“Can we take a moment to realize where we are and appreciate how we got here?”
At the end of my question the eight of us quietly split, each finding a spot to reflect. Peering through the dark, I notice a place at the base of a nearby dune and amble over to it, feeling my feet displace the sand beneath them with each step. Here, at the base of the dune, I remind myself of where I am– on top of a phenomenally massive mound of sand, at night, in the middle of Oman. As I stand, I hear grains of sand blow along the surface of the dune, carried by the cool nighttime breeze, and I wonder if ripples are forming around my feet. Am I becoming part of the desert?
In a sense, I was. I felt the tiny grains in every part of me exposed to the elements. I tasted them in my mouth. I knew they were in my hair and I all but saw them in my eyes. As I reflected on my experiences thus far, gratitude covered me like the sand. Something about this place resonated with me. Was it was its peacefulness, solitude, or ability to create the space for interesting and lively dialogue? I can’t be sure. But one thing I do know, when I turned my face to the stars and saw Orion, my favorite constellation, the one my Dad pointed out to me when I was little, I was reminded that we are all under the same sky. And this connectedness between humanity and nature, this peace, shalom, or salam, this is what it’s about.
After reflecting, we played games, laughed, and talked late into the night, watching the clouds roll in and cover the stars, only to eventually move on and reveal them once more.
A few hours later I woke to the unpleasant sound of my alarm. I silenced the device as fast as humanly possible and felt around for my hiking clothes, trying to move quietly. Not everyone was crazy enough to wake up at 5:15 to see the sunrise. One of my roommates and I stumbled out of our cabin and literally pulled ourselves up the dune, which seemed significantly harder this time than the previous two times… At the top, we were welcomed by silence. The sky was hinting at the coming dawn, with deep grays turning to the softest blues and oranges. Without words, we agreed to find our own dunes and watch the sunrise unfold in solitude.
I felt my lungs expand with each breath of the clear air. I touched the ripples beneath me and let the powdery sand fall between my fingers. I heard the silence. Yes, you could hear it. It was nearly deafening, my ears didn’t know how to process it. Our world is full of noise– white noise, cars, sirens, crickets, birds, leaves, music, capitalism, lights, people, laughter. But here, it is quiet. No one spoke. No music played. There was no wind, no birds, no crickets, no cars or sirens or white noise. At first it was uncomfortable. My breathing was my only reminder that noise existed. Yet somewhere the silence created deep peace within me. The external silence created the space for internal silence– internal peace. It relieved me from the necessity of interpretation or response, a gift we don’t often have the luxury to experience. I had nowhere to be, nothing to do, nothing to think about or fix. I simply sat on my dune, relished in the peaceful silence, and watched the world wake up.
What a gift are these wild desert places that create the space for us to quiet both our minds and our lives. May you find your own wild desert places; and when you do, may you embrace them fully and find peace.
Father God, thank you for meeting us in the quiet places. For the gift of peace, nature, and silence. In nature, we find you; you are revealed to us. Be with us as we seek to quiet our minds and relax in the beauty that is your creation. Amen.
Anna is a student majoring in Philosophy and Strategic Communications. In 2019, she studied abroad in Oman. CMEP is very thankful for the writers who contribute Spiritual Resources. However, CMEP does not necessarily agree with all the positions of our writers, and they do not speak on CMEP’s behalf.