An early morning run took me onto a rough trail into the San Bernardino Mountains, away from urban chatter. Snow and ice made the run treacherous, and my focus was on my footing. When the trail flattened out, and the snow melted into decomposed granite and sand, I stopped to catch my breath. And that’s when I finally heard — nothing.
For those of us who live in cities, silence is rare. Prolonged silence is deliberate, necessary — a relief.
I stood for a long time, listening to late fall unfolding around me. The longer I stood, the more the forest began to recover from my activity. Mountain chickadees began to drop down from the black oaks, their wings thrumming — one, two — hopping nearer, their necks craning up with each hop, looking for movement high and low, then bending into the leaves to dig around for food. Then three, four, five, twelve, twenty chickadees moving within my sight. A scrub jay swooped in, croaking. An acorn woodpecker soared overhead, his black and white wings distinct against the blue. A moment later, heard his sharp knock, knock, knocking on a pine. Then the tinier tap-tap of a chickadee trying to break something open on a twig nearby.
The longer I stood, the more the silence came to life. The less I stumbled and bumbled my way over the ice, the more still I became, the more the forest had to say. It was just a small moment. I felt lucky to listen in.