Although the dictionary defines silence as the absence of any sound or noise, it’s more than that. It’s something palpable that wraps itself around me, that calms my being. In this still background, I can hear sounds distinctly and clearly, rather than being ambushed by the cacophony of New York City—a combination of sirens, honking horns, people yelling, garbage trucks and more.
Amid the silence at the cabin, I could hear the soft whooshing of the raven’s wings above my head, the tapping of the woodpecker on the pine tree, the sound of a car’s wheels on the gravel road across the valley, the tinkle of the wind chimes and the gathering of wind through the pine trees.
When I went for a walk later around Meeker Park, I found I was attracted to small landscapes, like the sunlight illuminating the lichen on the boulder (above). After Manhattan’s massive views—from the Empire State Building there are skyscrapers, lights and streets as far as the eye can see—I’m drawn to the outline of a young aspen on a boulder (above), the late afternoon light on the tips of the fir trees, the grasses emerging from the snow (bottom).
Earlier, on my first day back in Boulder, I walked the Eagle Trail near my home, with views all around—the foothills to the west and the plains to the east. I don’t think I’ve ever been as infatuated with how big the sky was, how I could see in every direction, how much openness there was and how I could open myself to all that space, feel myself expanding into it. In Manhattan, I always felt hemmed in by the buildings and by the darkness that permeates the bottom of these steel canyons.
And yet even there, nature manages to get a small foothold. One morning, I heard a constant stream of sirens, and when I went down to the hotel lobby, I found out that someone had tried to set off a pipe bomb at the Port Authority bus terminal, just a few blocks down the street from our hotel. Walking down Eighth Avenue, which had been closed to traffic, I could feel the tension and chaos on the street. No one knew if there were more bombs or more men who aimed to destroy. When I came back up to the hotel room, I looked out at the street scene 25 floors below me, but something else caught my eye.
It was a pigeon, an urban bird with a reputation as a scavenger. Yet from my vantage point, it looked like something beautiful and precious, floating high above the street, making lazy circles in what little sunlight managed to penetrate these high buildings. It felt like an emissary from another world, one where religious fanatics don’t try to kill innocent people. This bird lived in a world where all it needed was a bit of wind current to ride on, far above the messy and chaotic human sphere.