Methodically open

We keep bouncing from one far-flung family gig to the next, with no time to unpack, catch up on chores, or blog much between bounces. It was just Christmas in July (ATV tours; mobs of dogs; conversations about Obama mired in failure and ruin). Now we’re off to Portland for the Voget Family Reunion (Germans and Argentines visiting Americans; conversations about Obama likely to reference joy and redemption). I am among the Voget spouses—known affectionately as “zeroes”—so I’ll mostly listen, practice a little Deutsch-sprechen, and sneak away to see the Men of Cougar perform if I’m lucky.

In between trips, Sarah and I try to reassure the world that we’re open for business—just not for mid-July, or half of August, or next Friday, etc. We seem to have our hustle on. Sarah got her “Local Is Beautiful” goods in I Like You, a spunky new Nordeast boutique, and had to replenish shelves at a few other shops, too. I’ve been shuttling around the suburbiverse meeting with new and potential clients. I leave town with a sense of optimisim about these prospects (instead of my usual ambivalence and/or mortification). The pace is unlikely to slacken in September.

But I could use a little downtime. I listened to a 25-year-old interview with John Cage on Fresh Air tonight, where he says that paying attention to two random noises was as good a form of meditation as “sitting cross-legged.” Sounds that usually annoy, like car alarms or buzzers, Cage says are full of unique and enjoyable textures when you stop to listen. As someone whose only musical efforts are atonal, I know this to be true. You just need the presence of mind (or alteration of mind, often) to appreciate what you never noticed.

In the latest Found Magazine, Miranda July, an inveterate collector of cast offs, talks about how she finds traces of others’ lives inspiring. Knowing where, and more importantly how, to look is key. “Practice being methodically open, the way you would practice anything else, like math.” Yes. Unexpected discoveries come to those who are present and receptive. That’s not usually me, but I’m trying.

With my family off to PDX four days before me and certain channels temporarily silenced, I’m tuning in an “open” frequency.

> Listen: Shellac – End of Radio

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