Most days, I spend a great deal of my time readingreadingreading, thinkingthinkingthinking, and then writingwritingwriting. When I am not doing that, I'm driving my car on the same routes, shopping at the same grocery stores, doing the same laundry, all the mundane, normal stuff that people do. What I don't do enough is just listen. I don't mean listen to music or listen to people talk -- I mean just do nothing else except listen to what is around me. So today I did.

It is the last few days of what is the Pacific Northwest summertime, which does not begin until the second week of July, if you were not aware of this climate fact. Soon the heavy white-gray clouds will return, the rains, the damp, chilly air, and these blue skies and bursts of sweet, warm sunshine will be rarely seen again until, well, the second week of July of next year. This means that I will spend exactly zero minutes outside sitting on my patio sunbathing for approximately nine months. It helps me later on to not only soak up the feel of the sunshine and the gentle breeze into my kinesthetic memory banks now, but to bank the sounds around me as well. I lay back in my deck chair, close my eyes, and listen.

Birds. Lots of birds, chirping and calling, flirting and warning, flapping and fluttering. The very distant, steady, white noise hum of a freeway. Lawnmowers. Hammers building houses. A jogger running on the loose gravel at the side of the road. A speedboat roaring on the lake. A dog bark. A child yelling to another child in play. Leaves rustling, not yet fallen. The skitter of a squirrel traversing the wooden fence. The rumble of someone moving a wheeled garbage can across the alley. The jangle of my dog's collar and tags as she sits up to inspect the activity of the fence squirrel. A grinding garage door opening, then closing. A small plane chattering smoothly, low in the sky.

All of this would seem to add up to a great deal of noise, but the sound that I hear the most, the one that surrounds and buffets and connects them all, is silence. Not the dry silence of the inside of a house, where a clock ticking and a furnace blowing is deadened by walls and carpets and the air hangs suspended, motionless. The silence of the outdoors is a far more magical, living thing; breathtaking, really. Inside, silence seems to be a lack, an absence; outside, it is peaceful, calm, and a bit wondrous in the idea that in the world, sometimes everything is resting, contemplating, listening.

After a few minutes, I can feel a shadow come across my eyes and the warm sun is cooled by clouds. I open my eyes and see this.