Beautiful Wordlessness

photo by Jenna Starr

I’ll try to keep this post short. Because that’s what I’ve been appreciating lately: few words. At almost 11 months old now, our Little Bean is right on the cusp of being able to say…something. And what I’m finding is that I’m savoring every moment of this Beautiful Wordless period.

Because she can communicate just fine. She points at anything and everything these days, to see what I’ll say she’s seeing, or to indicate that she “wants that,” or is going to go crawl after something. She grunts and grimaces very clearly when she is “all done” with what she’s eating, and she can (and sometimes does) also sign “all done.” As for the other end of the digestive cycle (forgive me, child), it’s very, very clear from her red grunting face when she’s pooping. When I put music on or pull out the vacuum, she claps her hands with excitement and gladness. She waves hello and goodbye when people come and go. And this week, when she’s ready to sleep, she just crawls right into her co-sleeper and lays her head down.

I’m also appreciating the beautiful wordlessness because it’s so unique. Every other relationship and interaction in my life involves words. Establishing a new working relationship, sorting out a misunderstanding, keeping up with e-mail, or even just reviewing a complex day takes so many words, so many sentences, so much effort. There is something truly sublime about how a baby at a certain age and developmental stage can do all those things, pretty much—connect with people, transition from one event to the next, express frustration or love, unwind from a day—all without words.

For several years before I got pregnant, I was not particularly enthused about babies. I used to shrug about them, really, thinking to myself specifically about all that crying about who-knows-what. The lack of words, which I associated with an inability to communicate, actually kind of concerned and worried me. What would I ever do with a crying baby? Well. I’ve had plenty of opportunity now to learn, to try things, and to sometimes just be present with her crying self. We’ve endured together. I’ve learned that usually the crying is about one of a handful of things, or she just needs to “get her cry out,” as we say around here. Which, honestly, don’t we all sometimes? But as mature adults it can take us hours of talking things through to accomplish the same result.

There is so much we all already communicate without words; I know this, but I like to remind myself of it. Just the hint of a smile or a glance away from the person in front of us can convey so much—I know, I read all about it once. For now, I love to watch our Little Bean playing, reaching for things, moving around our apartment, figuring out how to get from one place to another, discovering the world, all without words, touching everything, looking at me to see if I’ll shake my head no and say that blur of phrase I know she recognizes: “noooo, not-in-your-mouth,” before she moves on to the next thing and the next and the next. Discovering. Beautiful wordlessness.

Being with her on thunderstorming afternoons like the one we had today reminds me to appreciate every person in my life with whom I’ve shared wordless time. A hike along a long trail with 20 feet of sweet silence between us, a bowl of ice cream with only the sound of our clinking spoons after a long day, sitting on the front porch listening to birdsong, pulling weeds and picking sugar snap peas in the garden at twilight—whenever or wherever it’s been, thank you for that sweet silent time. I’m going to be looking to create more of that this summer.

May you also have some beautifully wordless time in your days.

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