Distilled rays of amber gold sliced through the leaves, dancing down to the forest floor in silence. It looked like a place fairies would play. The hum of the katydids and a pair of cardinals spooning in the trees were the only sounds. I hadn’t spoken a single word in days.
I stopped to let my eyes drink from the peaceful scene that lay just a few feet beyond the primitive fence. My brain was cataloguing snapshots of things that words cannot describe. Even now I can close my eyes and live there for a moment at a time. I thought of crossing the fence but decided otherwise. This gift of serenity was only that because it stood un-invaded. I needn’t enter the picture to capture it. I stood at the fence for hours.
I watched with my imagination as Adam sat in the clearing. Marveling over the human, a butterfly gently flicked magic wings against his skin; playfully teasing at this new phenomenon. His laughter vibrated the air. It rode the momentary current as though laughing with him. I marveled at Adam’s laughter, Adam before Eve, Adam creating nouns.
Looking through the eyes of butterflies, I found no words for Adam; only images of innocence so complete that the description must be locked away within the mouths of angels. Finally, the shards of light faded to the shadows and Adam was no more. In the dimming remnant of day, I returned to the path.
The bells intruded violently upon my thoughts; time for diner. It felt awkward at first, taking meals in the hall with silent strangers. I hid at empty tables, but eventually I surrendered as the strangers took their places beside me with apologetic smiles.
Polite conversation is not as comforting as gazing into someone’s eyes. Meals had become a warm reunion now with fellow sojourners. We began to find the light of our pilgrimage written in each others faces. Our hollow expressions were deeply lit now. You could see the journey of miles into God in the reflection of friends who never knew your name. We had entered holy places, we had wept alone in our beds. We hadn’t spoken a single word in days.
I counted the steps to the upper floor. I named them in my head. There were twenty one steps, this was the stairway to repentance. Each step held a thought for me. A new way; a way I had searched for, all of my life. The priests were strolling across the grounds in evening meditation. I stopped to watch them from the thirteenth step.
The vision through the glass seemed surreal at that moment. Watching holy men in holy thought, transforming Adam from what he had become to what he once had been. They disappeared in the twilight, one by one and I ascended to the upper room.
The room was sparse; a recliner, a desk with a bible and a bed. A crucifix hung on the wall, the distinct ornamentation. There were no distractions in this prayer closet with a shower. Even the towels were white.
I knelt. I wanted to be Eve before the apple; to be birthed from Adam’s side, experiencing that single splinter of time on the planet when one awoke as two and found their identity in each other’s eyes…I wanted to hear the first words between people, when words held no ambiguity.
I was trapped by the forbidden fruit. All I might have known of transparency was torn and shredded in Eve’s perfect mouth. I was the scale over her eyes, a thousand generations removed from innocence.
I slept without comfort. It was a final act of contrition. A sentence in it’s self…the act of refusing to accept the lure of the soft bed. I died on the floor as I had lived; between Eve’s jaws, embracing the thread-bare carpet.
The melody of the bells awakened me. Without lifting my brain from the floor, I lifted my desire to create a new path as I re-entered the world beyond the monastic gates, a world where dissonance abounds. What would I carry away from the silence?
Could I control my words, selecting carefully, the path of each syllable? In the absence of words, I discovered the gift I wanted to make of them. It was easier to remain silent, than to bridle the devil on my tongue, but I would make an effort. What if the cacophony ended and only the sweetest words of life remained?
And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell.
James 3: 6 NKJ
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