Traveling into Silence

A journey into two of the quietest places on earth. /

“Silence teaches us to know reality by respecting it where words have defiled it.” ― Thomas Merton

“My soul, wait thou in silence for God only; for my expectation is from him.” — Psalm 62:5, ASV

The forest was hushed, but the silence I found wasn’t quite what I expected. I went out on the Hoh River Trail at Olympic National Park looking to find silence. I had been wanting to visit ever since I moved to Washington, and when I read about the One Square Inch project in the local news, I began making plans. The founder, acoustic ecologist Gordon Hempton, claims that a sliver of space in the Hoh Rainforest in Olympic National Park is “very possibly the quietest place in the United States,” unmarred by any human noises.

A movement in the last 10 to 15 years has moved soundscapes to the forefront, aiming to protect spaces from human noises such as freeways, industry and airplane flight paths. While we associate national parks with striking visual landscapes, the US National Park Service has a mandate to protect soundscapes as well. According to its management policies: “The Service will restore to the natural condition wherever possible those park soundscapes that have become degraded by unnatural sounds (noise), and will protect natural soundscapes from unacceptable impacts.”

Like most who seek silence, I was hoping to find a natural condition less degraded by noise. While I’ve never audibly heard God’s voice, there are times when it seems he is speaking and times when it seems like he is silent. We associate God’s silence with feeling alone and empty, but as began my hike I thought about the irony that historically, physical silence has been a spiritual ...

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Also in this Issue

Issue 55 / August 18, 2016
  1. Editor’s Note

    Issue 55: Seeking silences, Yellowstone's extreme life, and the ironies of wildfire. /

  2. Life in the Cauldron

    Meet the hearty tenants of Yellowstone’s deadly hot springs. /

  3. Wildfire’s Dangerous Renewal

    Awe and lessons from Peshtigo, Yellowstone, and Fort McMurray. /

  4. Christ as a Gardner

    “I never noticed it until they died.” /

  5. Wonder on the Web

    Issue 55: Links to amazing stuff.

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