|January 9 2008|
The pure big silence of a snow-covered winter desert in the evening.
It's not a death-silence (go visit Dachau, in Germany), but a life-silence:
a temporary absence of tumbling wind, trickling water, rustling sagebrush, swishing rabbit brush, chirping birds. The clouds are hanging motionless over the mountains.
No movement of any kind, but it's all there, still and full and listening. The canyon is covered with myriad footprints of rabbits, birds, rodents; one bird has left wing prints as if it had taken a snow-bath; but right now they all remain secretly still and hidden, attending and shaping this big soundlessness.
No sound of any kind but 14 footsteps crunching in the soft snow (me and 3 dogs) as we wind our way up a canyon, following a ridge, some spots on the crest blown bare by the wind that howled from the northwest two days ago. No sound but the dogs panting after returning from chasing a single rabbit through the blanketed sagebrush. We stop on top of the highest hill and listen.
Returning home near dark the nature-silence is broken: a great-horned owl hoots from up the canyon where we've been. I stop to listen, hoot back. I stand for 10 minutes listening to the owl, and even the dogs sit still and stop panting and listen to the owl and the silence.
In some cultures the owl is the harbinger of evil and death; in some it is a messenger of the Gods (Athena, Goddess of Wisdom, had an owl). For me it is good luck. I expect this one was singing his approval of the fall of night over this spectacular silent desert.