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  • Writer's pictureMonty Wolfe

Enjoy the Silence

I’m on the Max heading to work, and my music has stopped. I was listening to a rousing bombastic final number from a Broadway show, but the song ended, and now there is only silence - that is, there is only silence coming from my earbuds.

Beyond my earbuds, noise abounds. There is the garble of individual conversations mashed and mixed into a deeply tuned white noise. Behind me and to the left, there is a woman speaking into her phone like it's a Star Trek communicator. She smacks her lips and complains about her boyfriend in a volume inappropriate for public spaces much less unnecessary for the technological marvel in her hand. From her phone comes the squawked treble validations from her far away friend, I can only imagine she is a near replica of the person on this end. Under all this noise is the constant rhythmic poetry of heavy metal wheels hitting rails - klanks and screeches and grumbles. I keep my headphones in, enjoying the soothing muffle they add to everything - like I’ve got coffee mugs instead of ears. Everything seems more palpable, more tolerable, like this. I enjoy riding the Max. For public transportation, it’s relatively clean and safe. It’s predictable and the routes are easy to learn. It’s not like the subway system in New York with its bazillions of trains criss-crossing all over the five boroughs.

It’s also far more chill. When the Max pulls up to a stop, the doors open, and only then do Portlanders decided whether or not to disembark. They slowly gather their belongings, look around out the windows to ensure it’s the intended station, and finally mosey to the doors. In New York, it’s more of a duck & roll situation - the train slows down and you hope for the best as you close your eyes and leap. I also enjoy the Max because it’s like having a chauffeur - there’s so little thought involved in riding it. There’s something appealing about riding a device attached to a rail with a predetermined route. It’s efficient and safe, but perhaps not adventurous.

Every day, Starbuck and I head out on our adventures - long walks all over our area of the city. We have our reoccurring haunts, but for the most part, it’s an anything goes sort of deal - but not really for Starbuck. She’s on a leash.

For one, it’s the law, but also, because she doesn’t get along with other dogs, and also still, I worry about her safety. For all her intelligence and wit, she is merely a doggie, and doesn't understand the dangers of automobiles or construction sites or capitalists.

Instead, Starbuck’s freedom is limited to a ten foot circle around my path. I don’t keep her pulled taut to my side, but instead allow her the freedom to explore the smells and sounds of the surrounding area at her wims, but she can’t go far.

Yesterday, we were up on Terwilliger, one of our favorite walking spots, because it gives us a magnificent view of the valley.

It helps me put the world in perspective, especially when I’ve had a somewhat stressful day at school. Yesterday, it was my Motion Graphics class I was trying to recuperate from. I lost my place during the lecture and couldn’t figure out how to make my computer generated ball bounce (but that’s a story for another day). Up on Terwilliger, Starbuck and I were enjoying the heck out of a momentary reprieve from the rain.

The temperature was perfect, the sun had popped out, and we were trucking along listening to music. Then, the album ended, but instead of finding a new playlist, I just enjoyed the silence. I was still wearing my earbuds, so the wind through the trees and the far away hum of traffic in the city below sounded softer, more soothing, like I had added a Gaussian blur to my ears. I could hear the pitter-patter of Starbuck’s paws, hear her sniffs as she searched for new smells. I looked up, straight up, and there was a bird overhead - a single bird soaring on a gust of wind - its wings outstretched, enjoying the effortless ride, like I might on the Max. I wondered why it was all alone. I usually see birds in big groups, swooping and soaring as one, like a Greek chorus of poop machines - but this bird was all by himself. Maybe he was lost, maybe he was independent, or maybe he was just enjoying the beautiful weather by himself. Nothing wrong with that. I watched him for a good minute as he hovered above me, and then as he fluttered his wings ever so slightly and veered to the left, down into the valley.

Sitting on the Max, lulled by the muffled rhythms around me, I thought about that bird and all its freedom - and how he chose to use his freedom - just floating around, relaxing, enjoying the silence.

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