The Silence of Thunder
Isolation can make you go loco. Especially when it’s forced. Yet isolation can create sanity as well. Cure you of your over-consumptive ills and other maladies. So, how does one construct silence that heals? How do you free yourself of the constant racket ricocheting inside you? How do you set in motion the Silence of Thunder?
My Canine Zen Monk
I watched my friend Haggis vanish through the pine forest. Mon Cul nudged my body, let out a whimper. We were now alone, man and dog, best friends from different evolutionary trees, planted side by side, but still I felt we were similar. Sometimes I felt canine, and I know he felt human at times. I was glad he was there sharing this new adventure with me. He was a good dog and a quiet dog. He would not intrude on the silence, bark needlessly or cause a ruckus. If ever there was a monk he was one, a canine Zen monk. I would learn many lessons from him.
I sat for a moment in the sunset, leaning against the sunny side of the boulder, took a deep breath, exhaled and listened to the forest soughing to itself, boughs shivering in the breezes; birds talking bird-language back and forth to each other, foreign yet not foreign; rock-falls; the tumble and crickle of the stream; the smell of pine resin, acrid and pungent, permeating the carpet of air around me. I found myself in a place between all these gentle noises and the fragrances of the forest. The fear of being alone began to slowly fall away. I relaxed and dropped my shoulders. Still, I wondered if I could make it out there alone for three or four months. Would I miss the tumult of civilization, the conversation of my friends, the wiles and the ways of the world?
Calling in Well
Most of us talk about getting away from it all. The way we do it is to take time off from our jobs for a week, for a few days. Maybe if we’re lucky we get away for two or three weeks. Maybe a month. But usually we go from one noisy place to another, towing the trappings of our material life to make it even noisier. Or we call out sick for a day, trying to nurse the din and clamor out of our minds and bodies. Few of us call out well. That’s what I was doing. Calling in well, thank you very much. Rebirth, that’s what I was after. A new lease on my life. The phoenix rising out of the ashes. I wanted some inkling of a beginning where the silence would cradle me in its arms. I think if you want, you construct silence a little at a time over the course of your life. That’s what I was after and, since my life had always been so noisy, to say the least, this seemed like the place to begin. To carve out time and quiet for myself. In the wild, high above Boulder.
My New Home
The material baggage of my former life lay on the ground in front of the boulder that was to be my home for the next three or four months—that is, if the rangers didn’t come and haul me away. Tonight, I’d build a small fire and sleep next to it. In the morning I’d start work on my boulder to construct a living space underneath the massive overhang. I didn’t want to make it my own. I wanted to be one with it, respect the space, so that when I left it would look exactly as I had found it.
My First Hit in the Wild
I gathered firewood and soon had a small fire leaping into the night. It was getting cold, the sun had gone down. The sky was black and bright, fire embers rising to mingle with the stars. I wrapped my sleeping bag around me, lit a joint and sat back against a rock. Mon Cul snuggled next to me and let out a long groan. At first, the silence, except for the crackling fire, seemed to scream in my ears. But as I relaxed, all sound dissipated and the quiet of my environs enveloped me. With every drag of the pot, I seemed to melt into the landscape and become one with it. I fell asleep in that position and woke the next morning sprawled on the ground with Mon Cul nestled against my back. There was a blanket piled over the sleeping bag. I didn’t remember putting it on. Had a Wood Sprite come in the dead of night to look over me?
Boulder Building Blocks
I built a frame out of the two by fours and covered it in the plastic I had bought, stapling it into place. I leaned the frame up under the overhang, securing it snuggling against the rock. I fixed the bottom of the frame into the soil, put large rocks up against it to keep it from shifting in the wind. There was no door, just an opening to one side where I hung a sheet of plastic. Through this portal, I ferried my stuff inside. I lay some boughs in one corner for my bed. I placed my sleeping bag and some blankets on my new bed to keep me warm. In the coming days I built a table out of timber fell. I placed my kitchen utensils and supplies in nooks and crannies of the boulder. I had brought along a gas stove so I could cook my rice and beans without building a fire every night. I had an old threadbare rug, which I spread out. My abode away from the bustle was nearly complete.
Orange Sunshine in the Sun of Silence
Every other day I bathed in a pool in the stream. I used Dr. Bronner’s mentholated soap, which was biodegradable. I dug a latrine, took long walks into the hills with Mon Cul, who was always at my side. I found a flat rock not far from my boulder. Here, I sat with my books and read in the sun. Here, I meditated. Here I dropped acid one morning. Silence overcame me and I never felt so good. I was wrapped in it like a blanket. Usually acid made me see bright wavering colors and unusual shapes—it had a noise all its own, intruding on me. I had always dropped it with others, never alone. This time, I was alone and it made a difference. The silence wasn’t deafening, it didn’t talk to me. It was…just—there. A blanket, warm, inviting; a presence, if you will.
Live Your Life
Most of us are afraid of silence. Maybe because it’s what we think death will be like. Death is silence, no doubt. We think to be alone without the company of another human is something to fear. No relationships. Maybe you feel inadequate, or not good enough to be with others. Or even with yourself. It’s good to feel comfortable with yourself. True silence of the self is jettisoning the self. Live your life.
Planting the Pot Plants
I planted the pot plants on the tenth day. I thought long and hard about where to put them, looking at various locations like a movie scout. I found a sunny spot near the stream. The soil was rocky and sandy, but moist from the spring rains. I carefully removed the ten seedlings Haggis had given me and laid them on the ground. I spaced them about three feet apart, dug holes with my spade and planted them, watered them and got ready to watch them flourish in the silence of thunder. It was a most satisfying moment in isolation.
Next Up: Lao Tzu, H.D. Thoreau and Allen Ginsberg
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