One day you find yourself home alone with a chance to enjoy some solitude. No work, no chores, no obligations. The day is yours.
You bask in this rare moment of quiet as you nestle into your favorite seat with the perfect beverage to enjoy that good book you’ve been meaning to read.
Ahh, at last.
“Bark, bark, bark!!” The neighbor’s dog continues, seeking to warn its owner (who is deaf to its diligent reports) of the trespassing mail carrier, a lurking pedestrian, or that lowdown, no good squirrel.
You pause with a sigh to tune it out and settle back into your moment of silence.
Then, the distant wail of a siren screaming its way through traffic to or from some terrible scene pulls you out of your reverie again. After another pause to remember where you were on the page, you are able to resurrect your moment of peace.
The next incursion might be a car – one emitting nerve-thumping bass rhythms, or one honking its horn, or perhaps it’s a roaring pickup fueled by that noxious blend of testosterone and I-don’t-give-a-damn.
You pause again. If only there were somewhere you could go to escape all these intrusions.
Such a place exists.
It’s near Fry Canyon in Southeast Utah, more than 60 miles in any direction from civilization. Not only is there no civilization, there isn’t even a campground. Just mile after mile of dusty solitude to drive deep into and claim as yours – for two nights or two weeks. For free.
Nothing here ruins that rarest of modern treasures, true silence. You’d have to fly to the moon to find less noise.
Days in this dry, ruggedly beautiful canyon are impossibly quiet. Lacking today’s typical intruders of people, traffic, dogs, sirens, and other clamors is the primary reason. However, as you sit in the space, it also feels like the entire landscape is waiting. For what, you can’t say, but it seems to hold its breath as if paused.
Reluctant to disturb the peace, sound-makers here take polite turns issuing meek assertions of their presence. Just now, a raven’s call bounces along the ragged canyon walls. Later, a bee buzzes at the yellow rabbitbrush flowers beside you. That’s followed by a gust whispering its course through the junipers who wave it by.
Later still, off in the distance, the highway breathes an embarrassed apology as it ushers a lone car along its way. From above, the cloudless sky is careful to muffle the hum of a plane off somewhere in its faraway reaches.
The night’s demand for silence is more severe. Quelled by this strict nocturnal rule, starting and ending at twilight, no wind, bird, animal, or insect interrupts the utter stillness.
The canyon’s silhouette, energized by the cool air, awakens with a yawn. It stretches, and the perimeter of the horizon expands beyond its ordinary daytime bounds, pulling the stars down into the dark, widening void overhead.
Standing in this timeless space, you strain to hear anything.
The effort produces a peculiar physical sensation. Instead of sound filling your ears, it is pulled from them.
You are simultaneously embraced and set free by the most complete quiet you’ve ever sensed.
You close your eyes.
With no visual or audial anchor, your mind drifts out into the night. Floating free, your thoughts take an unavoidable existential turn.
How do you connect to this place? What is it waiting for? Do you belong here?
Under the weight of these questions you shift slightly, feet crunching the brittle crust of red earth.
As if in answer to your question, that sound betrays you as the intruder of solitude here.