Yesterday I spent an hour sitting on the banks of the Mississippi River near Albertville, Minnesota. We were deep in a design day, and I’m feeling a little run down and tired. I needed to go and sit, and rest and fill my lungs with air and my mouth with silence.
One of the tried and true things I know about sitting in nature is that it takes about 20 minutes in stillness and quiet before the system you have entered has absorbed you. Humans are clumsy at being in the natural world and we stumble and make noise. All the little birds around us stop singing, the mammels stand stock still and everything waits for us to move away or become still.
After 20 minutes of sitting in the same spot, bird song starts to return, little animals start moving around, and my own inner chatter has quieted enough that I can experience being a part of something bigger. It’s always at those moment that the possibility to learn something, however small, becomes real.
It was really windy yesterday as I sat on a little staircase that leads down to the river. The cottonwoods were clacking their big branches in the wind and last years bullrushes and milkweed, dried stalks, whistled as the wind passed over them. Little birds were flitting about – juncos, chickadees and song sparrows. the little things were chattery and noisy.
And in front of me, the river was flowing fast and deep. And as huge as it is, with all that water going through it, it was silent. It slid by, a massive quiet anchor in the scene. Several times bald eagles took off from the trees across the water and soared in the wind, stillness in motion, also completely silent.
And it just struck me then about how the biggest things are so quiet, and how our attention is drawn to the small and the flittery and the chirpy. Something about coming home to a large omnipresence. Something about the way the land hosts, the way the river hosts the scene, hosts the valley, and in this case, hosts half a continent.
Silent, large, present and in quiet collusion with the flow of water and wind.