19 December 2014


Gray daylight filters above the cement window well and through the dirty pane into my bedroom. No toneless thrum from my phone awakened me. The light did.

With that disorientation comes the bunching in my stomach and a racing of thoughts — so loud. So late. So many problems to think about — solvable and unsolvable. And the as-yet-unsolvable ones make the most thoughts, the most noise. I roll over and breathe them silent.

I reach over and check my phone. No notifications. My screen saver provides background for the time—7:44 a.m.

I strain my ears. Nothing. So late. But so still. No babies crying, boys screaming, treadmill pounding, phonecalls from the upstairs office. Just my own breathing, the noise in my head and the tensing of my muscles. I am loudest of all.

I roll onto my knees and bow my head in concentrated, tired silence. Rise and head to brush my teeth. Now that I'm moving, the thoughts race less. Always something to puzzle about, though; noise inside my head and in my shoulder blades.

My phone vibrates loudly on my dresser. I snatch it and receive the call. The tension loosens, and the thoughts melt away to pleasure. I hang up, lace up my shoes, sprint upstairs. So loud.

All the bedroom doors are closed still; no one stirs in the kitchen. Except me. I down 16 oz. of water and listen to the door shut loud behind me.

I sense the difference outside immediately. No lines of cars at the 4-way stop. No exhaust. No cacophony of engines and motors as they start, stop, and rev up again on this or any street within a half mile. No joggers with their clouds of breath, preteens trudging beneath backpacks, moms strolling with their babies and chatting with their friends. It's 8:30, and only I move. It's not quite fair.

Fair or not, I move still, racing with my thoughts and time. Even today, when time is not an issue. It's just habit.

For fifteen minutes I pump down the sidewalk. That's where we meet and backtrack to a trail you know.

It is a long hike. Frosty, but not November-cold. Still, we move quickly — I because I need to strain; you because I do.

We ascend and descend on the trail, pass between the silent neighborhoods. Soon they lie behind and below us.

And then, with a few more turns, they've disappeared completely. We hike along a dry streambed, brown- and red-leafed scrub oak on either side. Their leaves carpet the ground, and we dully crunch through their frosty brittleness. The smell of their sweet, wet life-sap tickles my nose, and I breathe it in like candy.

We hike and talk, breathing hard and laughing with too little air. We speak of running, of breaking through walls, of how happy these surroundings make me, of how thrilling I find these trees still edged with stubborn red, even after snow should have fallen weeks ago. Here I can enjoy the details; because there are no problems here.

I laugh. You chuckle. I pull a couple verbal antics to get you to outright laugh. It doesn't work. But as I try, and as I listen to you, I find my shoulders loosened and the racing of thoughts inside my head dulled to a dim undercurrent. It makes me laugh louder, hike more softly, listen better.

Then, as we round another bend, it hits me. Soft but strong. I grab your arm in the middle of your sentence and bring my finger to my lips. I will not speak. I gesture for you to listen.

You stand silent. And I listen. To nothing.

No toneless hum of traffic. No birds. No leaves. No steps. No thoughts. No heartbeat. No questions. No wind. No tightness in the muscles.

Still. Completely.

I look at you. My wide eyes and my huge smile ask you if you feel it. You move your mouth to answer, and I put my fingers up. No. Just soak it in. This is how we used to be.

We are lost to that world of ours, and found between two bends in the trail — bends between the noise and the Still.

Just stand. Close eyes. Breathe so deeply; so quietly. So reverent. So natural. So right. So... still.

How long is it since I have felt such deliciousness?

And then the GPS comes out again and we move on past the limbo, breathing hard, talking loud, laughing some, and shrieking as we crash through thin ice into mud puddles. We hit the highest point of the hike at around 10. Find ourselves at the top of a mountain highway now busy with noise.

But as we walk down that road, I am not loud inside anymore. The noise left me back there, transfixed in that space of stillness between two bends. And I laugh still.

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