This essay was published in the literary journal Exhale (2021)
The doe staggers toward the barking dog — and toward the fence that separates her forest from the dog’s yard. Under that blanket of fierce sound, the doe splays her legs at odd angles and delivers a fawn. The dog, hysterical now, barks louder than before. The doe lies down, rests a bit, and rises again to deliver a second fawn.
The doe seems to know that there — against the fence, amid the noise, in distant view of my friend’s kitchen — she can safely allow her babies to be born. She seems to know that the stillness of her forest home, her natural community, exposes her to risk – and that she is safer on the borderlands of suburbia, where a barking dog attracts human eyes but scares away her predators.
I think of what I’ve pushed into the world when all around me was noise. Typically, I’m the rabbit who will tremble, freeze and silence her voice until the threat exhausts itself. Eventually I’ll move again, but my words have turned back up the birth canal to await a better time (or maybe never) to emerge.
Sometimes, though, noise creates a cocoon or even a spark for me to find and release what’s inside. When I’m alone, there’s the nurturing quilt of cafe sounds, playlists or birdsongs. In company, I love the wild flinging about of ideas when a group ignites itself with the joy of being together and explores insights and connections impossible to reach alone.
I love best what happens with one other person, maybe over pancakes or a sub, where we roll each other’s ideas into a bigger and bigger snowball, interrupting each other loudly in service of the larger point. We enrich each other’s ideas with noisy enthusiasm until we are able to stack them, ornament them, and then step back, exhausted, to see what we’ve built. That wall of sound — baffling and even unwelcoming to anyone else — fosters our creativity and the birth of something new.
I sometimes struggle to find my voice. I’ll deny my ideas and refuse to give them outlet when the noise strangles rather than invites. I allow my throat to tighten and choke on lost words. An unexpected hostile bark will teach me not to go that way again.
May I be like the doe and walk toward the noise of others’ ideas. May I share the doe’s confidence as to what is developing within me and share her commitment to let it out. And may I know that my voice matters and that I can change the noise by adding my sounds to it.
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