Some years ago I was kayaking in the Tongass Wilderness in southeastern Alaska. The Tongass is a temperate rainforest of several million acres largely untouched by human beings. The Tlingit’s who lived here for thousands of years left few traces, a burial mound, indentations from long ago villages and a few totems that eventually return to the earth. It is a sacred land whose neighbors include wolf, bear, salmon, humpback and the occasional human.
My trip consisted of 10 kayakers led by Kurt Hoelting of Inside Passages insidepassages.com The purpose of our trip in part was to immerse ourselves in the beauty, to slow down and become quiet so as to see and hear what the Tongass had to offer.
Each morning and evening we entered into a Zen practice…where we would seek to quiet our mind and spirit so as to be present to that which was going on within and around us. One evening we heard a rhythmic “Whoosh”, the sound of a humpback exhaling as the whale broke the ocean surface. So unmistakable and loud was the sound that we who were seated in the forest several yards off the beach were certain that the whale must be very close.
No longer able to contain ourselves our meditation leader broke our practice and invited us to greet our neighbor the whale. Walking to the beach we saw that the humpbacks were actually a mile out in the bay. It was the stillness of that evening and the stillness of our minds that allowed us to hear their call. The sound of silence.