The Sound of Water
She stood at the sink. The water had filled the small bottle she was holding and was spilling over the top. But in its journey -- up, up and up, past the half-way mark, past the shoulder and up the short rise to the neck and then out the top -- she had heard - water music.
She felt admonished and amazed. These bottles were kept filled with water and always sat next to one of the two or three plants she placed with them on her deep, wide bedroom windowsill. The plants there were sun lovers and basked year-round in direct sunlight. The bottles were there because they were beautiful held the water needed for the plants. She thought herself thoroughly familiar with the sound water made when captured and rising to fill one of her watering bottles. But now?
She had kept an eye out for small glass bottles. Over time, created a small collection -- all clear, tinted or colored glass. A mix of modern apothecary shaped and original medicine or tonic bottles. Never red glass, not after the first time, when she found the color, a harsh unattractive hue, to’ve been painted on the inside glass,. She had turned then to blues, greens, ambers, yellows. Pinks, lavenders, mauves, magentas. Violets of deeper and lighter hue, and one deep pansy-purple. The clear glass sometimes contained a hint of green, yellow or blue.
Together or separately they sat on the windowsills in both living and bed room. Singly or in groups, that she rearranged from time to time. Sometimes of a single color. Sometimes of a mixture. She always experienced soft pleasure from each new positioning.
When much younger she pushed furniture around, reassembled the other furnishings. Her sons would arrive to find their home re-made. A totally other configuration of known elements, forming unfamiliar relationships, making everything feel different. Changed, in some significant, subtle, magical manner. The secret, she thought, lay in playing with space. Blocking off space they had been living in to make accessible new space, unseen before because unavailable. Magic! Her sons noted it, saying it was as if they had stepped into a new and larger place. Each room bigger. Her nerdy son called it a “new gestalt”. She wondered if you could apply “new” to gestalt.
But however you called it, it was what the small glass bottles now did for her. She loved her rooms. Furnished with things pleasing to her. Comforting in both familiarity and beauty. Silent voices of people, times, places. The windowsills housing the bottles along with other bits and pieces, from here and there. GIfts some, most purchased. Unexpected unplanned summer vacation finds. Carefully selected winter purchases from quirky or museum catalogs. Bits and bobs and bottles. And plants. Moving these about was more appropriate to her years than shoving awkward heavy furniture. Shifting them about, in their space, on the windowsills. Breaking the space. Opening and closing it in a re-combination of color, texture and size from amongst her small treasures. A much easier means of satisfying her forever-need for change, making different the space wherein she lived. New gestalt, in miniature.
Plants that loved the sun sat on the bedroom sills where a plant stayed until re-potting. If then too large, it was moved to bureau or bookcase or even, sometimes, given away. On the other hand, If a plant grew too old or became unhealthy, it was dumped. Unceremoniously. Never, though, without silent thanks given for pleasure received by its presence.
Power over life and death, she would think whenever she dumped a plant. Thought the same whenever she swatted and killed a lazy house fly or greedy mosquito. Immediately aware of the inequality in size between herself and a plant or a fly or mosquito. And instantly pictured a gigantic god-hand, hovering over her, readying to dump or swat her, smite her into non-existence. Wondering, wryly, if thanks would be offered for pleasures received.
But now the sound of water filling the bottle in her hand stopped thoughts. She had been very much in the moment, paying all of her attention to the sound made by the water in the bottle, as it passed up to and then beyond the halfway mark, rising quickly to the sharp shoulder of this small square bottle and then even more quickly up the short rise to the neck, almost immediately spilling out the top. She thought she knew the sound water made, filling up a bottle. A musical acceleration in tone that always rose before splash-out. But today, here, now, this afternoon -- something was different.
She had spent a long morning sorting her books into old from new, keepers from give-aways. Books filled her bookcases and lined her table edges and still they grew in number. Damn Daedalus Books and Edward R. Hamilton Book Company (known as ERHBC to buyers still using paper order sheets, paper checks and stamped addressed paper envelopes mailed via USPS). Such low prices and only a single charge for shipping any number of books. Books she only realized, on reading their catalogs, she was famished to read.
Yes, well, and then, having finished that, she had sat for lost hours, re-tailoring a short story due to be entered in an on-line fiction-writing contest -- her first submission of writing and her way of sticking a cautious toe into the public waters of authorship.
Now, finally, she had come to the bedroom, its deep wide sills drenched in the heat and sunshine of late afternoon in early fall in Maine, to set about tending the plants. She worked leisurely, turning them thus and thus, seeing that one needed water and then that one of the bottles on the sill was empty and another only half-full.
After watering the plant with what was at hand, she took the bottles into the bathroom, filling first the larger -- carrying it back immediately having learned to do this in avoidance accidental spills or breakages -- and then returning to start filling the other, the smallest of all her square, broad shouldered, short necked apothecary styled bottles, this one clear glass with just a haze of blue-green.
