The sound of silence

  • November 04, 2019
  • Posted by Guest Blogger

Silence, or rather the absence of sound, is not something I would say I experience often. I grew up in Cleveland to the sounds of traffic and construction by day, trains and sirens by night. Even in the rare moments that external noise isn’t reaching my eardrums, I find myself trying to fill the silence that emerges. I frequently listen to music and, as my crew members can certainly vouch for, talk a bit too much. Perhaps a familiarity with the cacophony of city life is somehow comforting to me. I took solace in the fact that silence simply wasn’t something I had to come face to face with through the first two hitches of MCC. Between the power tools being used and the inevitable conversations that emerge when working with people for the first time, I simply did not have to come face to face with the uneasiness of silence.

During our third hitch, we found ourselves 45 minutes from our car working in a burn area in the Kootenai National Forest. We realized that our best plan of action was to flag the entire trail and to divide each section up individually. I found myself working on a section of tread where the undergrowth that emerged post-fire had overtaken the path in a near thicket of ferns and other woody materials. I spent a long time hacking away the brush and after 30 minutes or so found myself taking lunch probably 10 minutes away from my nearest crew member. I’d be lying if I said this didn’t cause me a bit of consternation. I don’t know what lead to my apprehension, perhaps it was bears, perhaps it was fear of injury, but in hindsight, it was a discomfort with the silence.

What I realized sitting there, however, was that the supposed silence was actually a rich tapestry of sounds coming from the natural world. The wind caused the trees to creak, a woodpecker methodically tapped away and somewhere in the deep valley below a stream slowly trickled over the rocks. I was struck by the richness of these sounds and found myself in a deep place of peace. In a hitch that featured several wasp stings, forgotten lunches, and very rocky soil it was surprising that the obstacle I was most proud of overcoming was silence.

It just goes to show that any given day can be an opportunity for growth, even when you don’t expect it.


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