One Square Inch of Silence

Friday, July 14, 2017

One month. One month and I will be in Bali. Whoa. It’s slooooowly starting to hit me. Just last week it felt like I had so much more time, but now? Time is flyin’. 3 weeks of work left and then 1 week with family. Then who knows… As I write this, there is a big smile on my face – it’s coming up quickly, but I’m READY!

I want to rewind to last weekend. I spent the weekend with my colleague and friend, Robin. She told me a while back about the One Square Inch of Silence. It is deemed “very possibly the quietest place in the United States.” This is one of the many things I love about the Pacific Northwest – I’ve lived in the PNW for 30 years and I’ve never heard of this place. So many surprises. What will I learn of next? When Robin asked if I wanted to go find it, I immediately said yes.

People have been asking if I have a “bucket list” of things to do before I leave Seattle. I did, but it only had one item: One Square Inch. Last weekend, I checked it off my list. I’m so damn grateful for the experience.

Thursday afternoon, we took off on our weekend adventure to the Olympic National Park. I don’t think anything makes me giddier than knowing I’m going to be camping for a couple of nights. Campfire food and s’mores while unplugged in the middle of Nature. No computers, no wi-fi, no schedule. We read, we ate, and we had great conversations. Ahhh, camping. Nothing better.

We woke up bright and early and made our way to the trailhead in the Hoh Rainforest. We found it amusing that even the Forest Ranger knew nothing about One Square Inch. We printed out the map and began the trek. The map said it’s 3.2 miles from the trailhead and takes about 2 hours to get to the stilted tree. “Ha! 2 hours to go 3.2 miles? Nah, that’ll take us maybe 1 hour.”

3 hours later, we finally made it to the stilted tree…

When you’re in the middle of a rainforest, expect to move a little slower and spend a little more time on the trails. Such an incredible environment. Robin and I stopped several times to admire all the foliage, trees, the Hoh River, and surprise waterfalls.

On several hikes, I have told myself that Nature is my favorite museum. This “museum” on the Olympic Peninsula? It may be the best. I saw new dimensions of the color green and I heard bird calls that were more ornate than “Flight of the Bumble Bee.” And the trees were absolutely enormous. Man, if trees could talk…

So we found the first checkpoint on our scavenger hunt, the stilted tree, and walked through the “door.” I loved that as soon as we passed through, we both became completely silent. We wanted to respect the silence, so we didn’t speak a word. We meandered along the elk path, then made it across the wet clearing, and found the mossy log. X marks the spot.

We found the red stone and the “Jar of Quiet Thoughts,” signifying that this was it – the quietest place in the United States. OSI was designated on Earth Day in 2005 – the independent research project discovered this area as completely free of human noise. Nothing is heard, not even planes, except for the rustle of the leaves and the various wildlife creatures.

Robin and I both sat down…and listened.

I had found a comfortable spot and crossed my legs and prepared to close my eyes to meditate. I realized that in this spot, I didn’t actually need to close my eyes. What I usually visualize during meditation was right in front of me.

I don’t meditate as much as I should, but it’s becoming a fairly regular practice for me. What I like to do is visualize and quiet my mind. Most times, I picture myself sitting in a forest, surrounded by trees and the sun is shining. Birds are chirping and there’s a sense of peace over everything in sight. While I was in One Square Inch, I was sitting exactly where I usually visualize myself. It was a very special moment to look in front of me and see what I so often imagine. It was even more special to know that this was a place where people come to find that same sense calmness. The energy was very, very positive.

Eventually, I did close my eyes and sat still for about 45 minutes. I listened to the birds and paid attention to my breath. There was nothing to distract my often-wandering mind. Even where I am right now, I’m sitting still, but it’s not complete silence. Cars, the hum of fans, planes in the distance, and a lawn mower. Try it right now…what do you hear?

45 minutes went by and when I finally opened my eyes again, it felt like I had taken the best 2-hour nap of my life. I was so happy and I felt completely grounded. Once fully back in reality, we made our way back out to the trail. It was a sweet surprise when I found a clover attached to my shoe. I find joy in moments like these…

We made it back to the trailhead and began our journey to find a new campground to stay at. After a couple “Full Campground” signs and a wrong turn that made for a 2-hour detour, we finally found the Queets primitive campground along the river. All was good. We made some delicious fajitas, ate s’more s’mores, and hung out in the hammock over the water.

And just when I thought it couldn’t get better, we visited the Tree of Life the next morning.

I spent my 30th birthday at the Tree of Life because it represents growth and strength. This Tree has nothing below it, yet it’s roots are helping it float. On rainy April 29th, my 30th birthday, I stood in front of this Tree and thought about my life and what I knew, deep in my roots. It was while standing in front of this tree that I listened to my gut.

“Leave the nest. Make a change. Don’t renew lease. Let go. Go to Bali.”

It was an honor to visit again. At this point, what my gut was telling me months prior was coming true. I’m making that change. I didn’t renew my lease. I’m letting go and I’m going back to Bali. My roots will always be here, but it’s time to leave my nest.

What I believe is that silence is in the mind. There is a “One Square Inch” in all of our minds, we just rarely take the time to tune the rest of the world out. It’s amazing what you learn when you don’t listen to the Outside and Start listening to the Inside.

What do you hear?

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