I just didn’t want to put the next disc in the CD player last night. Anne Enright’s language in The Gathering is rich and gorgeous, and yet, I didn’t want to listen anymore. I let NPR come on instead.

Dave Matthews – the hometown kid around here – was being interviewed. He’s not my favorite, particularly in concert – too much jam band, not enough substance. But last night, when he strummed a pattern on his guitar, something at the base of my skull broke free to dance.

As much as I love to read, as much as books fill my days, sometimes I just don’t want to read. In these moments, joining more words to the ones racing through my head doesn’t feel like respite or escape. I begin to feel like a bicyclist out for a leisurely ride on a country road reserved for a motorcycle race. No amount of reading will help me in those moments where thoughts dervish in one after another.

Sometimes silence is what I need – or not silence, but those sounds that don’t require attention – leaves breathing with the wind, a cat purring on my lap, water spinning and gliding over glistening stone.

More often, though, it’s music, specifically the strumming cadence of an acoustic guitar. When the sound reaches my ears, I feel this bloom open at the place where my ears meet my throat, and I almost inevitably sigh. The sound sinks in, like rain on parched mud, and my mind slows to the pace of a stream where I can walk my toes on smooth stones and feel life ease down from my mind into the rest of my body.

By the time I reached dinner with friends last night, I had been swept away entirely by Dave Matthews Band’s “Mercy,” a song that reaches into the idealist I try to suppress sometimes and brings her out to dance.

I told my friends I should marry Dave Matthews, and Hez suggested that he was already married. I don’t care. I just want to listen and feel that bloom of calm and hope open again my throat.

What do you turn to when books don’t sooth?