If The Words Went Away
Do you ever wonder sometimes, or have you ever wondered what your life would be like if the words went away? Not all words, really, and not anyone else’s words, just yours. What would your life be like if you no longer had the ability to express yourself with words, if they were gone, somehow? And no, not if you simply didn’t have the desire to speak with anyone, or otherwise communicate with them, any particular someone or other somebodies, but across the board, what would your life be like if you lost the ability to simply express yourself with words, as if they vanished from your brain somehow, in concept, in application, in their entirety…gone. I had this thought this morning as I was making my way back from another bike ride along the waterway that I wrote about in Skunk Creek Crossing a few weeks ago. I was looking over the watered and watery plain that exists within the confines of the natural and man-made walls of the river or creek bed and was discussing with myself the many colors of green and brown and velvety silvery gray and yellow and pink and orange and others that were within my view and wondered suddenly how I would feel if I couldn’t describe them as such. I wondered how my life would be so different than it is now if I couldn’t express myself with words…again, not just any words, but mine. I was drawing up one of the last hills that would bring me to the Rio Vista Community Center with its fountain and desert flora, playground, picnic area, etc, when the thought came to me. I almost had to stop riding for a second there as the magnitude of what just occurred to me began to sink in, as it nestled itself and drew its roots down into the fiber of my being and the curiosity became more of a frightening worry as those colors fled past me in my riding, as they moved from my suddenly unfocused forefront and into and beyond the periphery of my view as my words worked themselves frantically to describe themselves and themselves and what they were and meant to me. They struggled against the pumping of my legs as I shifted into a lower gear and pumped faster and harder to make the top of the hill as the sun shone on my back and made the navy blue zippered sweat-jacket hoodie thing that much hotter as I wasn’t moving as fast and making enough of a breeze to cool myself as the words fought themselves still and my throat got choked up as I looked to my left and saw the ugly brown of the washed river bed and looked again and harder and thought that “ugly” wasn’t a good word as the browns and greens spoke to me, as the grays and browns and black and slate and rolled and tumbled porous lava-looking something type river rocks and gravel mixed with some kind of basalt-like something or other as they lay all a-jumble in their bed and touched and rubbed and bumped the little weeds that were so green and bright in their newborn-ness and living and processing of their light energy in their chloroplast-ic photosynthesis factories in their cells and the little fuzz that radiates and collects the warmth and the moisture depending on the time of day and the clouds and the humidity and my fingers are typing wrong and awry as I search for the words that I want and they’re hiding and a-mix in the wash of the fan near me and the cat on the counter meowing as the jet passes overhead and the computer hums; again and still. The top of the hill… and I looked at the scarlet and pink trumpet-shaped flowers on their almost bare-leaved stems and stalks of a bush and wondered how I could tell anyone or myself what they looked like when I had passed them and they existed only in my mind and those little neuronic snaps and fizzles that connect and fire and live in the passing of images into what used to be words or might be “used-to-be” words as I contemplated them and their existence or non-such. I reached the top of the hill and I was sad and I looked again and hoped that my brain wouldn’t be starved of this expression, this vent and outlet and necessary contrivance from our evolutionary past, those things and symbols and articulations that express, and sometimes don’t, the thoughts that ride and ramble and hide away and gone in my cerebral recesses and processes and solitude when they are searched for and longed for by loved ones and others when I keep them inside myself with my reluctance to share and speak and open my mouth and emit those sounds of whatever that make and mean and are words from the inside where they are born and live and hide and rejoice and are mixed and lost and find themselves and me inside themselves and then. I made the top of the hill and didn’t stop but kept pedaling and came to the place where the walking or foot bridge goes to the other side of that river and kept pedaling and came to the playground sidewalk and I thought of words and writing them here and I looked at the rock tower and saw the little brown haired girl standing up there and leaning and looking down at her dad and realized that I knew and know her dad and how could that be, for I don’t know many people and I don’t often see the ones I do know outside the contexts of my knowing them, but yes, it was Elmo, Saint Elmo, my friend from the gym, the one whose mom I met in November or June or some other kind of month, as we shopped in Walgreens, both of us looking for cards for some occasion, as Elmo introduced us and we talked and I was anxious because we weren’t in the gym and I didn’t know what to say, but my friend did and his mom was gracious and laughed at what her son and I said to each other in that nervous exchange for me…as my words hid themselves and I felt the sweat form on my brow and hoped it wouldn’t start to pour like it does sometimes when I don’t know how to bring my words out and use them and share them and have them make sense to those around me…when they usually stay inside and I hurry to do something else or away. And Elmo was gentle with his little daughter and her friend as he played with them and reached up for them and carried them down fast in a “Whoosh! There you go!” as my words jumped and bounced from the yellow sunflower type selves of themselves to “Hey there!” His words came easy again and I marveled at how warm it was and still and it was truly nice to have a friend out there on the path and in the world and be recognized by someone other than my bike seat and “I’ll see you next week; my wife has to work tomorrow,” he said…. “Ok, take care….”
