This time last year, I was trailing my friend’s motorcycle up the East Coast to Cape Cod with nothing but a sleeping bag, expendable clothes and pair of aubergine Wellies for my new stint as a clam digger.
I had just quit my job, lost a love and spent the week before dogsitting a Springer Spaniel named Hershey in a neighborhood with no desire to incorporate trash cans as part of its amenities. Know this: There’s nothing like carrying a bag of someone else’s shit around the block to make you forget your own for an hour.
By the time I reached the Cape and set up shop in a spot brilliantly dubbed “Mow-Town,” I imagined never turning back and living a life determined by the tides and local seafood market’s demand for countnecks. The experience ― seasoned with sunrise coffees, Winnebago siestas and after-work excursions to secret swimming holes ― brought about a natural balance in me that could only be attributed to the therapeutic act of digging and discovering, of searching and finding.
One evening, we were invited to a block party where a hula-hooping 9-year-old requested that I call him “Horse Spirit” and led me by the hand to his fortune-telling table. His handmade sign read, “Learn your FUTUR,” so OF COURSE, I sat down. He traced his finger around a crystal sitting in a bowl of water before telling me I was going to “travel a lot, spend more time at the beach and get a boyfriend.” Two out of three ain’t bad, Horse Spirit. You earned your dollar.
When I woke up today and remembered where I was this time last year, I felt a pang in my stomach, almost a sense of loss, for the travels I knew would not be part of my commitment to school in the year ahead. I’ll have breaks and weekend road trips, but nothing like the stretch of time that afforded me visits up the East Coast, passport stamps across the globe and the chance to see the sunrise over Mr. Everest. My bags are seemingly unpacked for now.
But then for one of my classes, I started reading about silence and how it’s viewed in cultures outside of America. While it’s something that usually discomforts us or makes us feel the need to interrupt and qualify with statements like, “Needless to say,” “I’m speechless” or “It goes without saying,” a scholar named Covarrubias writes that many other cultures view silence “not as an absence, but a fullness of opportunity for being and learning.”
Right now, I am experiencing a lot of silence without the noise of travel, voices of people who know me and ability to speak up in class about topics that are foreign to me. But instead of viewing this as an absence or loss, it’s so empowering to realize it’s a space that is being filled with newness every moment. When I am not talking, I am observing. I am learning.
The Blackfeet have a beautiful way of looking at listening as something that is connected to place; it’s a space you go to and physically inhabit. I thought I was finished with my travels, but it seems I’ve actually just arrived at a location I haven’t been to in quite some time. I am listening to my life. And these days, it has a lot to tell me.
“Listen to your Life
See it for the fathomless mystery that it is
In the boredom and pain of it no less than in the excitement and gladness:
Touch, taste, smell your way to the holy and hidden heart of it
Because in the last analysis
All moments are key moments
And life itself is grace.”