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January 3, 2005 -

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the hundred thousand dollar day

The sun has already claimed the day, but it has not yet risen above the rocks that shield me from the east. No rush to get out of my tent, so I unzip all four sides to reveal the desert shrouded in netting. I am camping in a wash. It is larger than a football field, being totally enclosed, with very high and enormous ancient stone guardians . Totally enclosed that is, except for the trail which integrates apertures on either end. One end leads to a winding, very deep and narrow dry creek that is miles long. The other end twists into a large field opening into hundreds of miles of water and wind chiseled sediment. I can't hear anything outside of my valley. It is very quiet now. More quiet than yesterday and last week. There is not less noise outside, just less noise inside. Every day it gets more and more quiet, so that today I don't hear that annoying ringing that drowns out all the desert sounds.


It is so comfortable in my tent. The mattress is a full futon I bought in Moab. I had come with an air mattress, but when my friend came to bring me new supplies, we drove to town staying overnight so that I could really go shopping. Renting a large suv to journey deep into The Swirl; at times we were angled half on the mountain at forty five degrees. We brought so much stuff, carrying 14 gallons of spring water from Moab and Salt Lake City. Here and there are chests of fruits and nuts. He will come back next week, but I am alone for now.

Alone at last. I have waited for a long time to be here where it is quiet. And now it is quiet. The whole first week, all I heard was a loud ringing sound in my ears; like I had tinnitus or something. I asked an audiologist for an explanation. It seems, that the lymph soaked cilia in the cochlea continue to have residual rhythmic motion. Especially after being overly stimulated for extended periods of time. (Frequencies are obscured in patterns, depending on the distance into the cochlea; or not.)

As the sun rises above the rocks, I get out of my tent. It is another perfect day. I prepare for the sun by making trips to a good spot to sunbathe. I have scouted out the whole wash and found a high spot that is pretty easy to get to. Vantaged here, I can have privacy. Around one or two parties hike through my wash everyday which is not that bad, because I know that if there are any problems, I can bail. But still, I didn't want to meet them. Thats why I put my air mattress here. I can see people enter the wash from both sides, and I can also see my tent. I carry underpants and a shirt, just in case I meet someone; I could put them on. I bring more supplies to my day spot: water, a book, sunglasses, hat, and a pillow. It isn't my goal to live on nothing, just to get some peace and quiet. And for the very first time in my life, I have finally got some peace and quiet. I can hear delicate desert sounds, now that the ringing in my ears has ebbed.

I love the sun. I am massaged as it slowly burrows deep inside me, filling me with strength and energy. The occassional slight breeze tickles. I can hear it too. Just so gently. It comes and goes. I hear a dog. Without opening my eyes, I assume that a party is passing through and the dog is romping everywhere to encircle his owners. I am surprised that the dog was able to get so close to me without warning. I can't imagine how I missed the sounds of the party entering the valley. The dog must be very close because I can hear him panting loudly. I leisurely take off my eye protectors and turn to greet the canine. I can't see him. I look everywhere. I can still hear him. It is so weird. I turn in circles and look everywhere. I am alone. I hear loud panting but see nothing. I look up. It is a bird flying in the valley maybe thirty yards from me. I can hear the wings flapping. I can hear the bird flying as loudly as if a dog is panting next to my ear. I am superman. I have super hearing.

