Noise. So much of it above, below, and around me. I’ve lived in California for close to 16 years now, and the cacophony never ends.

My corner of suburbia doesn’t have the sirens or car alarms of a bustling metropolis. Still, there is a steady buzz of chaos in the background. Servers, smartphones, blinking devices, and their ilk. Email whooshes and text dings, Zoom meetings, and scam-likely calls. The eclectic sounds of a million other human beings.

The noise never stops, and it is tiring.

I visited my sister in Oregon last week. She lives in a small, nondescript town off Highway 5 — one of those places you’d stop for gas in the middle of a long road trip. The local industry is agriculture and livestock, and no one famous was ever born there. The town sits on one side of the Umpqua River, and even the ambient highway turbulence is deadened by the vastness of the river valley.

I can’t say there’s no noise, though. If you listen, you can hear all sorts of things. Turkeys calling and hummingbirds fluttering, the distant baying of cows on their pastures. The odd sputtering noise from an old tractor and the muted roar of the Umpqua River as it tumbles down the mountains.

The noise never stops, and it is perfect.

I spent seven days soaking up every bit of nature I could find. I dipped my toes in brooks, hiked up dirt paths in the forest, and breathed in the mossy coldness of hidden waterfalls. My feet hurt, and my body is weary, but I’ve never been happier. On the 8 hour drive back, I put on my playlist and sang along loudly, often startling my daughter trying to nap in the backseat.

As I near my 39th birthday, I feel myself wanting less and less. I’m not too keen on big brands or fussy trends, and the 400-mile trip into Oregon cemented my priorities. I thought long and hard about what gets my heart beating. And after a lot of hours on the road, I narrowed it down to work, family, and love. The big three on most people’s lists. But I realize I must manage my time more effectively. And if that involves a lot of slowing down and abstaining from meaningless nonsense, then so be it.

And suddenly, the chaos of Silicon Valley doesn’t bother me. For the first time in forever, my heart is whole, and my mind is clear. If I pause to listen, I hear nothing but content silence from inside.

And it is glorious.

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