Monday, September 19, 2011

The Value of Silence

I was over on the coast to visit my daughter. A wonderful delight. We walked the plaza in Arcata, California for an arts and music festival. Acapela choirs swayed rhythmically singing gospel music. Belly dancers in finery balanced pots on their heads as hips whirled to the music. A tall thin man in his twenties with gorgeous blond dreadlocks cascading the full length of his back said "this feminine power always makes me a little uncomfortable." I told him that I had heard belly dancing was originally only meant to be performed by women for women. "That explains it," he said as he edged away. One side street hosted a brass band. A mother danced with her tie dyed clad child. Vendors lined the entire plaza selling hemp clothing, beeswax candles, surreal art work, and many expressions of creativity. My brain exploded with possibilities. My daughter and I walked hand in hand along with her boyfriend. My joy was complete in their company and the excitement of people who live with so much freedom. A young man walked down the street bare chested. Swirling patterns of gold paint travelled from his collar bone to his navel, a  triangular breast plate. He wore short shorts over silver stockings and pink high tops. He and his friend strutted down the center of the street gesturing and talking loudly in their own world. Children peeked out from behind their butterfly painted faces while mothers with multicolored skirts over multipatterned pants pushed strollers. Everyone was there in a vibrant expression of life. We walked up H street until we got to the dry goods store where my daughters friend, Cassie,  works. Cassie offers a saturday afternoon of crafting amidst the collectibles. We made fancy animals. miniature plastic animals decorated with rhinestones and feathers, fabric saddles and reins, necklaces and shimmering chains. Fabulous flights of imagination some to life. Then we walked away from the festival down 11th street, retreating to the quieter neighborhood. I drove away east into the mountains as the setting sun illuminated  golden grasses and green forest against a twilight sky infused with pink clouds. Winding deeper and deeper into the wilderness all the chatter in my head, the action of the previous days, at first became so loud I wondered at all the thoughts racing through. As the sky grew dark and the last light faded I found my driveway and made my way to the round chair out on the deck. I sat in this chair watching stars appear in a moonless sky. I know some people have never really seen a fully starlit sky. I was told by an astronomy professor that this particular valley is one of the few California places where the magnificence of the stars can still be known. The chatter of the day melted away under the trails of shooting stars and cicada concerto. The value of silence is clarity.

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