It was the sound of water filling this bottle that drew all of her attention as metal filings are drawn to a magnet. She’d set the tap at a more refined flow than her usual hurried full-on style. Feeling no impatience at this point in the day, well satisfied at having completed two finicky jobs, and well content with self and life, she was taking her time. She had plenty of time for spending. So she’d adjusted the stream to fit both size of the bottle and her mood. Wanting to watch and listen. In pleasure. Alone. With only the sound of running water to break the silence in the apartment.
Standing, bent in close attendance, she had listened to the sound of water steadily rising, its quality of sound much like that made by blowing across the mouth of a bottle mouth. Only in this case rising on a steady graduated ascending note. Musical. Soft. Familiar. But then, suddenly, as the water reached and then passed the sharp shoulder of the bottle, its note altered. The distance the water had to travel from shoulder edge to neck was extremely short. But yet, as it cleared the break in shape at the shoulder, its tone changed. From ascending to descending. Clearly if very briefly. Then instantly was muted as the water splashed out the top.
She’d never heard this before. Had never been paying such close attention before. Before, in her usual rush, she had missed it. Until now. This late afternoon of an early fall in Maine. When she heard what she now believed to be the complete sound of water music. The music water made as it filled a bottle.
She went on to finish her tasks. Slowly. Fully watering the first plant, pulling a dried leaf from the bottom of the other and then watering it. Rotating both so that shaded sides now faced sunlight. She refilled both empty bottles again, without attempting to explore the sound of the water or recreate that extraordinary final descending note.
She placed the re-filled bottles down carefully, setting them between the plants. Then, work done, she sat for a moment. Staring at nothing. Still slightly mazed, and wishing to do nothing for a bit. Preferring to remain in this state of dumb wonder at how the smallest miracles can pack some of the biggest punches.
It was not until later in the evening, long after dinner and an unsuccessful attempt to read that she gave in and called a friend, wanting now, eagerly, to report on and share this marvel she had witnessed. But her wonder was not matched nor her certainty met with acceptance. First came kindly dubiousness and then ill-disguised skepticism. No matter how earnestly recounted or eloquently argued, there was no way past her friend, who was gently but firmly citing scientific refutation of the very possibility. Ending, finally, in a flat refusal to listen further until or unless she could, in that friend’s presence, successfully reproduce her ‘phenomena.’
She did try, In the days and weeks that followed. Again and again she tried to re-create the sound of trapped water music. Its note that first rose, and then, at the very last, fell -- before bursting free of the bottle. Her attempts taught her only that the bottle that might reproduce the sound was the very one she had been holding when the water sang its up then down note to her. But the promise was never fulfilled.
In time she gave it up. Eventually managed to forget about it. Until one night, sitting with a small gathering of friends, she remembered it again, complete with a freshness of immediacy, as if it had just happened. And so she told them. Including in her account details of the day, telling too about her bits and pieces, her collection of glass bottles of differing sizes and colors and of her affection for them. Going on to tell how she kept two or more of them filled with water on the deep window sill of her bedroom. For watering plants that also sat there. And then speaking of her plant tending, including the notion of her power over the life and death of old and sick plants she would pragmatically dump and intrusive flies and mosquitoes she would gleefully whack. And, finally, of her whimsy regarding an envisioned giant god-hand, readying itself to smite her, in return.
All this was by way of capturing and amusing her audience before chancing once more to recount her experience of water and how it could behave. Of the water music she heard that one day and never again. It was clear, she assured the small assembly, that she did hear such water music. Fully. Once. Since then, she told them, despite repeated efforts, there had been only whispers of that familiar rising and then of the startling descending pitch. Twice, maybe three times. Just enough to say she was on the right track. That it could happen again. Just hadn’t. Yet.
The group was silent when she finished. Lost in her successful recreation of the mood of that odd experience if not the actual sound she heard. The spell at last only broken when one of them spoke, saying that perhaps the giant-god decided to play her a tune instead of dumping her or smiting her, where she stood. And so it was in shared laughter that general conversation started up again and it was in a feeling of shared friendship that she felt her truth to have been accepted.
Late that night, alone again in her home, she decided she would accept this fey explanation of her strange witnessing of water music of another kind. And, in exchange, she would not try to recreate the experience nor recite it aloud to anyone again. Instead she would honor it by honoring and keeping safe the small square sharp-shouldered bottle. Which she was convinced had been used by the giant-god of the giant-god hand to signal to her the truth of its presence in her life. She would keep the bottle on the bedroom sill. Where the sun shone year round to show to best advantage the touch of cool blue-green in the clear glass of the little bottle. And make sure it was kept safe.
She had set it then right next to a small begonia she had picked up just that evening, after leaving her friends. It was a young and healthy plant. Just coming into bloom. She’d use the little bottle exclusively for its watering. Until it grew too big and had to be moved. Or got too old or grew sick. And had to be dumped.
The Sound of Water