Updated: Apr 7, 2021
We step down from the truck
onto the logging road
west of Priest Lake.
We step into silence too –
the creaking of our engine
as it cools is the only sound.
We stand and breathe and
let the sweat cool off our backs.
A breeze curls through the pines.
We take our packs and descend
into the woods.
Down by the lake we dangle
our feet off the tilting dock,
bent southward by winter storms.
Small waves curl slowly onto shore
and a woodpecker taps deep in the trees.
We say nothing.
A breeze swirls
through our hair
and the grasses by the cabin.
We sit and sit,
At home the noise resumes
and even the silence is not so quiet.
We think of Priest Lake
all winter, listening.
Priest Lake is located in northern Idaho, not far from the Canadian border. I lived in Spokane, Washington, during my college and post-graduate years, and visited Priest Lake a few times with a friend.
It was at Priest Lake that I first became aware of what I would call "living silence," a quietness that seems to have a palpable presence to it. It arises in nature where there may be some sounds - gentle breezes, the splash of tiny wavelets washing ashore, the quiet rustling of leaves - but no motors or yells or music bursting from speakers
Three decades later, I imagine that the number of motorboats plying the waters of Priest Lake have increased dramatically, and this kind of silence is rare. But in my imagination - or is it memory? - I can still hear that quiet even as I write these words. It's the silence of meditation, of looking at a beautiful work of art, or of a great piece of music dissolving, finally, into a charged silence.
But what about finding this kind of silence in ordinary daily life, such as when you hear the backup alarm beeping as bulldozer down the street is leveling a construction site (I'm hearing this even as I'm writing about it)? When you're in the grocery store, or the mall, or listening to the neighbor's leaf blower? In moments like these, I realize that if I focus on my breathing, and on the still space within me, the living silence is there. I just have to stop holding on to my resentment about the noise around me - because that resentment is the real noise.
May you find and embrace these forms of living silence in your own life!