words that come from silence

words that come from silence
by Lindsay L. O’Connor

I want words that come from silence,
like when the world began.
Words born in noise have their place,
to be sure,
but there is so much noise
from reacting without much thought,
without checking in first
with the body, heart, and mind,
to see how the message might be refined
in the furnace of our holy personhood.

May my words come from silence,
after having a chance to breathe
and air themselves out
among sycamore trees, blue jays,
and blue skies.
We spend so much of life
skimming the surface.
Silence presents the possibility
of plumbing the depths
to see what’s underneath.

Go where you have been
a thousand times before,
but this time, try to notice
what you’ve never seen.
Our brains skip over repetition
like the backgrounds of old cartoons,
implying that what most deserves our attention
is the roadrunner racing up ahead.
But what about the glittering mysteries
that have always been there,
shimmering quietly, unseen?

I have walked my old
suburban neighborhood
for a decade and a half,
but I only just began to see it
a few years ago.
I did not know there were dozens
of varieties of trees
within a half a square mile,
nor was I familiar with
the velvety underside
of a waxy magnolia leaf.

Never until last week
did I see the magic that is a
yellow bellied woodpecker.
How on earth could I have missed him,
with his striking black and white bars
and brilliant red-capped head?
If only I had been paying attention sooner,
I might know whether
he was a local resident
or a visitor from out of town.
It’s so embarrassing
to introduce yourself to a stranger
and welcome them to your neighborhood,
only to find that they have lived there
longer than you.

Let this noticing in silence travel to your body
and learn to watch yourself.
So often, I look down and watch
one of my hands kneading the other.
I used to tell my body she wasn’t really anxious
until she could present
a strong, rational case.
Now, I just watch her and respond,
like a mother to her infant,
learning every subtle cue
that no one else would notice.
Panic attacks used to catch me off guard,
but perhaps it was because
I dismissed my anxiety
at levels one through eight
and then was startled at levels nine and ten.

Now, when I think I am fine
but look down and see
one hand kneading the other,
I notice, welcome the anxiety gently,
and take a moment
to be with and settle myself.
Then, like a small miracle,
my body relaxes and I become
a settled presence
to other anxious bodies in the room.

Being present to the ducks and doves
and bumblebees,
oak, cedar, pear, and pecan trees,
is teaching me
to be present to my body,
is allowing me to
be present to others.

I want words that come from silence
because they are communal,
for those who have
learned to be with silence
have learned to truly
Be With
God, self, and others.

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