My Father is a Man of the Woods, and my Mother a Woman of the Wind. Their record collection, now combined and collecting dust on a shelf in the basement, is organized alphabetically and chronologically according to each artist’s history of creating sound. It begins somewhere around ABBA and plods along to Point Z, where the two have decided to put both Robert Plant and Led Zeppelin – neither of which begin with “Z.”
As a tiny human, I can remember splaying my coloring books, paints, stickers, markers galore on our itchy brown carpet upstairs and feeling the harmony of Crosby, Stills, Nash & (sometimes) Young cut through the floor and ceiling between the sound system and me. I would close my eyes, lay back into the floor, and watch the words and key changes paint the back of my eyelids more vivid than I could the papers in front of me; when my mother would sit down at the piano ‘Once in a Blue Moon’ to recall one of her old tunes from years before – I pressed my ears to the hardwood of the piano to hear the key hammers thud against the strings. My mother told me it would make me go deaf and explained further that she sounded “no good because the piano is stuck out of tune above Middle C.” When my father would take my sister and I, or on the most special occasion – me only – on an adventure to the woods or the hardware store, or sometimes for a milkshake – he would turn the dial of his old, safe truck from ‘Car-Talk’ to whatever station was playing old folk-rock. It seemed like he always new the region of numbers to look in, and always took us out at the right time of day to crank the windows down and sing the songs he could only sing to himself over his 10 years of living in the Forest, studying the trees. Though he was no Willie Nelson – his voice along to “Mona-Lisa” has always felt exactly like home, and looked like a healthy, rich violet flow of notes – floating off into the highway breeze.
Sound in all its richness, depth, texture, and cadence – is the most natural thing in the world to me. And I have always simply known whether a place, or film, or restaurant, or church, or classroom is one I want to be in, based on how the sound feels. But I have learned that is not simply a metaphor.
In a classroom in high school – the Sound was a neon red cacophony. Our already hoarse-to-the-core teacher was yelling over the Debate on something I can’t recall in demand of order. He had donned a Judge’s robe, and hammered a gavel against the Metal Desk of Doom. I couldn’t hear anything – I could see it; a million bright red radio waves sprang from every mouth, bounced on the ceiling and every surface in between, like a fog made of sonic string. I started to breathe too deeply, and tried to find something to cling to, but all that came was tears and the need to run. I burst out of the classroom and flew down the hall with the radio waves chasing me the entire way. When I arrived to the door to outside, burst through, and felt the winter bite of wind cut into my chest – I filled again with all the air I had left in the room behind me. And I cried.
I arrived in the Counselor’s office, knowing it was the easiest way to stay out of trouble. She asked what was wrong. I couldn’t form words, nor sentences, and the water kept spilling onto my cheeks. She sat me in the corner on the floor and wrapped me in her soft white blanket, walked to her desk, grabbed her phone, came back to me, and put the earphones in my ears. Quietly, piano music floated into the echo chamber in my mind. She pointed her finger to her chair, put a hand over my eyes and mouthed “I’ll be right over there, Okay?” My eyes closed, and I floated straight back to the brown carpet of eight-years-old. We established, when I came back to calm, that I had just had a panic attack. The next question – a very long one to answer – was “Why?”
Two more years of high school went by with anxious outbursts, uncontrollable tears, and a growing music collection of my own finding. I began to paint and write novels about feeling everything, late into the night – just so the noise and brightness would have somewhere to go. I began to sculpt naked bodies, and carve ripples like water, and chunks like tree bark into their clay flesh. When my art teacher asked me “why” I would say “because that’s how *insert a melancholy emotion here* feels.” When my English teacher asked me to explain particular metaphors or personifications that I knew he understood – but rather wanted to press more for – I would say “to me, that is just what they are, together, the same – it isn’t a comparison at all.”
By the day I graduated, they each said: “you may not understand it now, but you glow, in a way that will never go out.”
Last October – the radio waves hit again, with high frequency. All I could hear was failure. I could feel a light going out. I called my dad and he said: “I can’t fix this from here kiddo, go and see the Counselor.” So I did. This new counselor, years after the one at the high school, took immediate interest in my trembling energy and restlessness. Within two sessions, she helped me identify that I was incredibly over-stimulated by emotion, sound, and the life that had been built around me. We learned the term ADHD. But in January, when I came home to un-stimulate – I saw a specialist, to find out just how stimulation works in me.
While we confirmed the Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder at the ripe old age of 21, we found something interesting: Synesthesia. The condition of experiencing more than one sense in coordination with a given stimulus. While mine wasn’t attached to numbers or words, it was attached to tone, pitch, touch, and intonation – like perfect pitch of a color spectrum.
I discovered my glowing superpower and felt the calm of a washed-out indigo; the water when completely spent after a roaring storm at sea.