There are few places where the silence of the natural world reigns. My pond, in the autumn, is one of them. Yesterday I took a walk down the dirt road and after a while I realized that the sound of my footsteps on the dirt was the loudest noise around and that if I stood still, I could hear the leaves as they fell, clicking against the branches on their journey to the ground. Not a bird call, not a motor sound—faint or near—not a voice, no human noises at all. Not one.
Without another human noise to connect to, to validate me and my existence, the silence pressed in—an immense hushed world, where I did not matter at all.
Connection. That is what we humans give each other. Little chips of connection that keep us floating in our self-constructed universes. Take those chips away, though, take away any visual or auditory clue to other humans, and you have only the silence of a neutral world. Which can feel a bit scary. But just as lonely-scary as nature solitude can be, it also offers the potential of unshakable strength. Because those chips can and will be taken away at times. But an openhearted connection to the natural world, by virtue of that very world’s disinterest, will always hold.
Boris Pasternak, in Doctor Zhivago writes: “And so it turned out that only a life similar to the life of those around us, merging with it without a ripple, is genuine life, and that an unshared happiness is not happiness.” But having the good luck to live in a world that can at times be silent of any indications of being in “a life similar to the life of those around us,” I realize that the sharing of happiness can be the sharing with yourself—a gift of insight courtesy of belonging to the natural world. Because being comfortable in the silence means accepting the connection nature has offered you.
One of the things I appreciated about my vacation last week was the perspective I had when I came back. Right now I’m going through something. It’s a growth (aren’t they all) phase, and I call it that because it is so darn uncomfortable. My insides are all churny and I feel as if the old structures that I set up to define me and protect me—the scaffolding and armature of my identity—are breaking off and falling away. The me that is growing bigger than my old façade feels unsure and vulnerable as it is being exposed and it doesn’t have the protection I think I need, hence the uncomfortable feeling.
And therein lies the rub, as they say.
Because the whole point of living is not to protect and wall off yourself, it is to feel your life. Feelings of vulnerability and lostness are part of life. And if I don’t let myself go down there and wallow in it, not only am I missing out on experiencing my life, but I’m short circuiting my process of growth by not acknowledging the feelings that herald that particular growth.
I really don’t like the feeling of not being in control. Trust is not my strongest suit. So guess what, it is trust that I have to learn to grow into. And life, in all its profound wisdom, presents me with opportunities to trust by making me feel vulnerable. I could fight it, and I have, in the past. But that only leads to a stronger, shall we say, nudge, to grow. So now I try to get what life is asking of me. I go down there and I wallow and I feel what is asking to be felt. And then I discover, to my surprise and gratitude that vulnerability is just that—a time of openness and trust. And in truth, it is filled with the joy that is the foundation of life.