Echo

I chose the name “Echo” because that’s how this all came about – a piece sent to a friend, a “What do you think of this?” and the response was a morsel of prose, the perfect echo. From there it became a search for increased creativity, and friends from all over the country have beautifully contributed. I am awed by each individual’s writing and photography talent.

The first part of this post is written by me – the others are credited accordingly (with some including links to their own blogs or social media pages).

Dissonance

The world is unbearably noisy. It clashes with the obvious bursts of nature between buildings…it’s odd to inhale that vibrant smell of grass after a night full of rain but end up increasingly distracted by the surrounding city sounds.

I run over a puddle with my car and, for an instant, it sounds like a crash, like cascading waterfalls. The image haunts and follows me for a few moments, lingering behind my eyes. I can’t tell if it’s my ears buzzing from the flashing cars or if they’re straining and grasping to hold onto that miniscule splash. It has an accusatory tone.

This morning I was sitting in my car, mesmerized by the tiny, scattered droplets of rain on my windshield left over from last night’s storm, openly fascinated with the vibrantly green trees nearby, the leaves gently swaying as the sky decided if it wanted to let another cascade escape. I refused to play my normal routine of music on my car ride over, choosing instead to revel in the silence. I wanted to refrain from the easy distraction of white noise.

But the moment was shattered by frantic beeping from the cars behind me – the light had turned green, and I waited a millisecond too long. It was time to step on the gas.

Mirelle:

Yes, the world is noisy. A cacophony of sounds that we’ve started believing are natural to our environment. You know what is natural? Birds. The way they know exactly the right moment to start their chirping. “It’s day time now, world! The sky is lighter! Do you not see?” The patter of early morning rain, the sound it makes when it hits my window. Cleansing the city as it rests. Wind and its secret language, the way it converses with the trees. A rude awakening. The world we live in makes no sense to the conscious mind. This society. This technology. These buildings. This traffic jam. These sounds they call Top 40 Radio. Can we go back to a simpler time? But when? When is that simpler time? Maybe America before it had a name and it was just land. Maybe then the world would make sense. But maybe not.

Matt:

As I almost begrudgingly accelerate, car after car pass me by, sending stares in my direction. I admit, sometimes I too am guilty of this, and I don’t blame them. Life is too short to be held back by people blocking your way. Not for me, though. At least not today. It’s as if the world around me is moving faster than time itself, and the very thought of it drives me to the edge of vertigo. My mind can’t keep up. I grip the wheel tighter, out of fear of losing control and swerving into the traffic beside me. And just when I feel that I can’t hang on…salvation. Red light. Refocus. Breathe. It will be OK. Today, I live for the red light.

Mo:

Sometimes it scares me how much time I spend running. We all run from our demons, but sometimes they pull at the hem of your shirt, they drag you out of love, they drag you into it. But that’s no worry, I think. I turn up the music just a little bit louder. I focus on the wind cutting through the grass. I strain to hear the cicadas buzz on warm summer nights. I study the dust swirling through the air. I stumble across the beach, searching for shells just so I don’t have to think about what may be following. Occasionally, I spin around, almost like a child dancing, just to get a fleeting glimpse of what’s behind me, around me.

But demons don’t stay locked in notebooks. They don’t watch you from the shore as you wade into the water. They don’t wave to you from the airport as you board a plane. You can run and run and run, but that homesickness in your stomach can never be satiated, and the tears will still pour down your cheeks, blurring your vision until the water and the sky are one, until your hopes and fears collide. There’s a moment after I turn the lights out for bed where my eyes haven’t adjusted and the room is black as ink. In that moment, every demon comes out to play, dancing around the walls until I’m unsure what year it is, what lifetime I’m living. I’m not yet sure if they climb mountains or swim down rivers by your side, but I do know they can walk up stairs. I know they have a particular passion for New York City rooftops and rundown Chicago streets, where the grid is easy to navigate.

At one point, we all stop running and turn around to face what was there the whole time. I hope I have the courage to turn sooner than later.

Amitai:

It feels like a bigger version of someone looking out the window of a boring office job and seeing the trees or garden beyond. Yearning for the freshness and freedom and cleansing emotional connection to nature, where you can just sit quietly and marvel at the beauty and feel whole. But every time she gets even a second to get lost in it, she’s jerked back to the reality of the city she’s in. The grit and Rush and clamor and the moment is past. It’s an interesting perspective to create commentary on how we are, at our core, drawn to nature but find ourselves kept away by the need for things like jobs and home and community and the structure of society.

Ella:

The club smelled like a cocktail of spoiled wine and cleaning solution. He took us to a place full of people who looked vaguely familiar; all moved at the same pace, all seemed to know one another. I tried to find his hand at the bar but was given a drink instead. I smiled, he nodded, we danced.

The first time we had kissed was while crossing the street that one night. He tasted like the beers we had sipped down the road. The gesture was loud in its daring nature, and I liked the sound it made into the quiet night. As the club sounds were being pumped into my ears, I wondered if I was hearing or being filled with the numb sound of nothing.

