Sometimes silence is the loudest voice.
Over the past weeks I've been mostly on the road. Argentina, Kuala Lumpur, Manila, Mexico, Cleveland. Each of these destinations was filled with colorful and emotional experiences: powerful encounters, noisy cities, endless traffic jams, fragrant street foods, religious communities, innovative tricycles built with materials reused from some previous purpose, seeing people on the streets who really live on U.S. $2.00/day, buzzing airports, crowded buses, dirty sidewalks, autumn colors, and manicured university campuses. There were long days, jetlag, unusual meals, inspiring meetings, serendipitous connections, follow-up steps -- but, as busy as it sounds, it's actually not more than how a day flows for every one on this planet: We all get 24 hours, and we use them all.
I felt I was running, or perhaps trotting, from one place to the next, from one departure gate to the next event. How big was my shock when, finally home, I sat down this morning next to the canal in my backyard. I didn't go there with any expectation, other than having my cup of coffee. But as soon as I sat down, an overwhelming sensation surrounded me. It was as if I had entered an opera house in a gala performance about to begin, or if I had entered a packed stadium exploding in celebration of a glorious home run. It was a physical sensation of something extreme in the air -- except that there was just silence. Even the waters were still, just barely flowing north with the tide. I tried to understand what was happening, what 'it' was and where 'it' was coming from, but the more I sought it, the more elusive the answer became. Actually, what I noticed was that there was no breeze in the air, the palm trees and the leaves were still. And even in that stillness, I felt something was going on. I heard the flapping wings of a bird leaving a branch. Something rustling in a bush. Another bird starting a few notes of a song, then stopping. Silence again. In the distance, the engine of a plane, a dog barking. This is not possible, I thought. How can I feel this overwhelming sensation -- and "nothing is happening"?
I saw a wake in the water. Some fish must have cruised by, invisible to me. Some circles, large. Perhaps a turtle head emerging and sinking back into the water? Some parrots flew by, out of sight, I could hear them. Then, silence again.
The image of the last airport came to my mind. I almost stopped on my way to the gate, to take a picture - of all these people walking haphazardly in different directions, with their phones, baggage, and with focused steps like little wind-up toys, colorful, diverse, and walking by without noticing each other. That felt so busy to me. But now, sitting next to the water, this felt far busier to me.
I finally realized what 'it' was.
There was an extreme presence in everything that surrounded me, except it had only imperceptible movement, the invisible growth of trees, of bamboos growing under the earth, the quiet trace of a dragonfly in the air.
Keywords: Buenos Aires, Kuala Lumpur, Manila, Mexico, Cleveland, traffic, street food, tricycle, reusing, poverty, nature, reflection, silence.