I spent the day in the mountains today and visited our favorite spots. One is the Swift River, which runs through the lower tier of the White Mountains. We stopped at Lower Falls. It is too early in the season for tourists – except on weekends - so we had the place to ourselves. The black flies drove back the few flatlanders who ventured out of their cars.
I sat on a rock in the middle of the river and listened to the water. Actually I listened to the voice that spoke beneath and through the waters. The quiet roar enveloped and suppressed all inner and outer noise.
Later we stopped to view a panorama of mountains. The expansive vista and the deep silence had the same effect on me as the river. The Spirit that inhabits the mountains also inhabits my soul. The Spirit draws out the silence of my spirit, and they echo together through these mountain valleys.
The quiet draws me in, and I disappear. I drown in silence. Thought ceases, and I momentarily cease as well.
I have felt this way throughout my life. They are sacred times. As a child, the ocean mesmerized me. As a boy the lake haunted me – especially on early morning fishing trips. As a teen, hiking these Appalachians inspired me to write a poem, which was published in our school’s literary magazine - to the chagrin of my teammates on the football team.
When I come in contact with the depths of nature, all thinking ceases. The voice of Creation “drowns out all music but its own” as the hymn says. At such times I can see most clearly. I know myself in a way deeper than words. And when I know myself, I notice the presence of God.
I catch glimpses of this also at other times - notably in prayer, meditation and worship. Music can do it; so can art. But the silence is loudest, and my own inner chatter the lowest, when I am in the wilderness.
Norman Maclean wrote a famous short story about fly-fishing in Montana. He writes of his experience: “Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it. The river was cut by the world's great flood and runs over rocks from the basement of time. On some of the rocks are timeless raindrops. Under the rocks are the words, and some of the words are theirs. I am haunted by waters.”
I know what he means. The river runs through all things, and it runs through me.