Absoluteness of silence encroaches subtly upon awareness. Missing
is the city's hissing roar, its static, the "white noise" between
stations. Multiplicities of sensation desensitize the unwary. If
quantity dulls our natural curiosity, it's easy to fall into saying
is certain, that all is shades of gray. In fact, what has really
happened is that the tuning has drifted a little off station.
Here, a small rustle might be a remarkable event, a short record of
sound time framed in richnesses of visual splendor not to be forgotten.
Here is the hesitant skitter of a small brown squirrel making his rounds
in search of a forgotten pine nut. Here is the muffled "thunk" of
a paddle lightly striking a canoe hull on the far end of the lake.
The breeze carries fragmented message of conversations from hikers
hundreds of yards away. In between is the scintillating silence of
the pond, and of the meadow. The wind sings its own song, and each
song has its own meaning.
Is there a sound of the gentlest breeze whispering past one single
pine needle? In remembering how to listen for it, one can know its
voice. Half a mile south by Peak 8234 comes such a breeze, lifted and
accelerated through stands of pine and alder. Resonances of ten, a
hundred, a million pine needles together make a slightest sigh, a change
in the air. At first, no one hears. In four seconds it comes to us,
a sudden difference in the quality of stillness. It becomes a spritely
thing, a gathering collection, alive. An event is taking place. It
is coming our way. The air mass flows, accumulating momentum as it
nears. This is the voice of the wind through the mountain, carrying
a crescendo of minuscule, discernible sounds. It is here.
Breeze becomes gust, flattening ripples into soft dark patches on
the water. Now begin the fluttering rounded leaves of alder, flapping
like flagpoles on a sailor's day at sea. The event has visited and
moved on, left to right, a stereophonic train of sound roaring down
shiny tracks. How quickly it has passed, diminished again to a breeze.
Its soundtrack spools backward as the event rushes north, leaving us
on the platform to reflect in silence.
People have projected their own thoughts and feelings upon animate
and inanimate objects since the beginning of time, as if trees and
rocks care what we happen to be feeling at the time. True vision requires
objective simplicity, an honest, unselfconscious distinction between
observer and observed. From this flows action readily synchronous with
nature, a process once called "virtue".
© Alex Forbes, La
Parola August 1992