“Thundering Silence”


I was sitting on the porch reading Silence: The Power of Quiet in a World Full of Noise by Thich Nhat Hanh. The sky was mottled granite. Off to the east a salmon glow emerged from the belly of the hippo clouds. In the backyard, the heavily laden lemon tree drooped across the fence, the three-tiered fountain burbled in the center of the garden.

As I sipped from my mug of English Breakfast tea, I read about quiet and solitude and beauty and mindfulness. The chapter was entitled “Thundering Silence.” I was flooded with a mix of sensations: sweet sadness, joy, gratitude, awe. Then I noticed a fine mist cascading onto my book, my chair, me.

I sat a while longer, embracing the waxing light of the misty morning, the previously imperceptible moisture. When the mist began accumulating I thought to retrieve the brightly colored cushions from my Adirondack chair, left there from yesterday afternoon’s reading idyll. I set down my mug and descended the stairs. I retrieved the lightweight cushions and turned to retrace my steps.

Suddenly I heard a loud, low hum. What was that? Alert to urban noises, I wondered if it were a plane, the pump on the fountain, some malfunctioning mechanism.

I turned my head see a hummingbird had flown past me and was cavorting in the top tier of the fountain. Its iridescent green back sparkled in the muted light. Then its head turned to reveal a bright flash of magenta. Back and forth, green and fuschia, as it sipped and soaked. lt looked like Princess Aurora’s dress as the fairies changed it from blue to pink and back again at the end of Walt Disney’s Sleeping Beauty, the first movie I ever saw in a theatre, with my grandmother.


For several minutes I watched the hummingbird dip and dart. The patterned cushions, one in each hand, felt like ballast. Had I not been holding them, I would rise up out of the yard and into the sky. I stood hovering between worlds, until the hummingbird eventually skedaddled and I was granted permission to move away from an amazing moment of grace.

Only as I climbed back to the porch did I realize it was Easter Sunday.