Lately, I keep being struck by the inadequacy of language . . . the realization that everything I could possibly say has been said before (much better), and that – here’s the real kicker – the most important things can’t be said at all.
This double-whammy of a painful truth hit me again on my morning walk . . . the first I’d taken in a few days. My weekend was filled with daytime work deadlines and nighttime social events – the kind of occasions where I once functioned fluidly, back when I was better at charm and pretense, armed with youthful sex appeal and my mother’s talent for banter. I still know how to hobnob – for a southern girl, it’s like riding a bike; a skill you don’t lose – but these days, I often find my heart’s not quite in it.
Not so with my morning walk. Today, I got my daughter off to school, finished up some proof-reading, then shot out the door like a drowning woman breaking through the water’s surface. And I gulped, and just kept gulping, the sweet autumn air, and it felt like release and even deep relief.
Actually, strike that. There’s nothing I can say to tell you how it felt. Much like my lame drowning analogy, everything is just hopelessly cliché. I could say my walk felt like waking from a dream . . . like coming home . . . like falling in love . . . like crashing into God. And that would all be true. But . . . ugh. Just ugh.
Still, a writer presses on. It’s what we do . . .
The Lowcountry fall is like some second spring, with trees and bushes birthing bright new blossoms even as others abandon their golden-peachy leaves to the earth. And while some have “flown south for the winter,” the trees and skies are still lavish with birds, and it’s their party I’m drawn to . . . with them that I long to mix and mingle. I can’t remake their beauty with words. They write their own lines. The lone egret on a branch, a haiku. The dive-bombing bluejays, a bawdy limerick. The somber, circling buzzards, an elegy. I saw geese flying in formation toward the marsh and thought they were a sonnet. (Sonnets take formation very seriously, bless their hearts.) I read them all, these God-written poems, and I was overcome. And that word “overcome” is impossibly inadequate.
Of course, there are plenty of things that can be said – and boy, do we waste a lot of time saying them. Sometimes, the chatter is downright deafening. (I’m just talking about the chatter in my head. Don’t even get me started on the Internet and the 24-hour news cycle . . . ) But I find I have less interest in saying them than I once did. As a writer, I’m not quite sure what to do with that.
This morning on Facebook, my choir director – who is also my friend – posted a piece of choral music by the composer Stephen Paulus, who passed away over the weekend. He wrote, simply, “Harmony just lost another great one.” I sat listening to this sublime music – it’s called ‘Pilgrim’s Hymn’ – and I felt the tears come, and the closing of the throat, but I couldn’t make out the lyrics.
You know what? It didn’t matter at all.