There's something about August in the mountains that appeals to me, no less than the beach calls to me in October. By August, we all start to breathe a little easier, knowing the majority of the heat is behind us but also knowing that high temperatures will continue to bedevil us for at least another month. In August, there seems to be a subtle shift in consciousness that occurs in my head, even in nature, as the allure of fall in Georgia appears on the horizon. The esteemed outdoor writer Charles Seabrook described the changes August brings in last Sunday's AJC. I hope you read it. It will make you revel in the moment.
Perhaps the shift in my head in August is also because it's my birthday month. While I've prepared for it all year, August insists on the reality of tallying yet another year spent on this earth. I'm not complaining. I welcome the wisdom and perspective, comprehension and understanding that age is bestowing on me. I wish that my enlightenment had come much earlier in life so that I'd not have the sense of time wasted when I could have been "smarter," but even Native Americans believed that one did not begin a spiritual journey until around the age of 40. I'd have to agree. Of course, the year I turned 40 I married my husband, and he'd probably like to take the credit.
We struck out this week for a few days in Highlands, N.C. I had the words to a favorite Eagles song in my head: "... Take it easy, take it easy. Don't let the sound of your own wheels drive you crazy. Lighten up while you still can. ..." Our aim was to do just that. We found ourselves ensconced in a charming log house far, far from what might be described as a "cabin," one perched midway down a steeply sloping hillside, with sky-tickling trees towering above us and more below us. On the wrap-around porch, we found comfortable log chairs, rockers and swings enough to accommodate more than just the two of us. The host had left the air-conditioning on, but we promptly shut it off and opened the windows. Clean mountain air: there's nothing like it. We breathed deeply for the first time in weeks.
While the air was clean and crisp - think of the sound of a fall apple cracking as you bite into it - the more insistent impression we had was of the absolute stillness and quiet we had wandered into. Nothing. Nada. Not a sound, until night set in and the remnants of a full moon dangled just beyond the railing on the porch. That's when the cicadas burst into their seasonal chorus. We sat and rocked and rocked, mesmerized by the sound.
But that's all. No other sound intruded during the day, and we reveled fully in the quiet. Quiet just doesn't happen in one's normal day-to-day life unless you scrupulously seek it. Something electric or electronic is always "running." There's always an emergency vehicle on Floyd Street. Highway 278 starts droning at daybreak. The neighbor predictably cranks his vehicle at 5:30 a.m., and we know he's off to work. There's the phone, the cellphone, the fax, the doorbell, Sonny's bark when he senses someone passing outside, the beep-beep-beep of the microwave, the oven timer going off, the television going on and cars occasionally whizzing by. We really don't know what quiet is anymore. Even libraries aren't the bastions of quiet they used to be.
But here in the mountains - not that far from home - we found a peace that normally escapes us. Amazingly, I felt the weight of the last few weeks' schedules, agendas, duties and responsibilities fall from my shoulders as if I were stepping out of a strait jacket. This is not something I'm regularly able to do, but here, at this time, it felt as natural as waking up.
Daily meditation or prayer time requires the search for quiet. It shuts off the world outside and opens you not only to your own inner voice but to the voice of God, Creator, Father, Mother, Universe, Spirit. If you can't hear your own self think, how can you possibly hear God talking to you? It takes a while to even learn to shut down all that drivel in your brain, most of it meaningless in the big picture and the rest of it pointless worry about things, situations and people over which you have no control. It's called "monkey talk" by some therapists.
Quiet is one thing; silence is another. Silence, to me, invokes the meaning of the word "stillness." "Be still and know that I am God," we are all admonished. Those words - as simple as they are - have been further interpreted by these lines: "Be still and know that I Am. Be still and know. Be still. Be." On a plaque in our guest room are the words: "Just Be," offering an invitation just to come and rest a while. and feel no need to do anything to deserve peace in that place.
As we dallied our days away, we found less and less need to fill the space inside our heads with words, either our own misguided interior babblings or conversation to fill the spaces between us. Hours would pass with only the sounds of pages in a book being turned or the creak of the porch swing. It takes effort to achieve silence at home but away from home, it seems to come much more easily, one entirely sufficient reason for leaving home once in a while.
Barbara Morgan is a Covington resident with a background in newspaper journalism, state government and politics.