This Spot of Silent Music

I ride to the high point in San Dimas Canyon or, the high point along the paved road anyway. Most people, those who do not continue the short distance to roads end, would choose to pause here, as close to a summit as this road will take you. But not I. Swinging around without stopping I slice into a couple turns on the way back down before coming to an inexplicable stop. I like this spot. This time of year I can choose between sun or shade by pulling up a few feet more, or a few less.

I like this spot. Stepping off the bike my feet perch on the edge. The verge rises, but then drops away in a precipitous, though not quite sheer, fall. The canyon follows a wide sweeping bend here, flexing, arching where the stream has cut a sinuous form. A canopy of oaks line the curve below me, softening at the cliff base, and along a shelf just up from the bottom.

Looking down canyon the waters collected behind the dam fill the narrows of the canyon floor. Even in the sun, the water is dark, black. Chaparral covered, and shrub spotted slopes reflect on the surface where the angle of view allows, but underneath, the inky depths of a night sky swallow any more vibrant hue. Often the water is cut by the wakes of waterbirds, but not today.

In the middle of the view, the wide part of this canyon, is the marsh, still mostly dry and brown, dun. The stalks of reeds wave as they always do when I gaze down at them. The gentle breeze causes me to sway as well. Or vertigo. And so I look up the canyon sides for balance, grounding.

Turning my head up canyon the stream bed seems to be a little more green, a narrow ribbon of water tattoos across the sands. I am unsure where it came from. The same view appeared dust dry on my last visit, and there has not been any rain. Birds flit to and fro across the expanse below, seeking cover in the oaks, skimming the reed tops of the marsh. They charge along a direct path, swoop up and down then, with a simple dip of a wing and tail, they bank to the side in pursuit of a meal. All the while they chatter, they call, they knock on wood. And the breeze drifts through the leaves causing a hushing rustle.

There is no sound of human activity to break this mountain silence. I like this spot for its silence. John Denver spoke, and sang, of the music of the mountains. I think that this, at least in part, is what he was referring to. Rarely is there a true silence as we might define the concept. The silence here is one of appropriateness, made in this narrow spot, with no intrusion from the outside. This is not always the case - the engines of a passing jet or prop, gunfire from further up canyon, voices from passing runners, or the rumble of a motor vehicle engine often interfere. But not today.

This is a spot for contemplation. Years ago, as I was finishing up my undergraduate education, and faced with the prospect of all the life changes that entails, I would ride to a rocky point overlooking the Pacific to sit and think. Even with the crash of waves, the squeal of seagulls, the howl of wind, it was a tranquil, contemplative spot. This place in San Dimas Canyon is like that. I like this spot.