It is time to listen. In the beginning, all I could hear was ringing. Now I can start to hear desert sounds. So I listen. I listen hard. And I watch myself listen. I watch myself listen harder. And I understand what I am doing when I listen harder. I am opening up to the outside. I am really listening. I understand that when it is too bright, I close my eyes. But what do I do when it is too loud. I don't have ear lids. The ringing sound is analogous to eyelids for the ear. It covers all the low level noise. And all humans hear are sounds that are louder than the ringing. But its not only the ringing that blocks noise in the city. I don't know what it is, except to say that I can feel it. It is an attitude; an attitude of apathy, denial, and fear. Now, with the ringing fading, I am starting to really hear. Not single noises and sounds, but the gestalt. The sound montage: it is a single entity that I can feel. Like the visual canvas for the eyes, the ears also have a canvas that I can play on. Like reconstructing within, the vast expanse of awareness, when looking at the sky or the grand canyon; the sound montage has an expanse of its own. As an enormity of a canyon is felt by visualizing its depth, so is the magnitude of desert quiet so illuminated by a tactile grace of the sounds we can hear. It is not so much the absense of sound that is so inspiring as the amplification of the previously microscopic.


For me to listen now, I must be fearless. After a lifetime of building barriers to loud offensive incessant noise, I can let go of that today. I don't have to be on the lookout to be scared to sounds or people. I don't have to wear clothes to protect me from dangerous humans.

I reflect on my life. I remember when I was young, when I was going to be somebody. Where is my family? Where is my wife and children? Where is my job? Where is my house? How come my car rattles? And most importantly, where are my fans? Oh well. When my friend left, he was saying to me, "Well, you must have done something right, because you're here." And he is right, I must have done something right. Yes - Nothing will get worse today. I am not being attacked and I don't have to hide. I am not abusing myself. The air is clean; its quiet; there are no machines; no one is looking at me; there is no cement; I am not wearing clothes; I am not eating cooked food; I am not sitting in a leather chair nor surrounded by man made manufactured walls. There is no artwork. There is no money or stores or commerce or advertising. There is no TV. The incessant, nonstop, continual, ear splitting, bone crunching, ego bashing, overwhelming abuse from every side, all the time; it is gone. I am free. There is no rush to enjoy or heal, only release. I exhale all the hate and tension. Laying on my back, I open my mouth. My open jaw shutters with minute spasms for a long time. It is an activity. My jaw is wobbling and clutsy with movement. It is the tension that is being released. I do not need my night guard now because my jaw is unwinding itself.

As the sun hides behind the rocks to the west, I know I have a few more hours of daytime before it gets cold. I setup to build a fire with some wood that I cut and some that I brought from town. I have a lot of wood from town, and I like chopping wood with an axe too. I dream and remember. It is sad. I gather up my things from the day, and check out the food stash. I haven't eaten anything today. I didn't even think about food before this. Maybe I am not hungry.

I have sprouted almonds. They are plumb and fresh. I eat one and I don't like it. I put another one in my mouth, but spit it out after chewing a little. I guess I am not hungry. But it seems a pity to waste all these nuts. As it is getting cold, I put on my thermal underwear. It is high tech magic. Next I put on my bathrobe, a luxurious Egyptian cotton extra large white plush garment. I light the fire and watch it start. It is getting dark and I can see the stars. I am 8 years old again looking at the stars. I sit down with no plans.


A discarded almond is nearby. I see a desert mouse run to the almond and steal it. Lucky for him I don't want it anyway. I take another almond and put it in the same spot. Eventually, he comes back for the other almond. He is very fast. I keep on putting out the next almond for him. I think there may be more than one mouse. I put the next almond out but closer to me, so that he will have to come next to me to get it. As the mouse grabs the almond, I turn to look at him.
My headlight shines on the mouse. He freezes. I look. He runs away. He comes back. We do it again. And again. Then I start to hold the almond when he comes so that he has to take it from me. It is awkward at first. He keeps on coming back for more sprouted almonds. I keep handing him the almonds.

Two mice fight over me. It seems one of them is too scared to take the almond from me, he likes it better the other way. Eventually, he comes around too. That stash of almonds would last them longer if I didn't sprout them all, but I am sure they are happy to have met me. I love them. He comes over and I gently hand him an almond. He sits up on his hind legs and steadies the almond with his two hands and his mouth. He takes the almond but doesn't leave. He just sits up and looks at me for a whole moment, and then runs away.