the sound that soothes
take a listen: typewriter keyboard. tap-tap-tap-ring!
it’s the closest i know to a lullaby. the tap-tap-tap of the typewriter keys, ending every time in a churn and a chime. it’s how i went to sleep nearly every night of my growing-up years. my papa, perched at the kitchen table, his index fingers flying across the keys, a flick of the return arm, the telltale ping, and he was off again, bolting across the very next line.
he wrote, late into the night. i barely ever heard him come up the stairs. my bedtime was infused with words being formed, one sentence strung upon another. whole constructions of idea, unfurled across the page. i heard the whole thing.
my bedroom, just above and tucked at the back of the house, absorbed it all. especially in summer, when the screen door was open, and my window, just above and a smidge to the north, made for acoustic shortcut. every last A-S-D-F-G-H, a melody in pre-tempered steel.
no wonder typewriters soothe me. no wonder the tappity-tap-tap is more than music to my ears; it’s balm to nooks and crannies deep inside.
my papa’s been gone now, 36 years, four months, and 20 days, but i can bring him back, at least in sound, by pounding across a keyboard. oh, to have an old underwood with churn and chime. i make do, i suppose, with apple’s iteration of that soothing sound, the tappity-tap as if in padded slippers, not nearly the decibel of yore, certainly not the grind of how my papa typed. my papa typed in high-grade staccato, in rat-a-tat-tat, with cymbal crash. the whole house shook, i think.
and so this week for me was pure soothe. i too was perched at my old pine table. the one where i too try to build my house of words. where i, like my papa, string letters into words, words into sentence, paragraph into prose, one key at a time.
i was bathed in the lullaby of the alphabet keys. nearest thing, perhaps, to amniotic heart song.
it’s been awhile since a week beckoned with a single assignment: write, and write some more.
i did as instructed. and right away i knew i’d slipped into my old familiar writing groove, the one that comforts me as an old sweater soothes the arms that know it best. the posture that seems to fit me most emphatically is the one when i’m coiled into the keyboard, playing across the keys as if a child’s playground, and i am putting bum to every slide and swing. feeling breeze blow soft against my face. delighting in the pure joy of making words spring to life. prying back the hatch on my heart, and letting all that’s there leap out, and romp.
after days and weeks and months of that other side of writing, the one that pulls you to podiums, or hauls you out in front of crowds, and begs you to put breath to words, to tell the stories behind the pages of a book, i came home this week to the old hard chair that holds me up every time i sit down to write. i came home to days filled with little but the sound of thinking and the tappity-tap of my fingers skipping across the keys.
and that’s when i heard the hum that rises up from deep inside my heart. i am, it seems, most content when wrapped in quiet, when deep in thought, when lollygagging across my laptop swingset.
a writer (or at least this one) is by nature — and job description — one who takes in the world in full alert, and preferably from a lookout station planted firmly at the sidelines, not at center stage. it’s from the margins, the quiet margins, where the art of exploration, of thinking deeply, of taking in the roar and the whisper of the crowd, might best be exercised.
and so i’m home again, here at the quiet keyboard, alone with whatever rises up and spills from that sacred nautilus deep inside.
and to that i whisper a hushed and certain, amen. and thank you.
what sounds soothe you? and where is your most sacred landscape, the one that puts the hum in your heart??
p.s. i got a tad distracted this morning when i tuned into mika and joe, to catch the morning update. i seem to have lost my rhythm, the one that hummed when i awoke. twas a tough choice: take in the news, or type the morning away. i thought i could straddle both. but the revelations from the squawking box, they shook me up a bit (the national enquirer allegedly harassing mika’s teenage daughters, the word that m&j were told by the white house that the impending enquirer story could be spiked if only joe would pick up the phone and apologize to the president).
Thank goodness for that pull that leads you to write and write some more… for so often these days I find your words are a soothing balm in the midst of our current state of noise and distraction. Blessings on your tappity-tapping… And I am now listening to the sounds of my apple clicks with new ears 🙂
i wonder if anyone’s ever thought of somehow wiring the apple keyboard to sound like an old underwood? (watch, faster than we can say, Selectric, someone is going to tell us there already is such a thing….) xoxoxox
I love thinking of how the clack of a typewriter formed the musical backdrop of your youth. Wishing you fruitful hours at your own keyboard, where you make dreams visible… Sending love~~ xo
you’re right — clack is a much finer, more precise word, for that old rattle-trap typewriter. i guess i went with the alliteration of Tap and Typerwriter. anyway, sweets, welcome HOME! so so happy you got away, far away. and are safely back along your mighty mississippi. our exchange student comes tomorrow so i found myself filling my cart with as much americana as i could find. an old-fashioned fourth at our house. sending love to yours…..xoxoxoxoxoxooxox
Yes, the ‘banging’, distinctive sound of the old ‘Royal’ typewriter keys…I remember it well…never guessed I’d be doing the same on my own computer keyboard years later… 🙂
guess no matter which bedroom we were in, the sound wafted up the stairs. in summer, i definitely had the shortcut on that flackery sound…..
I love the sound of crickets. Nothing like a cool summer night with the windows open and their sound singing in on the breeze. Hope you’re student is a treasure. He sure got the lucky draw, getting to stay at your house!!! 😘
ohhhhhhhh, i love crickets too. and frogs. and spring peepers. and owls — oh, to hear an owl. those sounds of the wild seeping in through the windows, it’s a beautiful thing.
and, yes, our beloved exchange student is here — five years older, and five times sweeter. i’d have said it would be impossible for him to be one drop sweeter than when he was here as a 12-year-old, but he is SUCH a glorious soul, sweetening with age…..
as i type i hear the sounds of a summer morning, with a chipmunk — not the most dulcet of sounds — leading the chorus…..