Texas Highways Magazine

Escaping the Noise

I have just set up camp on a rock ledge when all hell breaks loose. A violent windstorm suddenly sweeps out of the Panhandle, shaking my tent like an earthquake, and me with it. I step out to check the ropes anchoring the tent and blowing sand fills my eyes. I stumble, groping in the dark. Dang it. Forgot my flashlight!

I am alone in the primitive expanse of Caprock Canyons State Park, a tranquil place of glowing red escarpments and cloud-scraping cliffs before the storm. Now the wind rattles the juniper and scrub oak, and coyotes howl. I duck back into the tent, wondering how much longer it—or I—can last. Alone, I think of the tasks I’d put aside: the book I’m writing that I’ve been dodging for a decade; troubled relationships with two children I’ve been meaning to patch up; my own spiritual life, never taken quite seriously.

I’m trembling, queasy, and acutely aware of how ill-prepared, ill-equipped, and ill-suited I am for this quixotic quest to escape my noisy Dallas suburb in pursuit of silence and solitude in one of Texas’ most remote and inhospitable terrains.

My pursuit began six months ago when I walked into the eerily quiet emporium of a Flower Mound audiologist. I was trying to figure out why my wife had begun complaining that I wasn’t “really listening” to her anymore. She demonstrated her displeasure through a piercing silence that left me unnerved. After 30 years of marriage, I thought I had learned to listen to her soft, feathery voice like a symphony conductor trains his ears to hear the whisper of his flutes. I figured a layer of wax might have formed inside my ear canals, muffling my hearing.

After a 30-minute hearing test, my audiogram showed the softest sounds I can hear at different frequencies, demonstrating that wax wasn’t the problem.

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