Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Learning to Speak

1. Yes, I am convinced by now that God speaks—all day, all night—in a stream of beauty and oddities, in kindness, in the words of friends and strangers, and also in pain, in shake-up, in freak occurrence—anything that cracks the veneer we seem so fond of. There was a time I could not pray words, at all. Had nothing but some kind of silent reaching, and looking, and listening, hoped that what I had could be enough. If I could see one beautiful thing, or enter into a phrase of music that reached for heaven, or hear words from a friend or a book that touched the rawest, hurt places, I could take that personally. Maybe God was not silent. Maybe I could listen more carefully. Maybe I could learn better the language I was hearing the most. It is a delicate, difficult language—

2. We visited Oldest at music camp and after four weeks finally got to hear him talk and talk. It was the most comforting wonderful sound. I took pictures of him, even though he did not want me to—couldn't help it. Mostly I took them from the side or behind, but in one picture he is looking straight at me, part pained, part perplexed. Why, Mom? When we hugged him goodbye (two more weeks) and left I was not crushed—only because he told us things. At the parent meeting on the first day of camp, we were given advice: You are not doing anything interesting. There is nothing going on at home, you are not having an amazing vacation without your child. You do not need to encourage homesickness, and your sons and daughters need to focus fully on what they are doing here. I am trying to follow this advice, remembering that “We miss you” gets boring, anyway. I send texts and pictures: oddities, funny happenings, shared memories. Translation: I love you. I am here, always. Recently it dawned on me what language I am speaking.

3. It is a tricky one, this language. Delicate, difficult—language of giraffe’s eye, seed fluff, spark—language of lifted veils and torn curtains. Language of accumulation: snowflake-upon-snowflake, word-upon-word, phrase-upon-phrase. Tear-upon-tear and kindness-upon-kindness. The stars speak it fluently, also the very old, and the very young. And trees, their arms forever lifted. I am only learning, the syllables clumsy on my tongue but also round, smooth. Phrases catch in my head, circle softly, carve deep. I hear them in dreams, they fall at my feet. Listen, and listen. Finally venture a word here and there, cringing at my own accent: beads of honey, hints of salt. 

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