On getting to a place beyond words . . .
Wound—I like this word. I enjoy that it can be pronounced in two ways, can be used as three different parts of speech, and that depending, it can refer to an injury or to being coiled up like a slinky or a yo-yo string or that angry grad school professor I learned to stay away from. And I love that wound can be described by nerdy and satisfying other words like homograph and heteronym, which render words like wild animals, with classifications comparable to genus and species.
Most of all, I like that words can effectively distract me from something like how an actual wound feels—searing, aching, like a snake wrapped tight around my gut—none of which are homographs, as far as I can tell, but all of which are real. So words can be a welcome diversion. Usually.
Walking down Taylor Street last Friday afternoon in my Southeast Portland neighborhood, I saw a huge tree that had been cut down and literally stood face to face with an exposed cross-section of trunk, revealing the age circles and cracks within and a curved line of sap around part of the edge. I put my palm on the smooth, sand-colored wood and touched the sap, no longer wet and fresh but hardened a bit. I have long fingers—good for the piano lessons I took for eight years or for scraping copious amounts of brownie batter out of a bowl—and the tree comfortably held the full extension of my hand, with room to spare. And standing there for several moments of breath, I felt like we knew each other, this tree and me.
This last year has left me sliced open, revealing my age circles and cycles, the tender parts of me not protected by bark or moss, the places where I’ve bled.
I also know about being uprooted, thrown on my side, not sure what I have left to stand on or where or how or even if I can put myself upright back on the ground again.
And I’ve been writing about all of this and talking and thinking about it. And although it pains me a bit to say this, I’ve found that the words I so love can only get me so far. That sometimes a quieting of spoken and written language can be good, potent medicine.
In the last few weeks, I’ve become extravagantly annoyed with myself in talking about the details of my woundedness, because right now, putting it into words isn’t helping life move forward. Right now, putting my pain into words feels like revving the engine of a truck with wheels that just keep getting deeper in the mud. Stuck, dirt-splattered, frustrated. And my body is complaining, talking to me through exhaustion, through aching joints, through uneasy digestion, through feeling cold and sluggish.
So if not words, what is helping the most at the moment to answer my body in some kind of satisfying way? Well, body things—things that keep my mind from wandering and remind me of my physicality—eating, sleeping, taking herbs and vitamins, doing yoga, taking walks, sharing embraces. And the therapy I’ve started (I did it!), which is grounded in somatic work.
This week, I’ve noticed that my body has been in a little bit of revolt against getting up at an unusually early time, sitting in a hard chair for most of the day, and drinking way too much coffee.
All of this was in part from participating in four consecutive seven to eight hour training days to do a little temporary work as a U.S. Census Enumerator. That means I now go around and knock on the doors of people who didn’t mail in their census forms or didn’t mail them in on time, and I’ve already learned first hand that this also means I might run into some individuals who are not happy campers.
What helps, though, is to remember that all of the campers, happy or not, are people with their own wounds or wound up for their own reasons, and regardless, they are people, like me.
So for the next month or so, I will wander around my own small corner of the world, take notes, and gather information that, because of confidentiality laws, won’t actually be fully revealed for seventy-two years, several generations worth of time.
And I guess that’s not a lot different than what I’m doing as a writer and a human being. I’m wandering around and observing, taking notes and making reports about my immediate surroundings, and not knowing what it all means or how it fits into the workings of the rest of the world. Seventy-two years from now, maybe someone will look at what I’ve written and done and see how it fits in with what others are writing and doing right now, how it might a piece of some great puzzle. Or maybe not.
And as it turns out, I don’t really feel like thinking about it. I’m more excited about taking a long hot shower and having some ginger ale to deal with whatever weird stomach virus has decided to visit today.
Oh sometimes, I just love to dive into my brain, to chew on the big questions and bask in the vastness of wondering and figuring and philosophizing. But these days, my needs and wants have a different focus. These days, I can’t get enough hugs or kisses; I treasure shared meals and walks; I soak up simple companionship like thirsty soil.
These days, I find healing in encountering other felled trees like myself, when I raise my palm and show all of the age lines there, all of my tender finger tips and sappiness, and then the other tree-person raises his or her own palm and touches it to mine. And somewhere in our wound and wounded selves, we find connection.
One of my favorite songs is David Byrne’s This Must Be the Place (Naïve Melody),(also covered beautifully btw by Shawn Colvin). The whole thing shimmers like a treasure chest, with gems and precious metals of lines dripping over the sides. And the one that stands out to me right now: “I am just an animal, looking for a home, to share the same space for a minute or two.”
A little shared space. A little unwinding and healing. That’s all.
Thank you so much for reading. You might notice that I don’t have a space for comments, but I’m certainly open to conversation about what’s written here. If you’re so inspired, feel free to start a conversation with me via the contact form on the homepage of this site.