The language of tears


The Language of Tears. It would make a good title for a book, even if I don’t want to put that kind of pressure on myself just yet. As I laid next to my cat in the loft this afternoon, I made an apathetic list of chapter titles, too (titled by tear characteristics). I thought about how, supposably, the Eskimos have hundreds of words for ‘snow.’ An elaborate vocabulary created to express something so integral to their day to day life. I’m finding that such linguistic extravagance would be useful these days. Tears of deep grief are made up of an entire assemblage of body movement (or lack of), emotion (or lack of) and moisture (or lack of). Within the never-ending combination of these elements is a difficult and extensive dictionary yet to be written. This conversation that I’m having with myself seems to trail around with me. I climb down the ladder from the loft and realize that the conversation continues outside while standing on the porch, too. This whole experience–like a secondary self–accompanies me endlessly, simultaneously a light and a shadow.

“How are you doing?” This question, surprisingly, does not bother me. More times than not, the person asking truly cares and is really wanting to know. I take a moment to survey my inner landscape, then layer it with what I’ve experienced in the minutes/hours/days/weeks leading up to that moment. Then I filter it through whatever hopes or impossibilities that I imagine might lay ahead. It’s a complicated process of distillation to answer such a simple question. And more often than not, I’m just as interested to know the answer as the person asking it. You see, I’ve been mapping my journey. I don’t know why. So that I won’t get too lost, most likely.

Trying to memorize Carl is like trying to memorize yesterday’s sky. But I try because, over time, I am afraid he will slip away from me. My attempts at language and map-making are equally impossible. I stand at the edge of this ocean of tears and pray that I will not be left in this desert forever. How can I be existing in both places at once? And then, in another moment, I realize that I am right here, next to the pine tree brushing the horse or doing the dishes. I eat cold beans from a can. I try to remember Carl’s smile, even the shape of his teeth. A million combinations of elements create this strange existence. I take three naps. I’m still sick. I feel immense gratitude in the obvious and the least expected. The ancient Chinese had many words for the temperaments of the wind. These names for things are magical. They allow us to know a lot about the many moods our tears or the sky might take. So many combinations of elements, constantly changing. The Sami have a thousand words for ‘reindeer.’ There are nearly 800 languages spoken in India, with more than a thousand dialects beyond that.

Grief is the most complicated language I have ever known. A love language made of tears and sky, earth and snow and memory.

I love you, Carl, in every language and all landscapes. Yes, even this one.

{originally published Dec 13, 2014}

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