Mandy - Conway, Arkansas
Entered on September 2, 2008
Age Group: Under 18
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Silence…silence has the power of meaning. What meaning? Just listen to it, and the answer will come. “A tall tree reaches for the sun. A human mind reaches for –meaning, beauty, wholeness…But after all the accumulated storms and droughts of life–pain failure, loss–how does one continue to reach for such ideals, to believe in the possibility of attaining them? Sometimes I have wondered if I could continue to reach, and, looking at the tree, have seen only that it too will fall and rot without ever attaining its ultimate goal, the distant sun. And the ideals flicker. And the dream seems…naïve…”*

I believe in the power of silence. When up in the great north woods I often found myself deep in thought, contemplating what would happen when I got back to the real world, but I’m taking a break from the real world right now so until the day comes that I must return to the real world, it doesn’t matter to me. During the day, during those long paddles, and those long portages, silence always filled up the air. However, silence is not a bad thing; it allows you to discover things you had yet to ascertain, things you had yet to learn. Even the most talkative person has time for silence.

During those long paddles I would often gaze off into the horizon and wonder about myself, my friends, my enemies, my triumphs, and my tragedies. And often times the silence would be interrupted by the beautiful wail of the loon, the roaring rapids, or even the chatter of your new friends.

Quite frequently I would hear the words, “So let’s plan our next portage.” And more than likely I would be the first person to volunteer to carry the canoe. After all the planning was done we would carry on with our paddling until we reached the landing. But before each portage I would wonder to myself, “how far will I push myself this time? Will I make it the entire way? And how far is too far?” During the day the portages were when we would converse the most, rarely silent. In cheerful chatter we would unload the canoes, excited about the challenge we faced ahead, and took off to the other side, and soon I would see just how far I could push myself.

As time passed and we got farther and farther away from civilization it made me realize only then just how beautiful this land is. We accepted and lived the principle of living simply: carrying all of our food, our equipment, or bare necessities, everything we would need for the next ten days. In the silence of the night you could hear the wind rustling through the trees, the coyotes howling, and the fire crackling; exquisite sounds you can rarely hear in the city. The silence of the great north woods allowed me to find myself. I was able to realize just who I wanted to be; not who everyone else wanted me to be. For the two weeks that I was there I was able to be myself for the first time because who I was in high school didn’t follow me. I could be whoever I wanted to be, the real me.

“And maybe it is only on the trail to nowhere-in-particular that you find the most important thing of all. Yourself.”*

Silence…I believe in the power of silence.