words by tom johnson
I went to Texas once. It was different to home and I knew it would be. I knew that already, from things I’d seen and read. Some things you just know, I guess. It was Spring – the end of Spring – but it was already hotter than it would get back home, even in the height of summer when your bedsheets stick to you in the night, when the smallest breeze can affect great change. I had pictured desert, long stretches of flat land and huge skies, but apparently that’s found in the west and I was in the east. But things were still big here, bigger than you can really imagine until you’re surrounded by them. In fact, that’s one thing that took me by surprise; the size of things there. You could drive for a day and still be in the same state, I know that by the mileage on the road signs. They do well to tell you that.
So it might not have been real desert, the desert of movies, but the land was scorched and hard anyway. I took my shoes and socks off to walk on it, pretending that I belonged there, looking out for the tiny cacti sprouting out of the ground, like beads of glass peppering city streets, the streets back home, waiting to get you. Something else I didn’t know until I got there was the way time works. Over there an hour is slow and laborious, it doesn’t drag, necessarily, but it drifts, not always just rolling forward, minute by minute, second by second, but happy to rest a while too. Sometimes an hour can be two hours or more. It can whatever you want it to be. I guess it just depends on circumstance.
One of the mornings I was there I made the most of time, and the way it works there, learning how to pull it apart and rest a while in the space in between. I was staying on a ranch and there might not have been another house for miles and miles, for all I knew. It’s hard to quantify distance like that. It felt like it, certainly; there’s a lightness that comes from being so remote, so removed from the clamour of others. I made coffee and walked outside. The sky was bright. Blue too, I imagine, but it’s not always easy to tell in the mornings, because of that brightness. Sometimes you have to let the day settle a while before you know about that.
I found a chair and placed it in the sun, away from the shade of the trees that had found a way to grow, in spite of the lack of rain that is so readily consumed back home. And then I just sat, and listened. You don’t have to pay too much attention to the silence to know that it exists, you just have to let it be, like a feeling of something or something like that. And silence isn’t always silent, that’s another thing learned, either there or somewhere else. Silence can be the noise of birds, or the noise of other things: of trees creaking; the sound of people at work, way off in the distance; of a dog walking around, sniffing things out the way dogs do. That’s the best kind of silence, the kind that has nothing to do with the lack of sound.
I stayed like that for a while, the sun quietly colouring in the day, warming me in a way that felt like it was just for me even though it wasn’t. Then I heard the dog again. This time it was running and it came to me, licking my fingers that hung over the edge of the chair. Then it lay down next to me, panting, like dogs do, in the time after their running.
You hear that? I asked the dog, but it didn’t respond.
Maybe it felt the question rhetorical, who’s to know. Maybe it was too obvious a question. How could you not hear it; that song, that voice, so sleight but undeniably present, carried gently in the air like the breeze itself, flowing in from my miles away, over interstates, over great swathes of arid land, collecting dust and carrying it too; finding a place in the same gap of time that I had found. It was so soft it almost felt like rain, or else radio waves. So soft I didn’t want to move a muscle for fear of unbalancing it all. That’s something you never really can control though, the balance and the unbalance. Some things settle while others subside, and there isn’t always a rule for it. It’s always worth remembering that though. In a way it has to be.
Sun June’s debut album is released in June, via Keeled Scales