Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Unafraid to be Known

I am learning to speak the secret language. I can't tell you what it is, because then it wouldn't be a secret. But I can give you some hints about it's vocabulary, a bit of the way it feels under the tongue, whirling around the mouth. For example, this:

When you speak the secret language, she doesn't run away when you meet head-on, she walks toward you. You put your camera down when she does this, when you speak the secret language. It's not that she's afraid of it, it's just that both of you know in that moment as she steps toward you over a patch of snow that there may be some truth in the old fear of indigenous people that photographs steal the soul. When you speak the secret language, you don't need to steal what is freely given. When you speak the secret language your heart slows. You see with the eyes of the other. You are unafraid to be known.

The secret language isn't exactly silent, but it's close. It's the only language I know of that has a smell. Wet earth, decaying leaves, lost feathers, salt spray from the far off ocean. It is a language of gifts. A language of the chosen. I have waited years for the gift of these antlers. I found them on the greenway behind my current home on one of the coldest days of the winter. Something told me to go outside and take a walk even though I wanted to stay inside and be warm. I listened to the voice. Climbed over the stonewall and slip-slided my way downhill along a very old footpath, maybe even ancient. This part of the island was rumored to be where the slaves all lived back when there were slaves on Block Island in the 17th century. Africans and Indians forced to work for the white settlers. I hear them all over the island.

As I walked back up their path, returning home, I glanced to the right and there it was in the underbrush. Not just another branch, but the antlers I'd been waiting for a buck to drop just for me to find when I was ready. I won't presume to speculate on the significance of their size, but they are without a doubt the largest antlers I have ever seen on a deer. Or antler, I should say. The buck that dropped this one could still be walking around with the other. I scan the brush from the corners of my eyes on my morning commute now, but I know it won't be my eyes that find the other antler. If it's meant to be, my ears will guide me. The voice, if it comes, will be as self-contained as the sound of the sea inside a moonsnail. I trust this voice. And I think it might trust me, too. What an honor. I will keep your secrets. You need have no fear of me as our hearts become known.