From: (Rimrunner)
Newsgroups: talk.bizarre
Subject: FTSD: on silence (repost)
Date: 2 Dec 1998 15:18:00 -0800
Organization: paid to be polite to paranoiacs
Lines: 88
Message-ID: <744hr8$i3s$>
Summary: so it's a day late. the one posted a day early cancels it out,ne?

(Originally posted September 3, 1998)

Over two years I've lived here, and never before last weekend had I
visited Olympic National Park. Incredibly lame of me, I know, but things
kept coming up. Band practice (card-carrying member, "Future Rock Stars of
America"). Learning to beat the crap out of people with my bare hands.
Planning for and yet again failing to attend a reading by Sherman Alexie
because of another emergency. (This last has happened so often that it'd
make me believe in divine conspiracy, if I thought the gods were that

But the parents had come to town, which meant two things: one, a car, and
two, an excuse to blow off a few prior commitments in the name of Quality

We went to Hurricane Ridge. Getting there was an adventure in itself,
involving, among other things, lunch in a deli that had once been a
church. Really. Even the marker boards had gothic arches.

So we drove up as far as they allow cars to go, visited the visitor's
center where I bought sunglasses to replace the ones someone stole a few
weeks ago, watched an elk wander through the parking lot to mug for
cameras, and resisted picking up any pieces of sun- or wind-bleached wood.
Then we hit the trail.

It was about three miles, mostly uphill. We saw crows, something that
might have been an eagle, chipmunks, rather unshy grouse who eyed us
curiously (hoping for handouts is my guess), and many many grasshoppers.
Some were laying eggs. Others were eating each other. No proscriptions of
cannibalism here. More or less above the tree line, we passed scraggly
pine and looked across to another, taller range, where glaciers glowed in
the sunlight.

And then at the top. You can see Canada from there. Islands, sea, bays,
towns, other mountains. As my parents wandered off down another trail, I
sat on a rock and listened.

Living in the city, you get used to noise. Even in the early morning when
I sit in front of my altar as the sun comes up, there are sounds. Cars
going down the street: early-morning commuters. The clinic across the
street from my building opens for business, to the accompaniment of
slamming doors, crying children, and the occasional heated argument.
Planes fly overhead, red-eyes bound for Sea-Tac. And, very dimly in the
background, there's the roar of I-5.

Not so on that mountaintop, where it was so quiet that, very occasionally,
I could hear people a quarter mile or so away talking to one another in
normal voices. Other than that and the susurrus of wind through the grass,
there was no sound. No birds, no animals, no people disturbed the silence.
No traffic or airplanes or helicopters.

There is something immense about silence. A noise is only a noise, and
even a sonic boom passes. But silence waits. It's always there in the
background, and maybe you don't notice it because you're too busy, it's
too hot, the cars are honking at one another in the street and you're
assiduously ignoring the panhandler you've seen on that same street corner
every day for the past 18 months. Maybe you fear it. What I felt sitting
there was awe, and awe's got a bit of fear in it. We imagine things bigger
than ourselves, gods and monsters and things that lurk in the dark,
waiting to step out of nightmares and movies and into our bedrooms at

But to be in the presence of something immense is like floating in an
ocean, aware of the weight of the water around you, its effortlessness in
holding you afloat, your own smallness in the middle of it. Silence is
like that. You might surround yourself with noise, but it's still there.

It occurred to me that people pay enormous amounts of money for the kind
of view I had that day. Maybe they're looking for what I felt, maybe they
want to own it. But in owning it, in seeing it everyday, we forget that
the experience is extraordinary, and that life is extraordinary. Having to
make the journey and climb the mountain--whether it's a real mountain like
the one I was sitting on as I thought all of this, or a metaphorical
one--is what makes what you find at the end worth having.

In the end, words are inadequate. I could make this post ten times as long
and it still wouldn't be enough. If you've been there, you know what I
mean. If you haven't, nothing will do but that you go there yourself.

but wait until spring
Murder of Crows: WANT A CD? EMAIL ME!
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