Outdoor Advent Day 3

A culvert, covered in ivy and moss, pours a steady stream of water over the stones in the bank and down into the stream, where the ripples flow outwards. The bank is covered in shrubs and river and there are many deciduous trees along the stream bank.

The cultural theorist Sianne Ngai suggests that, when shocked or grieving, we find ourselves able to speak of the experience only in ‘thick speech’. When speaking thickly, Ngai says, we are challenged in our usual ability to ‘interpret or respond’. A drastic slow down and recursion of language occurs, a rhetorical enactment of fatigue and confusion. Tenses work against one another. There is a ‘back-flowing’, a loss of causal drive, a gathering of hesitancies and stutters. We speak an eddying speech, cloyed to the point of congealing.

page 364, Underland by Robert Macfarlane

This may not read like an especially uplifting quote but it helped me immensely when I read it earlier this year. It helped me to see that my struggle to find words in the midst of this intensely frightening time where many of us were grieving for lost loved ones, or for the life we should have been living (grief comes in many forms) was not a fault of mine but a reaction to the situation. And a reaction that many other people would be experiencing as well. Continually recalling this quote, along with reading similar comments from people on twitter and confirmation that this was indeed A Thing from my ever excellent therapist, eventually helped clear the words that had congealed, unsaid, inside me and allowed them to flow, once again, from my head, through my pen, and onto the page.


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