The Generosity of Silence

My favorite travel writer and essayist of the soul, Pico Iyer, once said,
“There is, of course, a place for noise, as there is for daily lives… Silence, like all the best things, is best appreciated in its absence: if noise is the signature tune of the world, silence is the music of the other world, the closest thing we know to the harmony of the spheres. But the greatest charm of noise is when it ceases. In silence, suddenly, it seems as if all the windows of the world are thrown open and everything is as clear as on a morning after rain. Silence, ideally, hums. It charges the air…

Silence, then, could be said to be the ultimate province of trust: it is the place where we trust ourselves to be alone; where we trust others to understand the things we do not say; where we trust a higher harmony to assert itself…”

In hiking the slippery, snowy edges of Bryce Canyon, sliding down into the swirling, swallowing depths of Antelope Canyon, and inhaling in the ethereal dust of the Grand Canyon, the dust of a green-screen landscape, so ancient and so vast that my mind still reels at the reality of its reality, its existence— I experienced speechlessness.

It was in moments of falling back, falling behind, apart from the pack, that I heard, yes, heard silence. The sweet, numbing, unfamiliar lack of noise and grand foreign fullness of nothing. Looking out onto the creamy reds layered with humble violets and kind greys in rock cut by rains of age, molded by carefully careless winds, “It’s all okay,” the voids whispered. Just as the layers of sand and stone were laid into the earth by serendipitous placement and pressed into purpose by time, I, of flesh and bone, of restless thoughts and constant seeking, might be okay.

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We were discovering the tendons of the earth, especially in the curves of Antelope— the muscles carved by soft water and rain, flexed and exercised by passing time and whirling winds. Humbling. Under the cracked, dry rocks, we climbed deep and looked up to see the majesty above… yet, when you shine a light on the rocks and look close, they illuminate like mounds of compacted glitter.

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We are tiny and constantly striving to be excellent in a world that is anything but. Yet, the earth echoes excellence, in its limbs and organs, in every breath of it. Peering into the expanse of something so endless and incomprehensible to the mind, speechless, I was. And so taken care of, I felt.

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I’m not an advocate of escapism or running away from the daily going-ons of human existence, but I am learning the art of generosity and balance. As many battles as you fight and visions you chase, your being deserves and craves to feel small and uncontrollable in the face of something immovable and excellent in nature.

Draw close to the hum of silence.
Or go, and experience a creation so grand,
no sound could be uttered in the presence of it.

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New York City, An Island No More

Yesterday was a mess of chaos. My flight to New York arrived on time but resulted in the plane flying around the airport due to a sudden freak thunderstorm over the city. I was supposed to land at 6 p.m., drop off my gear, and head to The Color Purple on Broadway at 8 p.m.

Did I mention I hadn’t eaten all day or slept, because I was helping out at my parents’ small business (more to come on that) minutes before heading out for my flight. By the time I landed, my bladder was busting, my stomach was gurgling, and I was so exhausted I wanted to throw up from dizziness. But alas, we ran to the theatre and made the show. It was a true work of art to say the least. I think of all the shows I’ve ever seen, it’s by far the best in terms of singing talent. And Danielle Brooks from Orange is the New Black was amazingly funny and hilarious.

The night ended with Japanese pasta and garlic bean sprouts, with a side of Stranger Things to spook me to sleep.

Yet this morning, at a breezy 68 degrees, the city was kind. I took my time on the subway, watching each individual life pass by. I let myself hint at my non-native status by looking up every block, smiling at the skies and stretching skyline.

I thought my relationship with New York was strong when I spent so much time in Brooklyn last year, but wandering around by myself for hours, I appreciate it so much more. The rushed stoic faces, the glint of cyclists and walkers as they glide through crosswalks, still ever in love with the tall buildings and waves of life around them.

The scents of fried this, stewing that, and drip, pour, steamed liquid energy on every corner and block.

As I sit at HousingWorks, a cafe and bookstore that feels a little like home and generosity, I think of how different I feel about the city. The blinking lights and grand views are still breathtaking but less distant and intimidating and more familiar.

It’s like any relationship. The more we visit each other, the more we return, we become a little less like floating islands.

And we start to notice the color purple in a field of green. The little flower that we almost missed, the point, the joy.

Getting Started

That’s not the point. The end, I mean.
The product. The bold title. The finish line.

It’s the journey. The process.
The aching efforts and flexing and stretching.
It’s the what was, what is and will be,
all together yet intimately definable.

And it all starts
with courage.

Because the beginning is the scariest. It’s the part where everything shouts, “Don’t do it. You’ll fail,” or “Why bother? It’ll only hurt/tire/exhaust you,” or “Nobody cares. Sit back down,” or “Everybody will care, and they can’t wait for you to fail.”

But that’s what makes you begin anyway, right? Because doing anything but, is even more painful and keeping all that is within you isn’t only toxic to yourself but the world around you. Because we need it.

That thing inside of you that you can’t ignore, that itches and waits patiently at your door. And greets you in the morning but strains sleeplessly at night. That idea, that word, that work of art.

The art in you. The art of you.

But welcoming it out is scary. Because acknowledging it, putting it to paper, starting… is what makes it possible. It makes it real.

And reality is hard. It’s vulnerable. It’s fragile. It’s never finished. It’s viewable, tangible, mis-understandable. But it tells fear that you are getting started. And that you are imperfect. (The lie that you must be perfect can sit down. We don’t have time for that. Grab it, look it in the face, wrestle it. Define it and make it powerless.)

You’re a work of art. Poetry in progress. A piece, under construction.

So, let’s get started.