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Frog Lake

Truckee, California


image frog lake

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 that nothing 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


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