It was the silence of aloneness; the silence of being in a place where there was no-one to talk to and nothing happening that required much thinking about so my mind was free to wander about like a pet dog let loose, sniffing here and there with all the semblance but none of the reality of purposefulness. This was a silence that was nevertheless full of words. I mused over the ever shifting balance of sand, and on the patterns of it flying around my ankles. I looked at the olive green sea with its millions of tons of shifting water, and the millions more tons of water sitting above me in the gray clouds, sucked up into the air by the sun, only to fall back down around me and move the sand some more. I thought about impermanence and change, and Heraclitus who made a philosophy out of that, and a line from a song by Jewel in which she says that everything is temporary if you give it enough time. I felt the sand give beneath my shoes and looked at the dunes and the dense packed surface beneath me and remembered that there are more stars in the sky than grains of sand on the earth and thought briefly of that immensity of which I was currently traversing some tiny pin prick sized corner. My head was filled with words the whole while. There was silence, in other words, only because in all that extravagance of wind, there was none that happened to be blowing across my vocal cords.
This seeming silence is the silence of aloneness; it is the silence of long drives and times spent sitting on the deck watching the sunset. It is the silence of retreats and of the lengthy pauses in church which we sometimes, but only sometimes, slip into the slopping over the sides bucketsfull of words in our liturgies. It is a silence that is better than no silence at all, in that it does open us to that range of possibilities we usually drown out with our own speaking.
It is absolutely impossible to listen while we are talking, and almost impossible to listen while we are thinking, so the almost of this silence is an improvement, as far as exposing ourselves to the great gifts which the Universe is continually proffering us goes. But there is another silence: the deeper, intentional silence which only comes when it is willed and worked at. I couldn't find that deeper silence in this afternoon's wildness, and neither did I try to. I was content enough to let my mind run free and muse my way back to the warmth of my car and the promise of hot tea and a log fire waiting for me at home.