Night unto night

This entry is part 5 of 7 in the series Self-Portraits

ice ear

Seated between the quietly humming computer and the cold-air return vent for the furnace, I begin to hear voices. It’s not the stirring of a crowd united in passion for some cause or spectacle, nor the whispers of a moss colony buried by snow, but a simple and pleasing cacophony — the kind that grows from any gathering in which many conversations blend and merge. Picture yourself in some cave-like station or terminal where every other person is speaking animatedly into a cell phone. They might as well each be talking to God, except that, from time to time, they pause to listen. That’s what this pause is like. I’m tired and I’ve run out of things to say, so I give listening a try. The furnace stops, and a moment later the refrigerator shudders into silence. I power down the computer; the voices merely rise in pitch, till they are thin as the hairs on a fly. Call it sensory deprivation if you want. It’s past midnight, the full moon is hidden by clouds and I’m sitting in the dark, accompanied by the white noise of angels in which I do not believe.

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18 Comments


  1. Very intriguing, and the image is perfect. This make me think of times when I can hear “noises” inside my own ears, coming from within not without.


  2. ‘the whispers of a moss colony buried by snow’… ‘I’m sitting in the dark, accompanied by the white noise of angels in which I do not believe’ – oooh, hauntingly evocative. And what is the picture, which is wonderfully illustrative?


  3. Marja-Leena – So you do this too? Interesting. my first thought was to file this under poetics, before I settled on Self-Portraits.

    Jean – Thanks. It’s from a photo I took two days ago of ice on our stream.


  4. “There is no speech, nor are there words;
    their voice is not heard;
    yet their voice goes out through all the earth,
    and their words to the end of the world.”
    It’s great that you tell us what these voice are not, and also what they are like. But you don’t tell us what they are. They so scared the psalmist that the second half of the psalm clamps down the law.


  5. Brett – Yeah. That’s always been one of my favorite psalms (though I didn’t think of it until I was casting around for a title this morning). I was a little disappointed in the version quoted by Rachel at Velveteen Rabbi the other day in her review of “Zen psalms,” which otherwise seemed quite interesting: “The heavens express your fire / The night sky is the work of your hands / Day after day is your spoken language / Night after night your perfect knowing[.]“


  6. Oh it is the sound of your own heart speaking in tongues, the blood in your veins singing its song, the mind the mind chattering without you and wondering about itself.

  7. Teju

    I have always loved one of the verses of Psalm 36–still do–for its Via Positiva take on these thoughts.

    “For with you is the fountain of life;
    in your light we see light.”

    From night unto night, in your light we see the light. All of a piece.


  8. robin andrea – That sounds plausible (and very Whitmanesque!). But I think there’s value in treating the source as an Other, too.

    Teju – Nice association. I am also quite fond of this kind of twinning, as I guess you know.

  9. Alison

    Hi Dave – I really liked this bit. I wish I had something really profound to add about the angels in which we all love to not believe in, but still believe in – but anyway, your piece makes me think about pitch blackness – absence of sound/absence of light – how sometimes when walking through it, it feels thick and full almost as if it needs to be parted to pass through it, and other times it feels quite light and empty and almost crisp.


  10. Alison – I wish I had something really profound to add
    I think you just did. I mean, it’s far from trivial to think about blackness/darkness in new and positive ways, and to conjure presence out of apparent absence. What could in turn lead to a new way of conceptualizing angels and such.

  11. quiet regular

    great comments everybody, and thank-you Dave for coaxing them out…i really really really don’t have anything profound to add. I plan to install a Bible on my nightstand sometime today.


  12. The comment string of the true believers, Dave! We’re all in here whispering.

    I must believe in the white noise: I’m always drowning it out with my own.


  13. Very well-written musings, and the photo caught the mood. That photo and the one of snowflakes before trees some time back belong in a portfolio of Evocative Black-and-White Shots Sans Humans.


  14. quiet reader – I plan to install a Bible on my nightstand sometime today.
    Whoa. O.K.!

    Peter – I’m always drowning it out with my own. Oh, you believers! But that’s the way most of us are in relationships with flesh-and-blood others, too, isn’t it? I’m not sure there’s that big a difference, really.

    Larry – Thanks. I’m trying to remember to try b&w more often.


  15. I turn my air cleaner up full blast at night for white noise while I’m trying to sleep (first did it to drown out the snoring of the guy who lives next door, but it helps with occasional housemate noise, too). Anyway, I used to think it trapped whatever noise that was around before I turned it on, which sounds crazy but I’d hear the TV even though I’d turned it off, or think someone was leaving a long message on my answering machine. Voices. Or I’d hear my dogs (when I had them) fussing in the kitchen where they were shut in for the night. I’d even get up to check on them and they’d be sleeping. Very weird. I haven’t really noticed it in awhile, but probably I just haven’t paid attention.


  16. Leslee – It’s always a comfort to learn that my friends are as delusional as I am! (Or as in-touch with the spirit world, maybe? Nah.)

  17. Lye Tuck-Po

    I’m tired and I’ve run out of things to say, so I give listening a try. . Excellent. I wish more people would do it.

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