The cascading night soon swept us into the street. We held hands as the air welcomed us. There was a cellist with extraordinarily long fingers who played a tune that swept the silence off her feet. He pulled me closer. The symphony and warmth made me feel like maybe I wasn’t directing my hope in the wrong direction.

Home enveloped us. I laid there in satiated silence and felt his breath in the air around me. The moment collapsed when he let a wash of unnatural blue light into the room. My silent plea hadn’t been heard; he had checked his phone.

Daniel:

Noise, silence, and music, where is the separation …what one moment was a monotonous distraction in between my rat race, the next I find truly a blissful symphony of momentous proportion.

Sometimes I feel like we escape from our very selves I begin to ponder as the doors of the elevator shut and I hear the waiting music playing in between floors, all eyes glued forward careful not to share a gaze with one another. As the doors free us I walk past a sickly potted plastic tree in the office acting as a trophy to remind us that we have advanced past the point of intermingling with nature and its sweetest of scents.

Finally the music of my boss’s words “go home early” chime through my entire body. I walk outside and am reborn by the breeze upon my skin. I walk through a café hearing the crying of an infant in its mother’s arms, and my face is commandeered in a smile, until I notice the man next to the infant looking angrily at the mother.

As I return back to my coffin to sit in rush hour traffic I tune out the noise of undecipherable talk radio and the stale image of the unmoving license plate in front of me suddenly rejuvenated and attentively alive as the rain clouds of the morning are gone transformed and overtaking the whole sky with its vibrant melting spectrum of color is the setting sun upon the horizon. The lingering sensations of warmth and the radiance of light turn even the honks around me into instruments, and suddenly each person surrounding me has become a crucial beautiful part of the symphony, each individual in their semi-parked steel cages is no longer just commuting alongside me, but each elevated to another musician adding and returning life back to my day’s symphony.

Emma:

Mik:

Downstairs, a bellicose toddler yells for his mother’s attention. Once, twice. Then a shriek. Finally, she responds. He’s already learned that’s how the world works. To get her attention, yell, yell some more. And then shriek. Then she’ll focus on you. It’s a house of old and young yellers.

It’s dark outside. A yellow-hued light illuminates my room; my monitor, my face and hands. It’s quiet, save for that yelling extending out and up. It’s night time. He should be in bed by now. When I was young, I didn’t have an option; my brother and I were put to bed early by our parents. Late last week, I saw him for the first time in a few months. I visited him in Boston for his birthday. It’s the second time I took the trip up to his for birthday celebrations; third time in general.

Each visit, I had the same thoughts. Buses are dreadful. But it’s redeeming to be able to stare out the window. In one four hour road trip, you end up seeing more nature than you can come across in a whole year in the city. Then, you finally realize your hunger—what you couldn’t stuff no matter the urban stimulant. No sweetener, no seasoning, no drink, no temperature, no company across from you, and no accompanying tunes. Nothing helps us find this satiety. We can’t fill these needs the way we mask the rotten rest of them. Till we abandon our menu and denounce the chef. I denounced during the whole route, my eyes feasting as we passed through decades of collective existence with each of their blinks. An exhausted toddler processing a whole new world, I took a break only for naps.

With evenings, summer is as lenient as winter strict. Once my bus and train settled in, I had light to sit in the grass and write. After getting cozy, my pen wrestled with the rain for impacts on my page. A perfect rain drop is a near myth. In order to fall, each one needs an impurity—a piece of dirt, of soot, inside.

When we crave absolution, thirsting for a storm to clean us of the day’s filth and of our missteps, we’ll only be washed by imperfections. Let us embrace those in ourselves and in our journals then. We resolve to let the drops and dirt fall, leaving behind confessions in their own braille betwixt our trepidatious chicken scratch.

After cleaning our dinner plates, we walked to his place and sat in the living room. The windows overlooked shorter houses, so we saw out to bits of the horizon. We still had remnants of the day. The droopy clouds took to cleaning out the remaining rays, meeting to shed their stoic white and gasp orange, yellow, and red.

Our work demands contrast in order to be recognized. With the sun out, our lights are meager orange. Come dark, we’ve found that we’ve made gold. Illuminated by our alchemy, the world we see is Midas’ hue.

I was still a refugee from the city, diffused and polluted, and gently pleaded to keep our lamps off. We sat, living and reminiscing as the room emptied of light. Slowly, in drips and drops. It was a familiar fade; I drank it outdoors before. When our view turned gray and blue, my eyes twinkled, drawing in flashes for the missing fireflies. These were their colors. This was their time.

We fought our natural instinct to flip switches, to protect us from the night and its terrors. It’s easier today to make good on those primeval stirrings.

For the first time, we didn’t let the walls that enclosed us also separate us from the rest. We were what the rest was; ephemeral. Cyclical. Powerless. The evening’s tree static swayed and muted everything. In the absence, the first star sang, “Come dark, come down, calm down, I’m here.”

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