There is a lot of noise in our world.
The noise can keep us from feeling at peace. It is efficient at distraction, shifting our focus from what is most important. Noise tells us, “Hurry up. There is no time.” It persistently asks, “What’s next?” Noise puts us on edge, forces us to be looking ahead, and keeps us from enjoying the moment.
That’s where I’ve been lately. The noise (at least in my head) has been deafening.
I always believe I can come up with a plan to deal with all of the noise. An algorithm, or a process, that will allow me to input problems and receive a neatly packaged solution. Something that will put my mind at ease and dampen the din and chaos of daily life. I’ve spent twenty-some years trying to find it with no luck.
Over the past couple of weeks, the volume in my world has been steadily increasing. On Good Friday, I told my wife I was going out of town for the day to “figure things out.” To escape the noise and come up with a plan. I got up early and drove to one of my favorite places in the Eastern Superstition Mountains of Arizona.
For me, the outdoors is the best way to find quiet. It is obviously not silent, but it isn’t the distracting noise of the human world.
The gentle gurgling of a stream as it slices through sand and over rocks.
Birds — an unbelievable variety — making their presence known as they flit from tree to tree, or gracefully glide through the canyon, catching flies and other insects.
The clattering of lizards running through fallen leaves.
Gentle breezes setting tree limbs in motion.
The almost unbelievable symphony of buzzing of bees — the collective work of thousands busy collecting pollen.
And then there is the silence. The quiet that comes out in the things you notice as you begin to slow down.
A solitary leaf that has settled, in dramatic fashion, on stone. An abandoned birds nest, with fragments of shell still inside. The vibrant flash of wildflowers. A conglomerate of river rocks cemented together over time. The bee with legs weighed down with brilliant yellow pollen. New growth on a tree — an indicator that spring has indeed arrived.
I went into the wilderness to figure things out and come up with a plan, but I was distracted by nature. Perhaps escape to places like this is “the plan.”
Even here, in this place of incredible beauty, I find that “the noise” follows me. It asks, “What time is it?” It suggests that I should go, or that I need to hurry back to the truck. It reminds me of my to-do list, or my calendar for the week. It tries to engage in constant battle.
But, I don’t go without a fight.
I do my best to let the quiet drown out the noise.
Things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things which matter least.Johann Wolfgang von Goethe