Sounds in the Silence  by Lonna Enox

Dust billowed behind my car as I turned into the wildlife refuge. I knew we had been suffering from drought, but I had not realized how much it had affected my favorite retreat. Great dry stretches, with small patches of water, covered the former wetlands. I could not spot a single critter as I drove along my the familiar path. Finally, a half-mile down, I spotted two lonely ducks paddling in a puddle.

Reaching my favorite look-out point, I stepped out into the silence and gazed into the vast desert where wetlands had once thrived. Herons, egrets, ducks, geese, pelicans—where had they gone? I leaned against the car fender and waited. Once here, I would still wait for the sunset. New Mexico sunsets take your breath away. They are a myriad of colors across a sky that stretches into “forever”. As it slides into the horizon, the sun transforms ordinary bushes and landscape into a colorful painting. Tonight, it promised another masterpiece, minus the silhouettes of the geese and cranes returning from a day eating in the fields nearby.

Then, I heard it. Had I imagined myself in silence? Everywhere around me, songs and chatter exploded. A distant coyote yapped, and was answered. Red winged blackbirds rose in a crescendo of twittering, flapping, and color—their red-orange forewings flashing, complementing the sunset. Rabbits scampered past a family of Bob White quails, their soft, whistles taking on a conversational tone. Doves cooed to each other, exchanging gentle gossip. These creatures harmonized in their natural setting, providing background for their unusual guests, wintering snowbirds.

These are the “ordinary” critters. I have grown old living around them. And, like most things familiar, perhaps they have bred my contempt. In admiring the “unusual” critters, I have ignored them. Ignoring the ordinary, taking the familiar for granted, is not new for me. During the year since burying my husband and my Dad, I have allowed loneliness to engulf me when those special people have scattered. I have turned inward, abandoning the church that had no time to minister to my grief. I have ignored the gentle nurturing of the “ordinary”
ones who have quietly helped me through each small crisis. I have forgotten that God, to whom I have clung, is not restricted to any church body. He is with me always, in my heart. I only need an occasional silence to appreciate the beauty of his presence.

“Be still, and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10a) In the dry stillness, I snuggled into the comfort of God’s presence. For the first time in a long while, I smiled. When I left the refuge in twilight, I thanked God for the drought. In its ugliness, I had
found great beauty. He taught me, along with his ordinary critters, that loneliness is an unnecessary feeling. All we have to do is open our hearts and ears to the simple companionship which He has provided.