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Unspoken: from here to now

Another day at the office: gratitude for the unspoken.

Here I am again, pointing out the existence of what is left unsaid. What is swept aside, or tucked under, or (especially) turned away from. Some times our very thoughts are untouchable.

The unspoken has come up before as an element of my work with people and ceremony, and as an idea in my writing. Sometimes the unspoken is formless, some times it carries so much substance that it presses hard on our senses. I have come to the unexpected understanding that not every thing has to be named in order to be released. Some times the unspoken can be just that, let silently into the open, and even so the motion of leaving it be is enough to fold in a measure of healing.

I have also learned that it is not just our trauma, sorrows, and tender zones that go unnamed – we have secret joys, quiet accomplishments, hopes, and perhaps our most fervent wishes, which also belong in the realm of the unspoken. Whether from superstition of speaking what is good lest it be swept away, or because the reservoir of goodness needs no words to let itself over the spillway into our lives, we keep our lips sealed.

Today I found that the unspoken can be a bridge that carries us over a deep chasm from here to now. At the bottom there is a river of truth. With tributaries to other truths. And because, finally, all the waters lead to the sea of being human, each syllable we do not speak becomes a handrail, a plank, a beam that holds the bridge up. The unspoken helps us find the way to cross the truth, from here to now, when the truth (be it beautiful or terrible, or both) is unbearable, or too deep, or unexamined, or even too true.

From here to now doesn't seem like such a far way to travel. But it can be tricky, especially if you are carrying luggage. Yesterday I watched a woman negotiate her burdens as she settled in a church pew. She placed them just so, and then she leaned away from them. She knew how they were packed, you could tell she was intimate with what they would say if burdens were allowed to speak for themselves. But for now she would sit and listen as well as she possibly could to my voice carrying from an unfamiliar pulpit, lifting the beautiful and terrible words of her children from the chasm and setting everything they left unsaid silently free.

The unspoken was her bridge from here to now. She would not name or let me name the story that shaped her children's sorrow. She would only set it beside herself there on the pew, and lean away knowing she would have to lift it again, and carry it until she can no longer carry. But this was not that day, so I agreed to help her hold the bridge, to not name, to not tell, to allow the unspoken to carry us across and let the truth find it's own way out to sea.

Today the unspoken holds the blessing of enough. We sit together a while, sing, fold a thread of healing into the day. After a time we are able again to rise, to lift, to carry; to trust the railings, planks, and beams; to cross the river of our truth on the bridge from here to now without a word humming across our lips, only breath.

A person in yellow coat crosses suspended wooden footbridge through wet piney forest

photo by Ian Froome

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