After the silence...
"Somewhere we know that without silence words lose their meaning, that without listening speaking no longer heals, that without distance closeness cannot cure."
As a writer, I tend to think that words can always save the day. Words, to me, can be woven into the rope by which I pull myself out of confusion or tether myself again to hope. Words are companions that take me by the hand and show me, letter by letter, the way ahead when I am lost or disoriented in my journey. Words are friends and mentors, bright companions whose hands I take in writing, guides that help me to discover the road I need to journey toward my dreams or goals or the truth I yearn to find.
Strange then, to find myself wordless in the past few months. Not strictly wordless, I suppose, considering I'm at work on my 9th essay out of twelve, the last six of which are due in less than a month. But wordless in my inmost self. In those interior rooms of soul and thought, words have, in many ways, quietly taken their leave. When I reach out for them, I find only silence. If you look at my journal, you will find great blank pages after the scrawled, swift entries of the winter. My writing stopped just as spring began. Just as life got intense and changeful and new.
Now, I'm almost to the end of my summer break. One luminous year at Oxford, down. Two more to come (I found I didn't want to stop). Good work of all sorts on my plate. A book on the life and meaning of home just co-authored with my mom (out in January). Countless essays to begin and finish (if you are inclined to pray for me...oh, please do). A year of vibrant meetings to plan (since, well, I did happen to be appointed President of the Oxford C.S. Lewis Society). Ministry to seek. Church to attend. People to love. All of taking place within the formation of a new life overseas which is a startling thing in and of itself. And let us be honest, I've barely kept my head above water with all the essay and writing work this summer.
Somewhere in the swift midst of all that, I found that my words were too frail to bear the wild clamor of emotion and excitement and work and anxiety and determination and delight and confusion that rose within me. I found that what I needed instead was a deep silence, a quiet sturdy enough to hold and shelter me as the world and my own self shifted around and within me. Sometimes silence is a great a luminous thing, sometimes it is a journey all its own, sometimes it is a power that hones and trains words so that they are swift and muscled and ready to climb mountains.
This time, silence was more like a small, cozy room in which I rode out a great thunderstorm. Life, my friends, can be a wild thing. But the air out the windows of my soul is a little quieter, the sky is dappled as futures and desires and goals settle like new fallen rain into the earth of my inmost being, and words have come knocking, curious to discover the self I've grown to be and all that I've discovered in the meantime. Here I am.
I think a new phase is beginning. Both here, and in my larger life. Something I'll be pounding out in the next weeks is what, amidst a full academic and local (and long-distance family) life, my writing ought to look like. I find that despite the immense amount of academic writing I have to do, the call and desire toward a writing that is creative, contemplative, devotional, and imaginative only grows. But I have an extremely limited amount of time.
If I only have one morning a week in which to pursue this kind of writing... what should I choose? My children's story? That novel catching at my imagination for years now? A collection of devotional, creative, Scripture-based essays ? The books I've planned to write forever, one on beauty as a form of truth, the other on suffering as the broken gift that makes a wholeness we never imagined before the breaking...?
And how will it all form the space here on this blog, this little corner cottage of a world on the Internet. Will I share snippets from those larger projects (as I increasingly focus on them), or brief updates on books and study and adventures, or should I let images speak more here...? All is in process right now as I look at what it means to consider writing long term as my delight, and increasingly, my vocation (amidst other things).
For now, I took all the above rambling to say, hello again. I hope your summer has been lovely. I haven't meant to forsake this space, but there just weren't words to fill it. I think good old Fr. Nouwen is right about silence and words - I find that in the hush, the words that simply could not bear what I needed to express are now almost strong enough to take my meaning forth again. More soon as those words foray back out into the world.
Over and out for now.