Words can be the most powerful tool that we have at our disposal. We saw this with great clarity during the last election cycle. With our instantaneously connected social networks, we saw words used as both a way to lift up our spirits, hopes, and dreams, and in the next instant, as a pointed jousting lance, with the purpose of neatly disposing of an opponent. I must admit, I’ve done both; but the feeling of content lasts much longer when I’ve used my words in a positive way.
My 83 year old mother recently brought over a copy of a letter that her father had written to one of her older sisters who was away at boarding school. These words from 73 years ago were precious to my mother, so much so that she sent a copy to each of her four daughters. She loved the way that her father captured the essence of each of his children in a few succinct words or phrases. It brought back memories of things she had forgotten, or things that were skirting on the edges of her mind; the precious memories of a time before her life was indelibly changed by a forced evacuation during WWII. But those are words for another story.
I am in awe of my two daughters who have taken their words into song. They can turn a phrase that will make you think deeply, or in another direction that will absolutely YANK at your heartstrings. Their words will make you nod in agreement, or sigh with the feelings of love you didn’t know you were harboring. Alena (Syverson) once wrote a song about the Bosnian conflict called Beautiful Blind Followers. It was the song that Laresa (Syverson) later sang, noting that it was the song that sparked her interest to write her own songs. Beautiful blind followers with crowded thoughts and frightened minds – took their chances on twisted lives; wasted their time. Occupied dead souls keep their silence of thousands, of millions disappearing into the void…
I love that you can put down words, let them sit awhile, and think of better ways of putting them together to better convey what you are thinking or feeling. My esteemed friend Jerah Chadwick is a wonderful poet, who after living in the Aleutians for 26 years, was well known for the way he integrated local culture and environment into his writing. In After the Aleut, Jerah turns a phrase that comes back to me time and time again. Say a woman once stepped from volcano steam, or a man from the sea, desiring to live among us. I appreciate his ability to take pieces of oral storytelling and integrate those pieces into a contemporary conglomeration of great depth and feeling that speaks to me in ways that it doesn’t speak to other readers. A true gift.
Words, so personal but so public. Words, that for good or bad, shape lives. As I get older I find that I choose my words much more carefully than I used to do. But once I have chosen those words, I use them with abandon – without fear of outside opinions. I find as I get older that I prefer listening to words that have been chosen well; those that can bring harmony to conflict. Those words that give purpose to a life well lived. Much like when Laresa sings in Light – as the years go rolling by we’ll stand beside this rising tide, we’ll plant our seeds so they won’t die and sail into the afterlife. Where maybe things won’t seem so bad, we won’t regret the lives we’ve had, and maybe that’s where I’ll see you the way I’ve always wanted to.