at eight o'clock, the caretakers of the property adjacent to my apartment fire up a gas-fuelled leaf blower, shattering the morning quiet with nerve-jangling noise. Often the blast of noise comes as I am doing my practise of meditation and prayer. It is a test of equanimity that I don’t always pass.
Living in a large city I’ve gotten pretty good at embracing the sounds that arise around me. When a siren wails I pause and say a prayer for both the first responders and for those who are awaiting their arrival, sending a breath of calmness and comfort and a prayer that all be well. When warm weather is accompanied by the sound of city workers jack-hammering up the pavement to replace water pipes, I greet the sound with gratitude for running water and indoor plumbing. Even on Sunday mornings, when the quiet is disturbed by the street-cleaning vehicle noisily sucking up gutter debris, I manage a small inner bow to those who keep our city clean.
But for some reason the Monday morning leaf-blower defies my attempts at garnering gratitude for all the sounds of life around me. Perhaps it is because I don’t really “get” the usefulness of leaf blowers that seem to shift grass clippings and fallen leaves from one property to another without actually removing them. Perhaps it is because it always starts at eight on the first day of the work week, reminding me ominously of the old adage, “As we begin, so shall we continue.” As I sit in the midst of the noise I acknowledge that the man wielding the offending power tool is no doubt doing so to provide for his family, but I can’t help but wish that he- that everyone- would find a way to do so without gas leaf blowers.
I’ve tried putting in earplugs before I begin my practise, although I don’t always remember to do so, and while they are not completely effective at blocking the snarl of the leaf blower, they do stop me from hearing the birdsong that accompanies the beginning of my practise.
So this week, when the low rumble that leads to a screaming whine indicated that the dreaded leaf-blower was being fired up, I decided not to pull away from either the sound or my own reaction to it. I felt my body tense and noted the tension; I heard my inward protest and let the wail go on as long as it wanted to; I acknowledged that I do not like this sound, and I do not control the source of this sound.
And then . . . . I started to wonder, what else might be here for me? And I remembered what I try to forget: that the pattern of sleep and waking that most suits my life, my body, my being and my choices includes rising around five in the morning. I know this, and yet – mysteriously- I fight it. I resist living according to the monastic pattern (at least in sleep and rising times) that appeals to my soul.
And here’s the thing: when I obey this deeper longing, when I arise at five, my practise of meditation, prayer, yoga and dream-writing is completed by eight when the leaf-blower is fired up. When the mechanical noise interrupts my practise it is because I have not followed my deeper impulse to rise before the sun and sit in the quiet of the dawning light. My irritation is laced with disappointment to have missed the time of day that sets my soul afire with possibilities.
Realizing this, I can’t help but smile. Suddenly beneath the roar of the leaf blower I can almost hear Rumi whisper: “The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you. Don’t go back to sleep.”
Sometimes, the sounds that call us home are not all melodious.