Tag Archive for: Mountain camping

Advent Day 18

Silent Retreat

By Beth Griffith
Selah Companion

I recently spent two nights alone on a solo backpacking trip.  I camped above 6,000 feet and was more than 10 miles from the trailhead. I was the only person out there for more than 24 hours.  I have often prided myself in my ability to sit in silence and solitude.  And I even thought I did well with stillness.  These first 24 hours humbled me with new awareness as I began to notice that stillness was hard in the face of such intense quiet and solitude.  This was a quiet and solitude unlike any I’d experienced before.  It was a loud silence, almost deafening.  I longed to sit still and relax into it, and yet I found myself wandering restlessly, both physically and mentally.  My entire being wanted to embrace each moment while simultaneously wanting to be anywhere but there as I wrestled with the discomfort that took me away from Presence.  

I wrote this in the dark hours of that first night:

Loud silence

Leaves me wondering

Is there something out there?

…or nothing?


…and vast (the landscape is enormous,
expansive, high, wide, deep)

Waiting to be startled

…or surprised?

Is this how it is with God?

Living Silence

This silence feels alive


I can’t see anything

I can’t hear anything

A million stars, Light

Light years away

And also right here





God, is this you?

Are you coming?

Are you already here?

Now, as I sit down and consider this Advent season, I am drawn back to this experience and what I wrote that night.  I find myself back in touch with the restlessness.  What does it mean to “wait” for the birth of Jesus?  What pulls me—us—out of waiting in stillness and into restless wandering and busyness?  What is it that I—you—don’t want to see reflected if we still ourselves long enough for the water to settle and clear and show us a reflection of ourselves? What if I don’t like what I am shown? What if I am invited to change or grow? Or what if it is a beauty that feels vulnerable and exposed?  What if we see Jesus reflected? What if we are embraced and quieted by Love? Even this is sometimes terrifying.

Amid life’s busyness—and all of its good and hard things—I want to rediscover this silence and find a stillness that becomes my way of being in the world, with others, reflecting Love.  A Love that finds its way through any obstacle and is born despite any darkness that tries to keep it away.

Photo by Beth Griffith

Featured photo by Andrew Larsen Photography