The most important things are the hardest things to say. They are things you get ashamed of, because words make them smaller. When they were in your head they were limitless; but when they come out they seem to be no bigger than normal things. But that’s not all. The most important things lie too close to wherever your secret heart is buried; they are clues that could guide your enemies to a prize they would love to steal. It’s hard and painful for you to talk about these things … and then people just look at you strangely. They haven’t understood what you’ve said at all, or why you almost cried while you were saying it.”
― Stephen King, The Body
Coming back from another silent retreat, a summoning of stillness at the winter solstice, I find I still don’t have a lot of words to sum it all up. I catch myself procrastinating, instead of writing what I want here. So many important things to say, but I’ve become less and less able to speak.
The quieter you become, the more you can hear.—Ram Dass
The most poignant and important things I found or “heard” on the retreat were two bare trees. The first, I love with all my heart and want to spend a lot of time with. It is a kindred spirit, an old soul that offers the best kind of inspiration. An ancient apple tree, wizened and wise, its branches not bereft of fruit and leaves but perfectly themselves, eloquent with lichen.
The second was another apple, maybe, at another time of year, but in a little garden with a shrine, with strips of paper hung from its branches. A wish tree (I have looked it up since finding it). A tree with thoughts and prayers and all those hardest things to say written on paper, tied with thread in the big tree, close to the bone, faded with tears, hung bravely out in the open, small and frail and doomed and limitless. I hear the messages hung there. Hear “I’m so sorry, daddy”; hear “I love you” to somebody gone; hear stumbling syllables wishing for cures, relieving cares, touching the core of what it is to be alive and imperfect and heartbreakingly human. With and without words.
One of my favorite quotes of all time is from Katherine Mansfield, who writes about walking and looking at a tree and coming back home plus the tree.
That is what I’ve done, again—come home plus those two trees; however unable I am in my own words to say it.
image: Wishing Tree