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Posts tagged ‘Silence’

BOSQUE DEL APACHE: A Great Place for Silence & Solitude

Scenic sounds a bit too generic, too common.  Idyllic sounds too poetic.  I guess if I needed to describe Bosque del Apache in one word, I would use pastoral or rustic.  But it really is a challenge to capture in words the essence of a visit to Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge in New Mexico.  I visited this refuge in May 2014 and almost had the place to myself.  I shared it with a few other visitors, quite a few birds, some mule deer, and a bunny.

Getting to Bosque del Apache should have been easy.  It is situated off Interstate 25 between Albuquerque and Las Cruces.  I even had my new GPS to help me plan the route.  The problem was that I did not have an address and the little towns it was close too were too small to be in the GPS database.  It seemed lucky—at first—that one of the websites I was reviewing about the location had one of those how-to-get-there-from-wherever-you-are features set up.  I plugged in my hotel’s address and received what appeared to be a back road’s route into the refuge.  At one time along the way I would even be traveling on old Route 66.  How cool was that?  The total distance implied I would arrive at my destination in about 30 minutes.

Armed with these directions, I started out, quickly being led to a back road vs. a major thoroughfare.  The directions seemed to be working.  All the turns were showing up right on schedule.  But there were a few glitches.  As I went along, fewer of the roads were marked, and most were not paved.  Eventually I turned off the main back road I was on, but the new road was rough dirt and gravel with lots of pot holes and seemed to cut across a farmer’s fields.  As I drove, the route became progressively worse, bouncing me along through the dust allowing me to travel maybe 8 miles an hour.  When my next turn displayed the road sign “unpaved bureau of land management road” and the gravel and pot holes worsened, I decided it would be better to find another route.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  It was a beautiful drive.

I loved the wide open vistas, the blue skies, even the cattle who wandered back and forth between the fields and the “road.”  After I turned around, I made it back to the interstate and had been out and about on my wild goose chase for only a couple hours. For the rest of the day, I figured I would take a drive and see what I could find.  And there it was, right off the interstate, a little sign saying “Bosque del Apache.”  I took the exit and followed the county road to my destination.  The route still seemed fairly isolated, but there were houses and it was paved.

I was delighted to have finally arrived at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuse.  I was hoping for a chance to enjoy nature in solitude, marveling at a few wildflowers and maybe some birds.  I was not disappointed.  If I had visited in the fall, I would have seen many more birds. At that time of year, 10,000 sandhill cranes and some bald eagles settle in for the season.  But the heat was not too bad, there was a slight breeze, and I saw quite a few birds and only a couple other people.  Nature and Solitude—my kind of day!

Most of the refuge was accessible via various self-guided auto tours that traversed along fields and waterways.  The Visitors Center was a nice little respite where I could ask a few questions, use the bathroom, and buy a few postcards.  When I returned to the Center late in the day, after closing hours, I saw a road runner dart across the driveway, too fast to allow a picture.  This little bunny must’ve felt he was hidden well enough in the bushes that he did not need to run away.

But the best part of the day was the silence, the solitude, the beauty, the activity as I wandered along the byways and waterways of this wildlife refuge that covers over 57,000 acres in the heart of the Rio Grande Valley. The website’s description says the refuge is a verdant and fertile land—and that is certainly true.  I could not help but think of Basho’s words: “Amidst the splendor of the scene and the silence, I was filled with a wonderful peace.” 

It was a great day!


Let the Silence In

Let the Silence In

Noises drive me crazy. Not just nails on a chalkboard, but also clocks ticking, faucets dripping, shutters banging, doors creaking, dogs barking or car alarms blaring on and on unattended, or a neighbor’s TV or alarm clock droning on through the walls. Have you ever had one lone cricket lost in your home, chirping out a greeting to anyone who would listen?—chirp, chirp, chirp first here, then there. Nerve-wracking! One time I was staying overnight at my parents’ home, sleeping on the pull-out bed in the den, which is located right next to the kitchen. It took some time, but I finally found the step stool needed to take down the stupid kitchen clock and pull out the batteries, all to stop the incessant tick, tick, tick that was keeping me awake.

