“In the language I was raised in, “here” means “this place where we are,” and it also means “here” as in “I give this to you.” Could I learn from the Indus river dolphin a language of continuous presence and offering? A language that brings a species back from the bring, a life-giving language? Could I learn that? Could we learn that? We who click a different way, on linked computers day and night?” -Alexis Pauline Gumbs, Undrowned: Black Feminist Lessons from Marine Mammals
Here. I’d like to give this to you.
I’d like to give you the here where I am, the dark window with the whisper of branches and a far away car, the carpet as I sit cross-legged typing on the coffee table. Can my sentence about the coffee table be a “here” where we’re close to each other, even from far away? Can I respect your “here” as a presence and an offering? Can I find a language that acknowledges the offering in the presence, the presence in the offering?
Sometimes I think about new languages. In proper science fiction terms, those are usually knew alphabets, new mediums — morse code with its dots and dashes, or aliens whose language lives in splashes of color across their cheeks. And those are wonderful. Reading and rereading my slow way through Gumbs’ book, I feel the closeness of another, slower kind of language learning. The way she uses questions has a different taste than almost everything else I’ve read. It’s more generous, more open.
I don’t quite know what I mean. But months ago, sitting on a porch with my friend, I did my first woodblock print. It was fun, feeling the chisel move through the woodgrain. I did something blocky, new — you could see I was learning the tools. Then I looked at my friend’s print. In their hands, thin cuts behind larger cuts created depth to a landscape of rolling hills. My image was a shape cut into wood. Their image, their cuts into wood, opened a world between the marks. What new languages are already alive inside these old letters? Can we learn that we are already learning? Can we swim with the wash of ocean questions?