My journey continued as we drove through the park to visit some of the hiking trails that had been opened. We stopped to walk a short path to an area where a bench had been constructed for resting. I chose to rest there while my husband and daughter walked farther along. They went off down the trail, chattering and laughing. As the chatter and laughter subsided, I realized I was quite alone. I had found complete silence. There was no sound. No leaves to rustle. No birds to sing. No insects to annoy. No water to ripple. There wasn’t even a breeze to move my hair or touch my cheek.
I closed my eyes and tried to hear something, anything. At first, it was a little frightening, realizing I was the only living thing there. It was then that a calm came over me, one that I probably would never feel again.
“Be still… and know that I am here.”
As I looked down on that soundless landscape all around me, I wondered if life would ever return. Would anyone ever again hear the soft resonances of this forest area? It was then that my eyes focused on something very near my feet—a small shaft of green with a little purple flower.
I had my answer. My journey to find silence had ended. A new journey of life had begun.
Note: The purple flower is an alpine lupin. It was the first plant to repopulate that desolate area. If you look at pictures of the area now, you will see fields of those beautiful flowers. I was privileged to see one of the first.
by Dolly Kingsley
it was then that a calm camE over me
In our busy lives, we are constantly looking for a quiet place to just be still and get away from it all. We long for a few moments to relax and leave it all behind. Just a few minutes of total silence would be so nice. I’ve been able to find quiet places: a peaceful night on a camping trip; a visit to a very, very dark cave; inside a beautiful cathedral; or in a small, out-of-the-way, country church. But, in all of these places, there are still sounds—the rustling of leaves on trees housing birds, insects and other forest creatures, the drip of water in a cave, sounds of a passing car, a radio, or a distant train whistle. Even if you sit quietly, sounds will reach your ear.
My journey into complete silence began at 8:32 Sunday morning, May 18, 1980, and it was not at all a silent beginning. That was the day that Mount St. Helen erupted, completely destroying 230 square miles of land in 5 to 9 minutes, killing every single living thing. Along with the landscape, the devastation claimed 57 lives as well. Eruptions continued on and off until 1986.
In 1991, my family had a chance to visit Seattle for several weeks. One of the things we really wanted to see was Mount St. Helen’s National Park, and so my journey continued. It was a beautiful drive, very green and full of life, until we approached that 230 square miles of desolation. The forest became a landscape of horizontal remnants. As we continued to drive, the land took on a moon-like appearance. Along with many other visitors, we stopped at the rim and looked down into what was once the beautiful, blue Spirit Lake. We listened as one woman pointed downward and told us that was where her house used to be.