There is no sound of silence in the hum of office life. A wheeled chair bumps into a desk surface, a soft drink can fizzes open, the arriving elevator dings, a stapler beats a stack of papers into submission, and a muffled conference call yammers in a nearby office. From my monochromatic desk I hear a pair of shoes clomp down the hall, a less-than-private conversation whispered in the hallway, the heavy stairwell door slamming shut, a fax machine chugging along unaware of its virtual obsolescence, and the overhead vent blowing recycled air down upon me. The automated reminders pop up on my computer and their dings rouse me momentarily from my catatonic routine. For no better reason than complete disinterest, I snooze each one for another hour with a click, click of the mouse. I drown them in the maddening blend of overlapping sounds that fill my day with their numbing office echoes.
Amid the droning functions of the office and its constant, dull soundtrack, the occasional snippets of easy-listening background music waft through the noise and I heard a familiar soft song from Paul and Art. Typically distant music just fills the empty space between white noise and printers churning out rhythmic copies, but on this day, a handful of words tumble across the office and I jot them down in my at-hand notepad. “I’m empty and aching and I don’t know why,” the man singing softly muses to the fellow bus passenger sleeping at his side. For me, amid all the audio clutter, I hear these lyrics above all other sounds and I understand the sentiment of needing to speak words even if no one hears them. Feeling a familiar frustration coupled with just as much internal uncertainty in the midst of all the surrounding repetition and routine, I stare at the words on the paper scribbled between the reminder to confirm tomorrow’s meeting and the incident number issued by the IT department for the umpteenth computer challenge. By the end of the song I still strain to hear the melody over the surrounding cacophony, but it occurs to me how desperately I desire to leave this mundane monotony and walk off to look for America.
For Amber Waves of Grain
After descending Pike’s Peak in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, Katharine Lee Bates captured a visual description of the sites towards the eastern slopes facing the American Great Plains. From this bounty, the country nourishes itself and other nations and provides the wealth of agricultural
plenty for millions. But more than one bread basket feeds America, and I choose to enter in on this summer night.In eastern Washington State’s subtle hills, in sharp contrast to the Cascade’s peaks and the Bitterroot Mountains on either side, the golden farmlands roll for miles yielding their wealth of wheat to this corner of the world and beyond. In this hearty region, I find my respite from office life and nourish my spirit.
Once my final flight of the day touches down in Spokane and I complete the routine rental car process, I drive amid the city lights until I find myself southbound among these wheat fields in the late summer evening. Starting its tardy rise, the moon hovers low on the horizon, dipping below the taller hills as I skirt through the countryside. While the moonlight glints against the earth, the land appears to move and shimmer in the low light. No amber waves splash over these nocturnal hills; but regardless of the minimal light, the gentle summer breeze creates movement and flow of the ripening crops just slightly visible in the night’s solitude and silence. This peaceful drive, free of distracting sounds, marks the beginning of the great escape I craved at my desk months earlier. I adjust my focus from the dark slopes to the nearly-full orb rising beside me illuminating the path ahead of me. And the moon rose over an open field.