And my words came again and tossed themselves around in my brain and I wondered again and still at what I would do without them. I didn’t think of the commas and periods and semicolons…or even the ellipses and blanks or dashes and whether I should use a single or double quotation mark…but I did wonder about what the color orange looks like and how I would tell someone or you what it was or meant when I said that word, that orange word, orange. I wondered how, if my words were gone, how I could convey what the vibrant orange of an Arizona born, rain-washed, February orange looked like on its tree when that tree had been planted with or near a bougainvillea bush that had mated or entwined itself with that tree and became a collage of scarlet purple blood-red flowers and rich green leaves of both beings and those vibrant oranges and orange that struck out and beckoned to me in my passing, trying to seduce me with its richness, and I had to look back quickly to avoid the parked car along the roadway and circle about again to ride past one more last time as the bright freaking yellow Hummer with the “For Sale” sign taped to the windshield announced in its pregnant yellowness that the oranges were orange and not yellow with the scarlet purple blood-red flowers alongside them and among and with them; it was a rich and fire-blown orange from the great orb in the sky that sheds and imbues the hues and ranges of what is color and then…not the wanna-be orange of a Little Caesar’s pizza box laying in the roadway flattened and smashed and lost of meaning, a has-been with the road film and dirt and grime of tires and sand and oil and asphalt and cheese-grease smeared into the cardboard of a used-to-be sometimey kind of orange. How could I share that without my words?
If they went away, those words and mine, how could I tell you and myself and other somebodies that my mind rushed back to my childhood and young adulthood in Germany, again, as the scent of wild grass and weeds and the wet fecundity of that riverine plain dragged me back to where the outdoors came to live in my deepest heart and mind, to where the staunched soul of my child-self escaped, and where solace was gained and given in the smell of the rich earth and pine sap and crushed leaves and needles and ferns and the scrap and ruin and rant of the forest’s floor in thick mulch and pondering earthworms with squirrel scat and scrape along and beside the trees’ trunks and bushes’ shadowing cover and form. Images and emotions flooded from the smelling parts of my brain and memories born there comforted me strange and new as the words thought in their fleeing of their fleeing as I couldn’t grasp what I wanted to say again as the asphalt moved under the bike tires’ turning and brought me into the same and other regions of the morning ride.
As I and we, the bike and me, and I and my memories rode past and along, we encountered people on their rides and walks in the scented fields and plains and long grasses and wild flowers and the desert bed and we said “Good Morning” to each other as those from my past would mumble or brightly start with their “Guten Morgen, or “Morja,” or “Ja” as we went along, cheerful or not, wanderers that marched or stepped or glided along those hillside roadways in their knitted and woolen pants and tweeded jackets or knit sweaters from the colors of the earth and antiquity and from among the nestled sheep and lambs and the Alsatian dog that sat in his long brown golden red hair with perked ears and watched the tree-line with black brown eyes and lifted quivering nostrils that snuffed and blew in our passing and at the other scents that populated his springtime morning in hill and vale. My desert-ed pathway led past bushes with yellow buttercup type flowers that flashed back to Germany, again and still, and covered the wandering meadows and sundry hillsides with the same and other flowers, those of dandelions and milkweed and bluebells and daisies along black dirt and rutted tractor and wagon roads that paralleled hedges of rock and twisted fences with apple trees in bloom and falling and fallen pink and white petals with bees’ buzz and hum and then. This walkway along the floodway brought the dark-skinned soldier in his desert and storm hued combat boots and overstuffed and loaded green and gray digitized camouflage patterned ruck-sack backpack with his crew-cut and dark wrap-around sunglasses with a march and a cadence that told me he was a new soldier and maybe home on leave and not one tested and fired-upon, not the veteran who might instead be at home curled up in the comfort of his blanket trying to hide from his dreams or racing down the freeway on his crotch-rocket in defiance of normal things that scare us, as the sun glistened in the sweated drops on his forehead and how, I wondered, would I say those things, could I describe those things, if the words were away and gone and had left me in my quaking?
How would I describe those things or the happiness that grew and now hides in a staunched soul that seeks forgiveness and light and wonders at fun and joy if it’s not spontaneous and then, if it enjoys things and others but doesn’t call them so, doesn’t name them so, doesn’t record their lasting imprints and touches as those and then. It sees and smiles inside and changes names and lines of sight in diverting and looking askance and it wasn’t a glare, but a look away and that’s not what you’re thinking; you’re wrong. A shuddering and questioning self bred in scorn and grown aside and apart and not the same as it was then and not, and wonders at the lies and lived agonies of past and forgiveness’ dream as the cycles ebb and flow in their drawing, and if that was a lie is it all a lie, as the driven sands slip through their glasses and the words flee into their surround and marvel and rage as their quiet rings and hums and becomes something they were not, as a muted love screams at the loss of touch and sound and reason as wisdom departs for other seas and oceans of abide and then, if the words fled and died and were lost and gone.