The silence of the desert is deafening. Unlike what you might expect, silence is not a nothing. It’s very much a something. I am ill at ease at first, without the sounds of society softening my ears — electricity thrumming through power lines. The barely audible hum of the fridge. A computer or phone dinging, reminding me it’s time to do something. Dogs barking a greeting to one another through the fence.

Here, there is the absence of technology, and therefore the absence of sound. Silence reclaims the space, pouring into my ears a full feeling that consumes my head and vibrates my brain. It is punctuated by the occasional crow cawing in the distance. The wind, gently whispering in my ear. Christina, sending energy tumbling down the rocks in the form of Buddhist chants. Nam myoho renge kyo cascades into the valley. A belligerent horsefly who thinks my skin is fair game, buzzing a distraction from my meditation on a warm rock. The children, the confines of middle school stripped from them, loudly delighting in the magic that a horse-shaped rock provides. 

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I need more silence in my life.

In Contrast to the Desert

Once I return from camping in the desert, I cling to the awareness of sound and silence before that awareness leaves me completely. But the world is loud. On a sunny Southern California afternoon, I close my eyes in my backyard. I can hear a lawnmower a street over. A house or two away, teenage boys shout as they play one video game or another. The constant low roar of cars zoom by on the freeway not far away, everyone in a hurry, on their phones, and unaware that there is another option to this fracas that is the sound of life in the technological age.