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About ten years ago my younger son, his wife and I were traveling from northern California to meet up with my older son and his family near Yosemite for a long weekend vacation. We left from Sacramento going east and crossed over the Sierras near Lake Tahoe. The road twisted and twined and no matter how high we climbed it seemed there was always another mountain pass to surmount.

Finally, we crested the last peak and as we descended we saw, not more endless winding roads and mountain passes, but a vast and magnificent valley floor that stretched north and south as far as the eye could see, and far away along the eastern horizon another purple-hued range of mountains. The vista was breathtaking, quite incredible to encompass.

About a quarter of the way down the eastern mountain slope, there was a lookout point and we decided to stop for a few moments to further admire the view. We pulled off the highway to the turn around and cut the engine. I heard the crunch of gravel as we walked from the car, and the pings and snaps of the cooling engine. I felt a palpable presence, not something thin or fleeting, but something solid and thick and immense.

Total silence…

 

Infinite stillness…

 

More sacred than a cathedral…

 

It was a moment of No-Think. The mind was completely still, the eyes wide open like portholes through which one consciousness looked out into another consciousness which was looking back. The Silence was alive and immense. I was in awe of its great majesty – drawn like a moth to flame and at the same time frightened by my insignificance in its presence. It was so peaceful I felt like weeping.

Into this unearthly quiet, the thunder of a buzzing fly came… and went… and the spell was broken.

As we continued traveling southward to our destination I looked back out the car window and saw the smooth rounded shoulders of the mountains and sweeping foothills looking like a photo I had once seen of Mongolia. A feeling of déjà vu settled over me.

Had I once traveled in a caravan across Asiatic steppes?  Listened to the chime of harness bells, smelled the cold, hard tundra? At night had I seen the stars unfasten from the firmament and wheel away? Did I fall asleep listening to the hymns of the silence?

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