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  • Writer's pictureViolet Elder

Vines of Voice

In recent years, writing has been a reliable tool for my self-expression, reflection, and realization. I fill journals of the written word that analyze my life, emotions, and personal philosophies. It is a space in which I turn to work through the difficulties of my mind and states of being. I sit in nature, usually by Boulder Creek, my little grey cat by my side, and I let the current of the water flow through my hand as if mother nature herself is guiding the words on the page. In this context, I release control of the story. The message on the page does not feel as though it is derived from myself, rather it is the essence of the spirits around me showing me the larger whole of my reality.

There is a very distinct beauty in the words that come out on my pages. Perhaps I release control more effortlessly than most, I fully immesh myself in receiving the words of nature. It is quite an interesting phenomenon because while I believe that the words on my pages are not of my own - rather guided by spirit, they have a distinct beauty that I have not read in writing that did not originate from my hand.

In 5th grade, I wrote my first short novel. The assignment was to turn in a short fictional piece, yet as it always has, my mind ran wild with the idea of the piece's future. The story is told of a young girl trying to fall asleep, she lies awake, mind racing at the experiences she had earlier that day. She had just bought a new plant at the farmers market and set it out on her bedside table, arranged in perfect fashion with the branches intricately placed around her bedside accessories. As she attempted to sleep, the walls seemed as though they were caving in, a simple greyness loomed over her bedroom and she lie there watching the greyness dance around her, its particles inching closer and closer to her body. This girl was used to this feeling of grey caving in before she is able to fall asleep. Awaiting the process of sleep, she stared into the space that seemed to evoke her.

When she awoke, the greyness was gone, yet the vines of her new ivy replaced it. Her plant had strung itself across the bedroom, wrapped around the bedroom furniture, and encapsulated her body. She lie awake trapped in the growth. Staring in disbelief that her innocent plant had overtaken her entire bedroom and woven its leaves in the places where she thought only she had agency.

While I don't remember the rest of this story, I believe it can be told by my later experiences in childhood, for it tells the tale of a young girl trapped yet intrigued. This character was being engulfed yet she hung her hand over the bed and watched the vines from the bedstand wrap around her fingers, her palm, and up her arm. A blind impulse to sit in the discontent. As a young woman, I followed this blind impulse to sit in discontent and the immersion of uncomfortable experiences trapped my body. I learned to become very accepting of entertaining the suffocation of fictional narratives.

Around the time that I wrote the piece about the young girl, my grandmother had passed away and my family and I went to Colorado to clear her belongings from the house in which she died. Rummaging through the items she cared deeply about there was an understandable uneasiness within the stale air. During our lunch break, I began choking on the food we were eating. It was a quiet chocking. My throat closed and wrapped around the food at the base of my esophagus, the point at which the food usually enters the body. I was stuck, being suffocated and unable to speak, trapped within my own body, I assume this is how my fictional character felt, trapped within the vines, staring into the space which was outside of her. No agency, just eyes to perceive and the overwhelming feeling of helplessness and confusion. After a few hours and a trip to the hospital, my throat finally opened back up, but the constricting feeling of having a lump in my throat remained for years.

And then her throat started to close, more regularly. For many years, at seemingly random my throat would close and I would become paralyzed within my own body. Doctors and surgeons had many guesses as to why but never any salient solutions, it became something I lived with and many times out of the week I would quietly excuse myself from the dinner table to sit alone in discomfort.

In my philosophy of yoga class senior year of college we followed a meditation in which we imagined a past illness or ailment. We asked our body where this ailment stemmed from, and why it occurred.

Sitting in the lecture hall I was taken back to the times when my throat would close and I lost my voice. The times I was trapped in myself from the neck up and no part of my body was responsive to my voluntary control. I know now that the esophagus has skeletal muscle, so technically I should have control over my esophagus, yet the involuntary aspects of self said nothing else can enter this body for it is forbidden. As I imagined this phenomenon and asked my body what this ailment meant, a meditative vision came over me in which tiny black Beatles started pouring out of my throat, hundreds of them exiting the same space which closed many times before. As the beetles poured out I felt the resolution that in these times of closure, my body was shutting down to the taking in. As if this throat closure represented that I could not hold any more within myself without letting some things out, without using my voice. I could not allow anything else to internalize, no more words, feelings, and emotions could be let in. In the vision, once all the tiny black beetles had exited, a large white scarab beetle exited next. In ancient Egypt the scarab beetle represents rebirth and transformation, it is a symbol of the life cycle. White is a symbol of divine truth and purity. Perhaps the tiny black beetles represented all the false truths I entertained yet the only one that truly mattered was the one from which came within. After this meditation on a normal Tuesday afternoon in class, I realized that this enigma of my life was explained better in self-meditation than any doctor or allergy specialist had ever given me. It was me not making the means necessary to express my creative and truthful voice. Perhaps it is just a coincidence that around the time of these closure instances, I no longer wrote. In fact, it was a time when I spoke a lot less in general, a time in my family life when I believed it was better not to express myself.

I write to hear myself, observe my own experiences, to understand the lessons within my life. I am also discovering that it is in my path to share my voice. That the words I find and the stories I create are not just for my own self-realizations, but they are stories that inspire others to realize their own stories. Losing my voice, my expression, and my creative fire was something that my body physically rejected. It is wild to realize that I have been hiding and stuffing down one of the most precious parts of myself for years. As I share this story, I step out of the trapped narrative, I am no longer a helpless little girl watching her world pass by in silence. I am a woman actively engaged in her own story and someone who is ready to inspire others to listen and feel the truths of their own story.

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