on the terrace

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uganda

Murchison Bay was perfectly flat.  Here and there a wooden fishing boat glided over the lake’s motionless surface, and the oars–gently and nearly without sound–disrupted the mix of gold and blue resting just beneath.  The water parted for a moment, then returned to the original, reflective pattern.

The silence–the pervasive silence–felt infinite, connected to the silence of the entire cosmos. Maybe that was the source of its metaphysical power: silence, not small talk, is the universal default. But it wasn’t complete silence. There was a soft, delicate tapestry of sound. Crickets, birds, monkeys; some near, some far. After enough Ugandan mornings, I’d begun to distinguish them from each other, the way, in NYC, I had learned to distinguish the sounds of cars from the sounds of trucks, or a departing subway from one just arriving. This wasn’t actual silence, just sound without human noise.

The richness of the vista and the soft cacophony seeped into and healed every distraught molecule.  Mornings like this are spiritual euphoria–paradoxically, an auditory embrace.  It’s tempting, at the height of the experience, to make a break, to imagine finding permanent refuge in solitude. But it’s not in my nature. Once my soul is satiated, the physical and mental idleness of solitude begins to feel like lingering. I have to say something, do something. I have to be around people, immersed in urban noise. I have to take things in—the very the things that, sooner or later, I want to leave far away.

An hour later, I finished my coffee, gathered up my books, and drove off to continue the day in Kampala. But I was already looking forward to the next silent morning.