The vow of silence wasn’t hard for Chip. He lived among the pines, spruce and aspen of the Apache Sitgreaves Blue Range Primitive Area. The sound of wind rushing through the aspen leaves and the song of the swallows created an instrumental background that breeds a peace utter silence cannot. Chip’s life consisted of going about his day gathering food from the surrounding veggitation, storing it for winter, meditations, prayers and liturgical services without speaking a word. His vow was helped by the symphony of the high-altitude nature around him.
But one fine summer day the tranquil tune playing in the wind came to a screeching halt. “Goddamnit!!!” The high pitched hard-consonant sounds of a fisherman who happened upon the hidden lake near Chip’s dwelling ended the beauty of nature’s silence like a record player knocked off it’s track by a fit-throwing toddler. Chip scurried to the entrance of his home and peered behind a bush. He startled, jumping behind the shrub several times only to peek out finding the red-faced fisherman tangled in fishing line, cussing and yelling at his fishing pole.
This cacophony continued for hours with only short breaks which were filled with jubilant, but loud wails of, “Fish on!” There was no silence. The fisherman was either cussing and yelling or jumping and cheering. Chip watched, jolted by every noise the fisherman made and wondered how in the world the man ever caught a thing with all the racket he was making.
Disturbed by the interruption of peace the fisherman had brought into his life, Chip decided to make himself known. As of yet, the fisherman was oblivious to Chip there behind him, hidden by a bush. Chip stepped out from the bush onto the path feet from the fisherman. Still behind the angler, Chip continued to be jarred by man’s expletive barks.
“Excuse me,” Chip’s small voice was crushed by the man’s shouts like steel-toed boots on a beetle.
Chip stepped forward. If the fisherman turned he would surely step right on Chip.
“Uh-hem, excuse me Mr. Fisherman…” Chip managed to get his voice into the sliver of silence between the exacerbated man’s shouts. The lanky man with a baseball hat that said, “REDNECK” across the front turned with squinted eyes and a question on his face.
“I’m here, sir. Would you kindly keep your voice down. I’m a monk living in these parts trying to live out a vow of silence now broken by your….”
“Who’s there!?” the fisherman interrupted with a bark.
Chip raised his arms in the air, “Me. Uh, I was saying, I’m trying to live in silence here and you’re making an awful lot of noise. Do you think you could take your fishing pole elsewhere?”
Chip knew the man heard him. He was standing right in front of him. But the man peered around as though he couldn’t see or hear Chip. He took his baseball cap off his sweaty mop of dirty blonde hair, scratched his head and muttered, “I’ll be damned. I must be loosing it.”
“HELLO, IS ANYONE THERE?!” He shouted into the valley still oblivious to Chip.
Chip decided the man might be inebriated and it was probably better that he not push his luck with the guy. Maybe if he just stood there, maybe the man would notice him and they could talk.
So Chip resumed his silence, confident that God had put him in this angry man’s path for a reason. As the sun set behind the mountains, the fisherman’s rant also dimmed. At dusk, he picked up his pole and tackle box and turned to head towards his truck. And just then, when he was about to step on Chip, standing in silence on the path, the man stopped short, stooped down and said, “Well I’ll be dog-gone. What are you doing here little guy?” The fisherman’s tirade had turned to a tiny voice of wonder aimed at Chip. Chip said nothing, just looked at him, with his big brown eyes shifting his nose at the scent of the fisherman’s beer breath.
“Whatcha doin’ little guy? Have you been here all this time? Well aren’t you somethin….”
Chip’s silence and innocent demeanor drew the fisherman close and he reached to pat Chip on the shoulder. But Chip scurried away before the man landed his hand on Chip’s small frame. “Well by now little guy,” the fisherman salutated in a gentle voice.
Chip pondered his encounter with the fisherman the rest of the day. For a time he could not calculate, Chip had gone about his daily duties in a silence that was accompanied by nature’s song. Sometimes Chip wondered why he was silent. Why he was there in that little valley in the woods. How could his silent, remote existence make any difference? The more he thought about it he realized his silence had drawn an angry, drunk fisherman to his knees. Maybe that’s what the vow was for.