I’m not sure why I thought of this the other day, but a small memory surfaced that gave me a little sense of longing. A feeling of sentimentality and wishing. The recollection wasn't much, really; just a fleeting remembrance of a sound I used to hear.
I thought of the record player we once had - the one that was in a Hi Fi cabinet. It was a little old fashioned for the late 1970's, but it had a good sound (we thought), and the decorative chest that housed it fit nicely in our living room. Perfect with the avacado green divan.
I loved listening to a stack of records as I went to sleep at night. My room was near the living room, so I could hear the music while I lay in bed. My parents had a fine collection of classical, as well as gospel music. Quartets, George Beverly Shea, The Mormon Tabernacle Choir. No pop singers, nope, not for us. Just music that was enriching - “edifying” - as my dad would say. The Grand Canyon Suite was my favorite symphony piece, especially the “On the Trail” movement. I blame that piece for igniting my love of donkeys as I pictured them clop-clopping down the trail, then balking with the violinist's “hee-haw, hee-haw, hee-haw.” With each movement I could just see the sunrise over the canyons, feel saddle sore on the trail, then run for cover as a storm passed, and finally, sleep under the brilliant stars. It was music for the imagination.
But that sound thing I remembered. The thing that’s made me feel a little bit tickly inside. It happened when the music came to an end, but the record kept going around and around. You could hear the sound of the needle on vinyl, the speakers amplifying the “shhhh” as it floated over the the wide shiny space in the center. I suppose that sound didn’t last more than fifteen seconds, before the needle would lift and return itself to its arm rest.
And I would wait. Shhhh.
Here it comes. A click as the next record, which had been suspended like an umbrella top, was released. With a quiet “plop” it settled on the turntable and got up to speed in anticipation of the magic needle lifting and moving to the exact location of the thin, shiny space at the outer rim of the record. Again, the “shhhh” of the needle. What record was this? I couldn’t remember. I would have to wait a moment to find out. Shhhhhh. Oh, yes. There it is. Mahalia Jackson. I'm going to sleep well now.
I would close my eyes. Most nights, I made it through the entire stack of records, until the final shiny space at the center of the last one. The needle didn't always lift and there would be that long, "shhhh" as the vinyl went around and around and around. I'd hear my dad's footsteps and the cabinet lid squeak open. Then a "vvvvt" as the needle was swiftly lifted with his index finger and pushed to the side. A click of the knob, and the lid closed tight. Slippers on carpet, lamps turned off.
The memory of that sound - the "shhhh" - made me remember the pause that came with it. The waiting for the next record. The wondering about the order they were put in. The anticipation of what was to come. Just a few seconds in all, but enough. Enough to appreciate the end of one record before starting another. Enough to wonder if the needle will get stuck? Oh, good, there it goes. Whew.
Sometimes I think we need those old-fashioned pauses again. We don't really live in a hi-fi world anymore. My IPod will play continuously on shuffle. Cable news is 24/7. Walmart is open all night. I can work throughout the weekend. Customer service is always available. I can call ahead for carry out. I can take care of emails on airplanes, and coffee shops and waiting rooms. Amazon delivers tomorrow. Everything is seamless, unbroken, uninterrupted. Everything moves at the speed of light. We juggle and hustle. There is no "shhhh" when a turntable goes around and around, as a needle waits to be lifted. No intermission in the noise and activity and bustle.
But you know what? I'm making a conscious effort to stop. To pause. To appreciate an event, or a song or a movement, before rushing to the next thing. I'm paying attention to the person in front of me, listening instead of scrolling through my texts. I'm tweeting and Facebooking less - because they eat up the pauses that are good for my soul.
Today, I encourage you to choose quiet.
Allow pauses to enter your day without rushing to fill them. Stop all the multitasking. Quit feeling guilty for watching clouds, and listening to tree branches sway, and laying with your babies on the floor. Because in the pauses there is appreciation, and anticipation, and wonder. There is rhythm, and peace, and contentment. There are clicks and pops and whispers of God that you can only hear in the shiny spaces on vinyl, while a needle waits to be lifted.
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