For the Depths

                                                   . . . We can sit still,
keep silent, let the phoebe, the sycamore,
the river, the stone call themselves
by whatever they call themselves, their own
sounds, their own silence, and thus
may know for a moment the nearness
of the world, its vastness . . .

                                     –Wendell Berry, from his poem “Words”


To me, that seems like a worthy occupation for a few moments each day, to notice the silence of natural things.

My home’s setting in the Texas hill country provides opportunity, if I take time to notice.  The stillness of the small lake pictured above speaks through its quiet.

Last month’s full moon whispers through fish-scale clouds:

fish scale clouds and moon

Layers of leaves tell of the passage of time:

layers of leaves

One of my favorite literary passages opens the poem “Silence” by Edgar Lee Masters:

I have known the silence of the stars and of the sea,
And the silence of the city when it pauses,
And the silence of a man and a maid,
And the silence for which music alone finds the word,
And the silence of the woods before the winds of spring begin,
And the silence of the sick
When their eyes roam about the room.
And I ask: For the depths
Of what use is language?

There is irony, of course, in Masters’ use of language to ask that question at the end of the stanza–and more irony in my own attempt to describe an affinity for silence by using words.

Communication is difficult; language is an imperfect tool.

And sometimes, only silence will do.

*                                 *                           *                             *

Writing Practice:

What things have you noticed in silence today?

When have you found language to be inadequate?

8 thoughts on “For the Depths

  1. IS it possible to respond here, Chirs?

    The older I am, the less efficient language becomes as a means of communication.


  2. Chris, it’s been over 50 years since I last read this poem by Edgar Lee Masters. He was a favorite of mine & you’ve reminded me to revisit him.

    Later I will tell you how I was thinking of you today & how it relates to this post of yours.


    • Thanks, Jeanie! I’ll look forward to visiting with you. I remember this poem from a high school literature book, but I can’t remember if it was when I was in high school or when I was beginning my teaching career. Either way, it was a lot of years ago, and I have never forgotten how much it touched me when I first read it. That fact seems to contradict the idea that language is not of much use “for the depths.”

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