A few days ago, I woke up to the sound of nothing.
Having spent most of my life in the midwest (except for two years in Los Angeles), one thing I came to expect and to take for granted is the sound of nature. Birds chirping, squirrels scavenging, geese honking, and the like. But for the last two years, I’ve been living in the desert, albeit the “oasis” part of it, and it has only just struck me that I no longer awaken to the sound of anything.
If I’m being honest, I used to hate the early-morning twittering of birds outside my window. They were happily up with the sun and chattering together about the work of their day long before I intended to start my own. Now in the daily silence, though, when I arise to nothing but the noise of mechanical things, an artificial alarm or the sound of traffic in the parking lot, or maybe the landscapers doing what they do, I begin to wonder if I was getting it all wrong.
There’s a line from the band Rilo Kiley that goes, “the absence of god will bring you comfort.” I don’t know why, but lately I’ve been connecting these two in my mind. The absence of god and the absence of birds. The true desert that is the desert, even in this determinedly living part of it. How much I miss living things, animals and plants and trees, even rain and snow, and especially thunder and lightning. We get these, sometimes. We have trees, palms and other kinds. Bushes and sage. But all of it is an effort that takes a great deal of care, and a great deal of water that is not truly in abundance, here, though we pretend sometimes. How I miss water, a lake, a river, to feel the possibility of being refreshed, naturally.
These are the thoughts on my mind this morning, as I begin second revisions of my novel. I’ve already gone through once and changed tense and point-of-view, in addition to a close edit of the first ten chapters, which helped me establish the characters and timeline, and some consistency to maintain throughout the rest of the manuscript (voice, character, pace, etc.). The plan now is to work through two chapters per day, reading closely and revising each self-contained scene so that it works completely as it should as a segment of the larger piece. Once I get through this (28 chapters should take 14 days), I’ll read through the book in its entirety to make sure these segments work together as they should, and then I’ll decide whether it is ready to send out to beta readers.
Perhaps it’s on my mind because, in a way, that’s how I think of this novel. When it’s ready and sent out into the world, I hope it gives a voice to something I can’t quite articulate now. I hope it’s the message I’ve wanted to articulate all my life, without knowing how. I may have written this for an audience of one–me, my younger self who needed it twenty years ago–but maybe it’s a song that will carry farther than that.
Maybe it will bring some comfort.