When I think about the upcoming trip to Bhutan, one of the things I'm excited about is the quiet. Even though I live in this apartment by myself, there's never quiet. The antique electric clock on the wall grinds through its poorly kept hours, the freeway outside hums, the fridge cycles on and off, Loki chases an ill-gotten scrap of paper across the living room, probably notes for a book. I won't miss them.
I was out mushroom hunting in the hills in the evening a week and a half ago, and it was this piece of forest where all the ground is just layers on layers of fallen rotting trees covered with moss... not the soundest footing, but incredibly beautiful. The mature forest trapped in mist and filtered the golden light coming in from the west, and I admit I let my partner do the bulk of the actual looking for mushrooms part for about five minutes, and I just stood there, looking up and around and feeling small and feeling the silence, so complete and so strange that it felt like a gentle pressure on my ears, and then eventually, it felt like a buzzing that you can't hear but that you know is there... the empty shape of the hum of daily life, filled in with quiet.
I'm not talking about silence; the woods weren't silent. I could hear my partner about twenty feet away taking careful steps, and I could hear the drips, not of rain, but of collected moisture falling to the forest floor. It was just a freedom from things demanding my attention, and I think that we experience so much stimulation in the modern life that we almost forget what this feels like so entirely that to experience it again feels like the most glorious respite. It's one of the things I love about my trips to the desert, to have the opportunity to sit and watch the sun rise surrounded only by the empty hush of wind and insects.
I'm expecting a lot of empty hush in Bhutan. I'm expecting glorious starfields and nights so quiet that I won't be able to sleep. I'm looking forward to empty hush. I'm also looking forward to the clatter and clang, and to conversations and new and strange voices, but the thing I get too little of is the empty hush.