As I set out for a morning walk, the summer sun noiselessly crests the hills to the east casting twenty-mile shadows on the Sierra Nevada Mountains to the west. The silence hangs sullenly, draped with dust as it stretches out towards the horizon. I walk along the dry creek bed where moisture from dwindling groundwater still dampens the earth and encourages yerba mensa, rabbit brush and sage to grow taller.
At first the desert seems silent for there is no breeze, no zephyr, nor even the sigh of air or sough of tree. Even as my consciousness starts to turn inward, small, prickly sounds from all about keep my attention distracted, focused on this outer world. The sounds of silence have created in me hyper senses. Now I hear what I initially missed.
At the same time a new resonance sharpens my inner spirit to open to the still small voice of self-awareness within. I hear the scrape of the jackrabbit searching for food. There is the rustle of the coyote’s feet in the brush as he slinks by me looking for that rabbit. A raven grumbles to its nearby mate above my head, followed by the weeping baby sound from the invisible roadrunner about to sprint away. Yet this world now being apprehended is still labeled as silent.
Three major world religions have come from arid lands. There is something in this silence and the vast stretch of horizon looking south, unimpeded by rock outcroppings or built structures, which forces me to examine my unquiet soul with all its anxiety. I walk the border where the high Mojave and the Great Basin Desert converge. This nearly desolate landscape creates cognitive dissonance within me. That remains a key to unlocking insight while producing a special aesthetic anchor in this uninhabited wilderness. As I stroll, I realize this barren land is anything but empty. Life actually flourishes within its superficial desiccation.