Sunday, July 1, 2007

spell of the silent

Lately I am wondering about words, I am suspicious of them, the spaces they create and expand within the space that is filled with breath and light and the gentle shuddering of tall grass as you wait for the next breeze, or the clattering of cottonwood leaves that mimic the gurgling of a stream, as if that were some defense mechanism for a riparian tree, to sound like water, no tree here! it seems to say, only water…

In this photo my great-grandfather looks toward the site of Custer's 1868 massacre of the Cheyenne. He could have stood, though, facing any direction and faced any number of massacres. He could have stood at the threshold of his own home and witnessed the emotional slaughter of generations. But he stands, listening to the grass. There is some sound-plate in his head, some sound-sensitive paper inscribing the whisper of the grass upon his skull. You would have to hold so still to hear it, to really hear it. He was good at that, good at listening to grass and waiting for light. I am not sure he was good at listening otherwise, but maybe he was, maybe I read too much into his incapacities in measuring the shortcomings of his progeny, myself included.

Whence comes the deliberation and aplomb of out-of-doors people the world over, savage as well as civilized? The American Indian is recorded as grave, slow, measured in speech and manner. The frontier Texan figures in fiction and in factual descriptions with a “drawl” and as a man of few words. Of course, now, with a generation of urbanization, as much chatter falls from the composite mouth of Texas as from that of any other state., excluding those of disproportionate metropolitan populations. Outdoor living not only softens speech but slows its tempo, reflecting quieter nerves and mental reactions surer if somewhat slower on the trigger.

It is because Nature herself is deliberate. Ninety-nine percent of her performance is gradual. To take a single instance out of those hundreds ready at hand: what a large percentage of urbanized populations miss beginning the day under the spell of the silent, pervasive, leisurely preparations of the heavens to receive the sun!
--Roy Bedichek, Adventures with a Texas Naturalist (1947)