By Steven Norris

     I love music. I hear it all around me. One of my favorite things to do is to sit on our front porch on a breezy day and listen to the wind chimes. Our particular set is tuned to a pentatonic scale that mirrors the melody of one of my favorite hymns.

     Have you ever heard of water chimes? I do not know if that is their actual name, but it is what I called them. A few weeks ago, I was on a retreat at Mepkin Abbey, situated on the banks of the Cooper River near Charleston. The monks living there observe a strict practice of silence throughout their day. One day, I was walking along the bank of the river, observing a moment of silence myself and heard a strange sound that caused me to momentarily pause.

     When you toss a moderate-sized rock into a still pond, the displacement of water is accompanied by a distinct sploosh.” Or, when you are out fishing, you might hear the momentary plop” of a fish jumping. As it submerges, it pulls in the water and makes an almost “pitched” sound of river gulping its scaly resident.

    Imagine that pitch sounding over and over, ringing out in steady rhythm with the ebb and flow of the river’s waves. I was mesmerized. The Cooper River was singing to me as I stopped what I was doing, laid down in the grass, and just listened.

     I came to find that the sounds were made by water splashing against small holes in the large river rocks along the shore. According to the US Geological Survey, the holes “are caused by circulating water holding a smaller rock or pebble up against the large rock, and the resulting friction eroding a ‘pothole,’ into the larger rock.” The different sizes of the holes accounted for the different pitches that I was hearing.

     It made me wonder: how many other “songs” do I miss in my day because I don’t stop long enough to notice? How many “songs” does God sing for us, but we fail hear them because our days are filled with so much noise and distraction?

     Doorbells ringing, keyboards clacking, alerts on my cell phone, and the chatter of small talk — these are the “songs” I normally hear. I walk outside my office, unable to avoid the barrage of engines revving, tractor trailer brakes pulsating, or the HVAC unit on the roof of our building humming away. Where do we go to hear the beating of our own heart? Where do we go to hear our breath whistling in and out of our lungs — echoes of the first prayer that must have passed across Adam’s lips when God breathed into his nostrils the breath of life?

     I pause and am reminded of a poem by Wendell Berry: “When despair for the world grows in me . . . I come into the peace of wild things / who do not tax their lives with forethought / of grief . . . For a time / I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.”