Wide Spot: Close the Language-Door

I thank my lucky stars (as my mom used to say) that I have a dog. Among other things, having a dog means that I am committed, no matter how somnolent, to an 11 p.m. walk every night around the front yard.

Last week’s yard visits included views of the full moon—more accurately, the Pink Super Moon. In the shadows by the apple trees, breathing air scented by cottonwoods and violets, I studied the clouds as they swung across the moon’s full face, obscuring it and then breaking open as if they couldn’t contain the light. Words stopped.

I didn’t mind words stopping.

I find words troublesome these days. I feel a verbal awkwardness in conversation. It seems like everyone is parsing each other’s language for correctness, for criticism, for hidden clues as to where the other falls on the spectrum of belief. It seems harder to talk to neighbours and family about things that are important, because we’re all so tightly wedded to our particular version of reality. We write impassioned letters, make ardent FB posts, and then are shocked by how grossly others misunderstand our statements. Words have become stumbling blocks rather than steps to mutual comprehension.

The world of cognitive linguistics reminds us that language is our best attempt to accurately portray bodily experience. But experience occurs first NOT in the language centres of the brain, but in the vast world of physiological give and take; in breath and beating heart, in scent and touch and temperature, in quiet observance. Language is the second-hand report, an attempt to shove boundless experience into the straightjacket of words. It’s a job that has to be done; but it’s not always a pretty job.

I’ve been ruminating on Rumi lately—or more accurately, on Coleman Barks’ translation of the poem “Close the language door and open the love window.” It starts, There is some kiss we want with our whole lives, the touch of Spirit on the body. Rumi speaks of an ache so familiar and so uncomfortable: standing in the front yard, shivering in the moonlight, that ache comes out of hiding.

Rumi continues:

Seawater begs the pearl to break its shell

and the lily,

how passionately it needs some wild Darling!

At night, I open the window

and ask the moon to come and press its face against mine.

Breathe into me.

Close the language-door

and open the love-window.

The moon won’t use the door

only the window.

Next month there is another Super Moon. Maybe you could come over at 11 p.m. to watch it with me? Maybe we’ll stand side-by-side in the shadow of the budding apple trees. Maybe we’ll smell the plum blossoms or new mown grass; maybe we’ll feel warmth radiating from the road, coolness rising from the earth. Maybe I’ll reach over and take your hand. Maybe you will squeeze my hand in return. Maybe we’ll be silent, the language door closed.

I’ll bet that love-window would open.


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