I think often about the amazingly easy way our body gives up itself, the skin from a knee to the concrete sidewalk, blood to a kitchen knife, hair to the brush in the bathroom, fingerprints to the glass window we watch rain through. How we are always making our marks on the things of the world, intentional or not.
And I think often of the ways the less palpable parts of us make our marks on other people, the way our words make kinds of imprints other than those left by the oil of our fingertips, something soul deep and dangerous. And so it is no wonder that I am cautious with mine, those words, because I want to leave only intentional marks, to mean what I say, or to say nothing at all.
The sun is still overhead on the slightly steamy patio where I sit while my son sleeps. The Amazon music station I am listening to is playing John Mayer, who is, appropriately enough, telling me to “say what [I] need to say.” The problem is that sometimes I feel stuck, like no matter what I will never change. The problem is that sometimes the words themselves feel stuck, like I have swallowed crows or marbles or that my tongue no longer knows how to shape things. The problem is that that I sometimes want the universe to speak for me so that I won’t have to say anything at all. The problem, John Mayer, is that I am a coward.
If I were a guppy like those from one of my earlier posts I would not be eaten by predatory fish. If I were an adolescent sea otter I would not have run ins with sharks in the places devoid of sea kelp. I would not be an outgoing orangutan. I might instead be a cephalopod, a cuttlefish hiding in corners. Maybe even a sea urchin moving away from touch. The only dangerous thing I’d be around would be myself.
Is the truth that you can become better, but you can never become else? That there are essential cores to our nature that remain despite our best efforts? Is this always to be part of mine, the struggle to communicate? Is this why I am so drawn to the page, over and over again, all these many years?
I don’t want to be someone for whom something is always left unsaid. I know all too well that life is short, fleeting. This week, another death of another young man whose life impacted my own, though I doubt he ever knew. This week, another young wife, navigating a different future than the one she had planned. How much time have I wasted on silence? How much time will I continue to waste?
Yet how much easier too are these wordless things. The way the toads make their night music and my heart echoes a little of their song, the same soft thump in the chest. The way the clouds move through the sky and the way my hair moves in the barely there breeze, the same slow lingering motion. The way the earth says nothing and yet I can hear it so clearly at the same time, so that my body wants to give parts of its speech back. The way it speaks when I can’t. For now, all I can do is breathe, give my breath to the trees who take it in as their own breath and then return it in an ever unending cycle. For now all I can do is listen.