But even if these irritating noises could be abolished, it would be rare to experience the total absence of sounds. We do not live in the vacuum of space, after all. There will always be the hum of a computer, the ringing of a phone—with a variety of ring tones to choose from these days, the droning of TV shows, the patter of rain on the roof, and—if you are lucky—the purring of a cat in your lap or the laughter of children. My upstairs neighbors get up every day about 4 am; rather than being a nuisance, their muffled sounds as they start their day are reassuring on the mornings I am awake enough to hear them—they are there and would hear me call out for help, if that need arises.

Music is also a delightful way to fill the quiet, depending on who chooses the station or artist. Often when I drive I sing along with golden oldies—my voice would be considered noise to many, I am sure, so it is good I drive alone. I heard a news story once about how a convenience store owner discouraged rowdy teens from gathering in his parking lot all night long, bothering paying customers just by their presence and boisterous behavior. He started using the parking lot’s speaker system to play classical music rather than a local radio station. The kids eventually decided to congregate somewhere else. I like classical music, jazz too. But if my hangout routinely blared hard rock or rap, I too might move on.

But on the other extreme, too much quiet can be also deafening, overwhelming. Think to when you are carefully listening for a specific sound. Many a parent has breathed a sigh of relief when the car tires finally crunch to a halt on the driveway, when a child is late getting home during a storm. Consider the frustration when waiting for a phone to ring—and the call does not come. The more urgent the expected call—a loved one calling to say, “I am sorry;” results from a medical test; update on a loved one’s condition—the louder the silence. Or consider the time when you moved out on your own for the first time and would have so welcomed a comforting noise or two, that eventually you turned on the TV to banish the quiet. And then there is the quiet that never is broken, even if the house is full of noise, because a loved one has died and her laughter and singing and even snoring will never be heard again.

But the absence of noise is not necessarily silence. Silence is an attitude, an opportunity. In that regard, silence can be rewarding and certainly should not be avoided. Silence—even though often riddled with background sounds—allows so much that it is worth the time it takes to find it these days. Let the silence in. First, turn off the TV, put the iPod ear phones aside, set the phone ringer to off—not vibrate, stop talking—and that includes negative self-talk. Then, just acknowledge the moment: take a walk around the block, say a little prayer, drive a desolate stretch of road, lounge in a recliner at the end of a busy day, be calm and quiet with a friend, start the morning with a hot cup of coffee out in the garden, watch a sunset with a loved one or do any number of other things throughout the day.

Let the silence in. Silence lets you hear your own thoughts, dream a dream, solve a problem, realize priorities, look to what is possible, explore options, just calm down and enjoy the moment. If you are out in Nature, your silence lets you become one with the vibrant life around you that otherwise may go into hiding at your presence. If you let the silence in, you paradoxically might be able to hear the buzz of a hummingbird’s wing, the quiet whoosh of an owl gliding by, the splash of a fish in the river—items that are often overwhelmed by the noise of civilization.

Let the silence in. Who knows, embracing the silence could bring you peace, insight, renewal so that the noises of day to day living will not be so draining. Let the silence in. By embracing the silence and thus accepting the slowing down and calmness that often goes along with that act, you might just connect to the spiritual world around you.

Now that would be something to shout about!

Mono Lake Reflection

Mono Lake

“Few things under heaven are as instructive as the lessons of Silence.” Lao Tzu

“There is no need to go to India or anywhere else to find peace. You will find that deep place of silence right in your room, your garden or even your bathtub.” Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

“Amidst the splendor of the scene and the silence, I was filled with a wonderful peace.” Basho

Arboretum Shade

Arboretum: Sit in the Shade

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