Day twelve of silence, and I am fully back inside silence. LiTFUSE was an exquisite and tender experience. There, I learned that the soul is not the self and that it does not live inside our own bodies. The soul takes up residence within the bodies, minds and essences of the other living beings with whom we share space. It also resides in the soil, air, stone and water. Wherever we are, everywhere we look, stands our soul — in the entities and presences which surround us, not inside us at all.
My soul where you stand, friend. My soul where you stand, stranger. Mountain, my soul. Little brown mutt, my soul. Gravel road, my soul. My soul, imperfect fruit. My soul, fire. My soul, smoke. My soul, choking air.
On my way back from the event, I got lost and wound up in Oregon. As I made my way along Route 730, I thought about how hard-won the basalt formations appear to be, how they earned their place in this landscape — their hot exodus from the earth’s cavity like no human birth.
Since I moved here, it feels as if I’ve been trying to pry the basalt open along a hairline fissure using nothing but a third-class lever. Why pry it open? To insert a pearl, the pearl I imagine myself to be. To make something of myself here, and to make “here” reflect me in some way. Even if I had managed to separate the basalt, which I never did, it would have crushed the pearl as soon as I stopped applying pressure to the lever. I knew that but still pursued the disastrous outcome. While others chased after money or love or fame, I was busy pursuing my own ruin in my own way.
Yesterday, the landscape presented itself differently. I saw cracks everywhere, fissures the width of my thumb. I saw basalt moving toward the river in the form of boulders, rocks and pebbles — all broken off from their source.
My soul, a pebble. My soul, a river. My aching soul this aching rock, longing to be something other than whole, its slow-moving but desperate journey to part itself out to water, to air, to our lungs.
When a car approached from the other direction, I thought briefly about driving into it head-on, the way others have before me, not because I didn’t want to be part of this world anymore but because I finally understood that I am part of it: the responsibility too much, almost, to bear. With this understanding, my lever has turned into a stake: I have a stake in everything, for everything is my soul. I mean to drive that stake into the ground wherever I live and breathe, not for my own sake but for the sake of the place.
Basalt is my soul and I am basalt’s soul. You are my soul and I am your soul. With every step, my feet encounter my soul. I walk on soul. I breathe soul.
And everywhere, even as I write this, soul is breaking apart, into chunks and shards, or burning, into ash and char. Everywhere, soul makes its way back to water and air: their flows, their currents, their implicit promise to wipe us clean and make us whole.