a tree falls in the forest, does it make a sound?
We didn’t know where we were—but
we weren’t lost.
My husband and I love New
England in the fall. We’re “leaf peepers” (yep, that’s an actual term).
Our agenda? To have none. No
schedule, no reservations, and no goal other than seeing what each day
has in store.
Our pattern is this: We get up
early, eat breakfast, and head out on country roads, taking the odd
turn here and there on a whim, depending on our trusty GPS to get us
back to civilization.
Our aim? To be surprised and
discover a perfect vista of golds, rusts, and reds that makes us gasp
in awe and delight. When we hit the season right, our “Oooh!” quotient
runs high, and the view around every bend seems to one-up the last.
The day of the incident (and I
call it an “incident” merely to entice you to keep reading), we were
driving in eastern New Hampshire and found a highway that bordered that
state, just inside Maine (Highway 113, if you’re interested). It was a
narrow two-laner, with huge trees edging the road, nearly encroaching
on it, and hanging overhead like a canopy. We drove through an amazing
tunnel of leaves.
There was no traffic. None. It
was as if we were alone in the world.
But we hadn’t seen anything yet.
My husband kept saying, “I can’t
believe this road! I can’t believe these trees . . .” Then suddenly, he
stomped on the brakes and did a three-point-turn-around, right there on
“Where are you going?” I asked.
He drove back a hundred feet and
pulled onto a narrow shoulder. He turned off the car. “Come on.”
He led me to a small sign at the
side of the road that marked a hiking trail. Small sign. Easily missed.
But he hadn’t missed it.
We walked single file into the
woods, the path more like a deer trail than one meant for humans. It
was thickly carpeted with leaves, evidence that no one had passed this
way for ages. Perhaps ever.
I picked up a red leaf as big as
my hand, and then an orange one, followed by a bigger yellow one,
feeling like a kid in a candy store. “Look at this one!” Soon I had a
leaf bouquet, their colors as vivid as if I’d dipped them in vats of
didn’t take long for us to be deep enough into the woods to lose track
of the road, to be fully encased in this netherland beyond our own.
When I allowed my gaze to move
from the floor of the forest upward, I saw that we were experiencing
showers—not of rain but of leaves. For all around us leaves fell from
the trees, dancing their way from branch to ground, landing on our
heads and letting us catch them with the simple effort of an
agreeing to it, both of
us stopped walking and stood perfectly still, a dozen feet between us.
We faced each other, our heads shaking back and forth in utter
I heard Mark take a breath and
hold it. I did the same.
And then it happened.
My eyes caught sight of one
specific leaf. I watched as it let go of its branch and sashayed to the
ground, turning, bowing, floating . . .
And then I saw it touch the
ground between us.
I heard it touch the ground.
I heard it.
I looked at Mark. The awe in his
face revealed that he had seen it too; heard it land.
All logic said it was impossible
to hear the moment when a floating leaf meets the ground. The sound is
too infinitesimal, the decibel unmeasurable to the human ear.
And yet . . . we’d both heard it
on a trail never traveled, off a solitary road in Maine.
We were reluctant to leave that
place, and when we got into the car and turned on the engine, the sound
seemed a sacrilege. Yet as the road led us to a town, and people, and
the world and its worries, we looked upon all of that busyness with new
eyes that understood what really mattered. Neither of us has ever
forgotten what happened in the woods. It was the highlight of the
entire trip, a moment when God led us to a special place to show us a
small piece of His creation.
Just for us.
If a tree falls in the forest,
does it make a sound?