in a silent way

silentRETURNING HOME from the cafe, I decided to cut through a patch of buildings in the Old Town. This is a little back parking lot alleyway, the kind of place that sounds more interesting than it actually is. A few derelict laundry lines, some broken down shanty garages with graffiti on them. Outside an Asian restaurant, the familiar sight of the Nepalese chef with his exotic hat taking a drag off a cigarette and staring at his phone. Then I paused at the window of the hairdresser’s.

Inside a blonde woman sat reclining in a chair before a mirror while the color set into her hair. She was sliding her fingers over the surface of her device, while the brunette hairdresser stood behind her with her eyes on her phone too. They were in such close proximity, yet so remote.

The distance between modern people continues to fascinate me during this wind down of the year, when all is kottpime, as the Estonians say, “bag dark,” as if most of them knew what it was like to be tied up in a sack. I awake in blackness and I have come to savor it. I light a few candles and set them by the windows. There is something so satisfying about the flames, how they flicker. Then I make a cup of green tea and put on some old blues records, all still by candlelight. I could put on the lights, but I don’t want to. I want to be in the dark. I want to communicate.

It’s just at this time when people are still halfway between the sleeping and waking worlds that I feel I can best summon and interact with life’s true energies. These slip between me and others ghost-like, I imagine, as white and as spirited as gusts of fresh snow. For a long time, I thought that all communication was verbal and, nowadays, digital. Everything was a message, a response, a daily flurry of instant gratification. All meaningful communication could be scrolled through with a slide of the thumb, all feelings, thoughts, ideas, yearnings, could be committed to print. But what I have learned with my early morning channeling is that the most important things are never said at all. They are kept hidden inside of us where they gather silent potency.

This is what the Estonians call the mõtte jõud, the strength of your thoughts, or, literally, your “mind power.” Without ever lifting up a device, or searching for a phrase that will express your innermost thoughts, you can let all them circulate. You can express everything. You can even love someone in silence. On cold bag dark mornings, your thoughts will keep you warm inside.

You can imagine how difficult it was for me as a writer to arrive at this moment of recognition. For the writer is a person who believes that everything can be put into words. Words are all we are. This is how a beautiful woman can become a poem or a pretty sunset can become a sentence. Even as a boy, I had already amassed a collection of material depicting scenes of my daily life. These are fun to read through now, not for what they say, but for the other memories they arouse.

So the words I left behind were in the end mostly useless to me. Everything I had communicated had vanished into the air like winter’s breath. It’s what was lingering behind them that mattered. Those secret wishes, those dreamy early morning thoughts.

The traces of my mõtte jõud.

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