My foot slipped and dunked right into an icy stream and I grimaced but plodded on, following my fast-footed friends toward some destination high in the Sierras, the Donner tale looming large in my head.
Tall pines obscured any sightline that might have existed, and the footpath consisted of rocks, fallen trees, and slippery moss. My other foot having fallen prey to another stream crossing, I trudged on wondering whatever possessed me to think hiking nine hours through the middle of nowhere to live in a very small tent on hard ground for a full three days in the middle of October constituted a vacation.
As I wearily kept the pace, zig-zagging uphill, the sky still somewhere above the looming pines, my troop of friends paved the way ahead through the cold forest. Rounding a bend, the trees opened up into a clearing, and just when I started numbering all the wonderful amenities living in civilization provided, everyone stopped and I turned to glimpse a lake cradled in a bowl-shaped outcropping of boulders and rocks.
The dark and ominous glassy water stood perfectly still – no birds sounding their presence, no fish surfacing for insects. Nothing moved except a cloud shape-shifting its way across the sky.
Pure unadulterated silence, an amenity civilization doesn’t provide.
Captivated by the immensity of its presence, we all just stood and watched and listened in quiet. My hypnotic state was soon dashed when the warped mind of our fearless leader and soon-to-be ex-boyfriend said, “Great place to dump a body.”
While we continued on, our campsite just a few minutes away, my whole being was still imbued with the silence, a strange mode nonexistent in the city. It’s a type of silence that rings through the body, calming any chaos that reigns internally, cleansing away the nervous vibration so deeply embedded inside every city dweller.
I’m not talking the golden silence of the soul, or the absence of chatter in the mind. Those are all qualities of silence, not silence itself. Silence goes beyond any meditation or yoga class.
True silence is a living essence all its own that lies just below the cacophony generated through living things. It is the pause between, the drawing in of energy in quantum hold before creation expels its plans into existence. Whereupon silence graciously gives way to strings of vibration fashioned into living songs called life.
And so it luckily was that those three days in the middle of nowhere where silence reigned, moved at a relatively slow pace, allowing me to generate a peaceful countenance through my friendship with silence.
Conversations occurred among all six of us throughout the stay, but silence still kept its hold on us. Snowed in every morning, silence occupied every space by the muffling of falling flakes, allowing my cells to dance back in tune again, washed clean of all the city noise.
I think our society has lost its affinity with silence and only finds solace in the constant bombardment of sound and movement. And though I find sound, or just plain noise, a comfort as well sometimes, I learned from the trip that my whole being needs the presence of silence. It needs the pause of sound to keep itself aligned in proper health and happiness.
Climbing to a pristine lake is not readily available to most of us. But turning off the television and computer, putting down the cell phone and deciding not to speak, or tweet, or text for a whole evening can bring some essence of silence into your being.
And it’s perfectly OK to do so.
On my last day camping I must admit I shattered the beautiful silence with a loud long-held yelp as I sat down in an icy stream to cleanse the odiferous cells on the outside of my body, which silence sadly had no jurisdiction over. But it was the omniscient silence found on that trip that has stayed with me.
And though I’ve forgotten exactly what my friends and I talked about, I’ll forever remember my special friend, silence, and its calm penetrating existence, an unseen healer we need only stay quiet to hear.