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Very Big & Very Quiet

Very Big & Very Quiet

Hello and good day!

We drove up and out of the city along a new and well-maintained paved black road. The road switched back and forth up the side of a mountain.

We climbed higher and higher as we drove forward. As we climbed the mountain, the city, behind us in the valley below, looked smaller and smaller.

We saw it from our back window. It shrank as we drove away from it.

When we were in the city, the city felt big, but from up on the mountain it looked very small and became smaller all the time.

Our car crossed over a plateau at the top of the mountain.

It was windy and sunny on the plateau and filled with dark, green-leafed trees.

There was a small restaurant under the trees with outdoor park bench seating.

There was a big field in the shade of the trees where families had set up to picnic.

Kids played soccer on the grass field in the shade and some of the kids who were on the sideline waiting for the next game turned to look at us as we drove by.

We drove another five minutes past the restaurant and past the park until we reached the lookout point for the Marañón River.

Down the back side of the mountain, the dark green trees dispersed and became less dense. The mountain was tan and rocky and mostly dry and had no roads going down it.

Far down was the river valley.

The river, which we all knew was full and wide, looked very small in between two tall brown mountain faces. There was a settlement of houses and farms down on the riverbank and the sun shined directly down on the small community.

We could see that there were no roads and no powerlines in the settlement.

It was windy on the mountain where we were standing but there was no way to know if it was windy down below.

"What is it like down there?" I asked myself out loud.

The man who had driven us to the lookout point was standing next to me. He had thick black hair and a large nose typical of those who live in the mountains. He was short and thickly built and wore gold framed glasses.

"It is very big and very quiet," he said.

"You've been down there?" I asked.

He nodded.

"I've been down there and to many other places just like it. I grew up on a mountain plane even more secluded than the little village below and now I work with members of these little mountain communities," he said.

"How do you get down there?" I asked.

"There is a walking path," he said.

"Where is it?" I asked.

"Further down the road. You can't see it from here."

We stood in the wind and looked at the mountains and the trees down the side of the mountain and the river and the blue sky and the clouds.

"What do you do for work?" I asked.

"I am a professor of agricultural engineering at the local college. We go out into remote communities and teach farmers the latest techniques and bring them seeds," he said.

"And you are a driver too?" I asked.

"When there is somebody to drive," he smiled.

"Do you like living in the city or the country better?" I asked.

"Honestly, I like the country better. But I can support more people in the city. There are more money and resources in the city," he said.

"What do you miss most about living in the mountains?" I asked.

"In the mountains, you think big thoughts. I miss that most," he said.

"What do you mean by big thoughts?" I asked.

"In the morning when I wake up in the city, I look out my window and I see cars driving down the street. I see people walking and I hear car horns honking. I sit at a small table in my living room. I sit in the seat of my car to drive to work. Everything is small and tight. But in the country, it's different," he pursed his lips and shook his head.

We stood together in silence and felt the wind brush against our faces.

"In the country, you wake up and it is silent. At most you hear animals calling out in the distance, but it is far away. There is nothing to distract you. And your house is so humble, it is like part of the land, not even its own structure. You step out and the whole world is in front of you, big, and complete," he said.

"What do you think about?" I asked.

"You think about the land and the sky and the rivers and your family and your plants and your animals. The mountains go on and on and never end out in the distance. You feel small and humble, and you appreciate every little gift that the land grants you. In the city, everything feels important and urgent. This feeds your ego. Everything feels like a big deal. Small things start to seem big. Nature humbles you. You know where you stand in relation to the world," he said.

"Do you ever think about moving back?" I asked.

"I can't. My family wouldn't go for it. My wife is from the city. I met her in college. And my kids are used to getting snacks from our refrigerator," he said.

We smiled at each other.

"At least your work takes you out to the country," I said.

"Thankfully. That keeps my mind healthy," he said.

We stood in silence for another ten minutes, breathing in the mountain air.

Somebody called out.

"We have to get going or we will be late! Maria is expecting us at 3pm. We don't want to keep her waiting."

"The city calls," said my new friend.

We piled into the car and drove down the black paved road that switched back and forth into the city.

What looked small from up on the mountain became bigger and bigger as we got closer to it.

In town square we were surrounded by chatter and yelling and the sound of motors.

People and cars swirled around in every direction, enveloping us.

Our driver drove off, down a busy road.

This was a real conversation that I had a few years back and it has stuck with me.

I always try to remember that what a person is in the middle of tends to feel big, even if it really isn't.

And when you feel overwhelmed, it helps to go to a place where you can put things in perspective.

Thank you so much for your time today.

I hope that you have a truly blessed day!


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