"It's as if a great bird lives inside the stone of our days and since no sculptor can free it, it has to wait for the elements to wear us down, till it is free to fly." Mark Nepo

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Voice

Standing on the bank of the river that has provided me sanctuary so often, I listen to the shushing of cold water, a steady calming pulse of sound. Here I can breathe easily and see clearly. The air this time of year is clean and cleansing as it enters my lungs. Purifying as it leaves and returns to the forest that surrounds me. Some days my eagle watches from the snag across the river, chuckling at me occasionally, more often silent but oh so present, and oh so powerful.

Toby chews on sticks, or splashes in the shallows, radiating joy. In this place I am able to focus on the abundance in my life, the blessings for which I am grateful. Minute by minute. Hour by hour. Day by day. The shouting of the world that exists outside of this one small beach echoes in my brain, but is no match for the river's constant voice. The fear that threatens to overwhelm and win has no voice here in the land of moving water and life-giving trees and creatures with wings to remind me that there is more.

The river's murmuring allows me to hear my own voice. The one that lives deep and that I've often disguised to be more acceptable to people I needed to be loved by. From childhood, my voice has been the one to challenge and question. I was the "why?" kid. Then for a long time I became agreeable, my outer voice echoing the voices of others, even when inside I was still asking why. Perhaps inevitably, what came next was a very loud voice, declaring truth righteously and angrily. Demanding to be heard and understood. Huge noise that sounded like explosion, but was in fact a heart breaking. When none of that worked, I wrapped my voice in soft cotton and put her away in a safe place. And while out of danger, I felt distressingly invisible for a very long time.

Over time I learned that honoring my own voice was less about being heard, and more about simply being human and present. I choose to remain quiet as much as possible (although there are some who would dispute that I'm ever quiet).  I listen as fully as I'm able. And then, when I believe my words will bring light or new truth to a situation, I'll find a way to offer them. My voice as an offering, not a weapon of aggression or shame, or a handmaiden of fear.

A tiny brown winter wren chips and flits just inches from where I stand. His voice ranges from the chip-chipping he seems to use as he seeks food in the underbrush, to the full-throated glorious celebratory song far too big to be coming from a few ounces of feathers. He doesn't regulate his voice to please, or out of fear. He sings and calls in his wren voice because there is no other way to be a wren.

For better or worse, there are many many ways to be human. There are times when I want to shout over the shouting of others, frantic to be heard before it's too late. It seems like the loudest voice wins, even though I know this is not a game or a competition. Whether in family or in the larger world, I am one small voice. And, as has been the case for most of my life, my voice does not often reflect a majority view. I am choosing not to shout, or demand. I am choosing to attempt to hear what the shouting voices are saying, although the louder and harsher they get, the harder it is to hear. Which in turn reminds me why stillness and gentleness are really the only escorts I want for my own voice.

Stillness, not silence. Light, not fear. Love, not shame.

Walking away from the river, headed toward home, I stop for one last look upstream. The river's voice fades into the background. Toby and I make our way along the trail into the woods and another voice whispers overhead. The wind has joined our walk. Much like the river, wind's voice is constant and soothing, speaking truth that has no words. Like river, wind's voice can get loud, but neither are so loud that their voices diminish the importance of my own. Their voices simultaneously humble mine and honor it.

Each voice is important. Each voice deserves to be heard, if for no other reason than to reveal the speakers to themselves. At the same time, each of us is one very small voice in an incomprehensibly huge gathering of life. We matter. But we don't matter most. Not one single one of us. Understanding is always one river bend away, one wind voice in the trees speaking a language just beyond our ability to interpret. Seeking to understand is when voice seems to offer the most comfort, and the most wisdom. Asking why, voicing possible answers, being open to the entire chorus of humanity. Searching for harmony.




5 comments:

Sandi said...

Big sigh! "Stillness, not silence. Light, not fear. Love, not shame." I love how you used "voice" as the center of this piece. So many layers, nuances, perspectives, demands - wrapping it all in the voices in our natural world. Lots to think about here, and to appreciate - an offering of light and hope in the midst of the clamor in this uncertain world.

Perhaps, each small voice that is seeking harmony will find it. As the search continues, I find hope in the voices of nature, and of reason.

Love you, Deb. Feeling calmed by your small, yet powerful, voice this morning.

DJan said...

Beautifully written and heartfelt soliloquy. Than you for enriching my day. :-)

Linda Myers said...

Yes. Everyone is entitled to speak with their own voice and be heard.

yaya said...

In this world so many voices seem to be just loud and coarse. I've taken a new leap this year into trying to be more thoughtful in my comments, especially at my job. I'm getting closer to retirement and I find I just don't want the drama anymore...looking forward to finding my own new voice!

Barb said...

"My voice as an offering, not a weapon of aggression or shame, or a handmaiden of fear." I've always felt your voice as an offering, Deb. I am also seeking calm and understanding, trying not to judge harshly. There seems to be so much rage and self-righteousness lately that I find myself becoming quieter as others become more strident. However, I really believe that quiet voices can also make a positve impact. Nature remains as always a soothing balm. Take care Deb.