Sunday, November 4, 2012

Solitude, Silence, and Stillness

About a week ago I took the opportunity to visit my Art and Conservation project site in the Texas Hill Country. If you recall my posts of the summer, I had been assigned a Nature Conservancy land trust that is located somewhere between the little towns of Sisterdale and Comfort. The trust is situated along a nearly one-mile stretch of the cold, clear Guadalupe River.  This was my first chance to return in a couple of months and I was looking forward to spending nearly a full day there: capturing images and getting to know the place.

I had called and left a message with the landowners informing them of my trip out there. Since they hadn't responded within a day of my phone-call  I didn't expect them to be there, and they weren't. I would have this huge natural gem to myself– I almost felt guilty about it.

I had arrived a couple of hours after dawn. Even though it was well into morning, the fairly high bluff on the southeast bank of the river was still deep in shade and the day seemed younger than it was. The air was crisp and new. 

I drove my truck slowly over the nearly invisible trail on the precipice above the silt plane adjacent to the river. The bank on this side was already well lit by the sun. The sun's beams had not yet illuminated the river itself, still a hundred or more yards away, but I imagined I could see ripples sparkling on its surface. I parked and exited my truck, attempting to close my door without breaking the silence that surrounded me. The only sound I could now hear was the whispering babble of the river in the distance, but perhaps I imagined that as well. 

CYPRESS LANE, © Bill Brockmeier, 2012
All rights reserved by the artist
It is really remarkable when you finally find yourself in a place where silence reigns. No street traffic, no humming AC units, no TVs inanely yakking in the distance...not even an aircraft in the clear blue overhead. It is amazing how the immediacy of life comes to the fore when there are no external sounds to distract you. All of a sudden you feel your own heart beating in your own chest. You can feel/hear the rushing "whoosh" of your blood as it streams through the capillaries of your inner ears. And then you start to "hear" your own thoughts. They become so clearly audible that you'd swear you were speaking them, but then you realize that your lips and tongue are not moving and your mouth is still closed. 

The lack of external sound can also amplify the sense of vision. Magnificent, large cypresses lined the river in front of me and their deep green leaves were brilliantly backlit in front of the yet-dark bluff behind them. Even though a hundred yards off, it seemed I was seeing the finely cut "needles" in perfect clarity and in higher resolution than my eyes were physically capable of. 

COLOR IN THE SHADOWS, © Bill Brockmeier, 2012
All rights reserved by the artist.
I headed down to the river itself after taking a few exploratory photographs from afar. Now at the immediate banks of the Guadalupe I could hear the actual sound of it. The audible sensation of running water is something exquisitely marvelous and magical. I don't believe I could ever tire of it. The hearing of it is, to me, as refreshing and enlivening as taking a long, slow drink of it. My ears drink in the sound of it. 

I continued to photograph throughout the day, moving freely through the conservancy trust. It was not only the lack of man-made sound distractions, but also the total absence of any human contact for seven or eight hours that was refreshing and invigorating. It is marvelously cleansing to be immersed in nothing but the Creator's handiwork. And when you come so face-to-face with His Art, it makes communication with Him that much more immediate and powerful.

Personally, I take great joy in talking with people about my own creative work– hearing what they think and feel about it, and giving them my insight into how the work came about and what it means to me. I believe it is the same with the original and authentic Creator– He, and we, can take great joy in conversing about His work as we experience and consider it. And He will give us insight into how this creation came about and what it ultimately means.

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