What Does Silence Look Like? 2010

trees sky and trail
Summer Silence

On a still, hot afternoon, the time of day in the time of year when sensible wildlife take refuge in shade and rest, and even insects take a break in their brief but incessant calling for the continuation of their species, I encountered a trail off into time.

At first my ears rang with the silence of the afternoon and of my own stillness, accustomed to the noise of my daily life, the radio programs I listen to, the white noise of my computer, the sounds of my neighbors going about their summer days drifting into my windows, the thoughts that accompany my own daily activities.

Then, in the same way we let our eyes adjust to darkness and suddenly we can see all about us, I let my ears adjust to the silence and heard the slight rustle of a breeze in the very tops of the black willows, crickets in the grass, the occasional chirp or click of other insects, an occasional bird moving from one branch to another. My mind was momentarily as empty as the air with the resting of my senses.

This trail off the trail leading through woods to a field was so enticing but time was elusive.

I remember exploring the woods and fields that still existed when I was young, following a path just because it was there, soaking up the sun and heat of a summer afternoon and filling my senses with all it offered.

Because our daily lives are so full of activity we rarely experience silence, or at least the quiet that generations of people heard before us, before we had so many ingenious motorized things and methods of transportation, then there are those cell phones ringing everywhere and one-sided conversations. Even once we escape all these noisemakers our silence today is rarely complete. It is, however, restful to the ears and to the soul, as I find in an afternoon outing on the trail, in the woods, out in a field somewhere.

A few minutes into my trek onto the trail, no matter the season or the weather, and the reduction of sounds has an impact on me that nothing else ever does. I don’t realize until then how I’m often breathing shallowly or even holding my breath, gritting my teeth, holding my shoulders rigid, even when I think I’m relaxed and happy and ready to stay all day, or forever.

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