By Deb Avery
Words. They are woven into the very fabric of our lives. We depend on them for comprehension and understanding. Where would we be without them?
Yet there are times when words get in the way of living and being in the moment. Communication is essential to us all, but sometimes what we are feeling just cannot be put into words, but must simply be felt intensely. This is true whether the feelings are pleasant or not. It is true whether we want to feel them, or not.
Usually our way of avoiding the unpleasant ones involves escapism or complaining. And the pleasant ones—well, we want to hang onto those at all costs. Even though we know deep inside that they are as transient as the clouds in the sky.
As I get older and my health declines, I find myself spending more time alone in nature. It is there that I feel most comfortable. It is also there that I find comfort when the words refuse to adequately describe what I am feeling.
There is no need for the clutter or noise of words to converse with nature—she speaks in a language that needs to be felt to be heard.
The wind in the trees is three dimensional. You feel the wind, you see the trees swaying and you hear the sound of the leaves rustling or the branches rubbing together. The experience is something we cannot match with our puny human speech. Nature moves the heart, the mind and the spirit in a way that words sometimes can fail to do.
Being a writer I have always used words to describe how I relate to the world around me. But for the past year I have had problems with finding the right words. Literally. I can’t think of the word I want to use. My once very active and large vocabulary has become a shrunken hull of its former self.
Maybe it’s because I’ve become more of a hermit—-the archetypal crone in the woods. Maybe it’s living with Meniere’s Disease and the deafening hearing loss that comes with it. Or maybe, and this one really scares me sometimes, it’s early onset dementia.
The first two are a given. The last is a possibility. I’ve talked with my doctor and we’ve both agreed that time will tell. But if it becomes worse I will need further evaluation.
Sometimes I think it might be a self-defense mechanism—a way to filter out all the noise and craziness of the world. Or maybe it’s merely a result of seeking solace in solitude and my love of nature.
I only know that I find myself seeking solitude and communion with nature because a large vocabulary is not required there. What I do need, and find, is an open mind, compassion and a deep sense of belonging. There are many questions I could ask, but, in the end, it really doesn’t matter. What will come will come. What will stay, will stay. And what will go—well, you get the message.
I only know this; nature teaches me not to fear the changes. I see this everyday in so many ways right outside in my own backyard.
The lilies, so vibrant and beautiful in their one day of blooming, do not sit and feel sorry for themselves because life is so short. They do not droop to the ground, but raise their beautiful faces to sun and live fully in the time that is allowed them.
The insects and animals do not worry or stress as they go about their lives. They fully live in the moment and embrace what is given them in each and every second of the preciousness of their lives. The dog’s faces show pure joy and happiness when they are playing, eating or simply snuggling on the couch.
I think pity is only a human emotion. I’ve never seen an animal or insect feel sorry for themselves. Yes, they feel sadness, pain and a large range of emotions—but not self-pity. Not even when they suffer terribly.
There is so much to learn from life, and in particular from nature. And I think that is why I find myself spending more and more time there in my later years.
The limping fox, perhaps from a run in with a trap, the dog who has suffered from an abusive owner, the lizards, toads, birds and bees—to all of these I feel a deep kindred. With all of these I feel at home.
It is only when I’m surrounded with the noisiness of humans that I feel lost, confused and alone. I know that nature holds no contempt with me. Yet, I cannot say this of all humans.
I often find myself lacking in communication skills with my fellow human kind. I struggle to hear and I struggle to find the words I want to say. My physical limitations keep me from doing a lot of things that others take for granted. And not many want to walk with someone who is slower and stops constantly to rejoice in the shape of a leaf, the texture of a rock, or the beauty of a wildflower.
So when words fail me and I’m struggling to follow conversations, I find myself outside with the dogs and nature.
Words are not needed there.
Editor: Dana Gornall