Speaking from Silence: how I found (and continue to find) my roar
by Devi Lockwood
“You have your life
until you use it. You forfeit the only life you know
or go to your grave with the song curdled inside you.”
C.D. Wright, One With Others
Roaring, for me, is an act of surrender.
I believe that we each have a voice within us that knows deeply––knows unquestioningly––what it is that we want to, what we must do.
The trouble is often hearing ourselves.
We live in noisy places. We live speedy lives.
I am twenty-three years old and I don’t want to rush. I want to become an old lady with long curly hair and a veggie garden, yes––but I am in no hurry to get there.
These are the things I know about myself:
I am on a journey around the world by bicycle and by boat to collect 1,001 stories from people I meet about water and/or climate change. I stopped flying to slow down and to reduce my environmental footprint.
I want to tread lightly on this earth.
The more I ride my bicycle and learn how to harness the wind, the more I take the time to get to know people on the road and at sea––the more disenchanted I grow with speed.
I release my fears daily. It takes practice.
I choose to turn towards love // to stay open.
I chose to trust myself and to listen.
I was a quiet kid, an only child for ten and a half years (and then a proud older sister). I went through more shit before age four than most people I know. I love spending time alone.
I grew up in the woods of southwestern Connecticut across the street from a lake girded by train tracks. On summer afternoons I would sneak out of the house, across the road, through heavy brush, and onto the rails. I balanced like a tightrope walker and listened for the soft, increasing hum that announced the train’s arrival at the Redding station just a few minutes away––the water of Lake Umpawag magnified every vibration.
When I could hear the train coming, I grabbed a fistful of stones and stepped off the rail ties and onto a rock that juts into the lake. Fishermen used to cast lines there. In the last two years one of the neighbors got angry and the police put up a ‘No Fishing’ sign, but there were fisherman on that rock for every Saturday of my youth. I never spoke with the fisherpeople but loved their solitude.
As the train rolled past me perched on the rock, it would toot its horn––loud and high. I loved the way that train eclipsed the sound of everything else––for a moment, all I could hear was movement. I threw my rocks into the water, skipping the ones that were flat enough. The most skips I ever counted was seventeen.
In winter, the snow muffled the noise, but that train horn still found me––in the yard, in my room, in the trees.
I am grateful for the quiet town that raised me. My classmates used to joke that the biggest thing that ever happened in Ridgefield was the tremor of a magnitude 5.9 earthquake in 2011 whose epicenter was in Virginia. I remember where I was: reading alone. I only knew it was an earthquake from reading Facebook a few hours later. The earthquake sounded and felt like one of my trains was coming through the kitchen.
I need to balance aloneness and being with others.
I have found my roar sleeping alone in tents as much as anything. The ground gives me energy. My back is one of the most sensitive parts of my body, and when I sleep directly on the earth, I can feel myself connecting with the landscape around me.
People ask me all the time if I am afraid of sleeping alone outside.
No. No I am not.
I was raised by mountaineers.
I avoid campgrounds because when I am sleeping outside, I don’t necessarily want to be with others.
I am not afraid of what I deeply love.
Growing up I had two close friends who I told absolutely everything, often in hushed voices on walks through the woods or over PB&J sandwiches at their dining room tables. When we were lucky enough to have the same lunch period at high school, we would eschew the confines of the cafeteria to eat outside in the grass, barefoot. The lunch tables indoors had a limited number of seats, but outside we could be ourselves, joined by a rotating cast of misfits. We made daisy chains unironically. The flowers would shrivel up by seventh period Global History, but I would wear them anyway. It felt nice to be connected to the outside, even if I was confined to a desk.
I needed to dance outside then and I need to dance still.
I dislike wearing shoes. I am horrible at staying still.
I remember where I was when I came out to one of those friends––sitting on a boulder on top of a hill behind her house. I told my friend about the first girl I loved, how terrifying it was to fall into a narrative that was completely outside of the cultural norm. She gave me a hug right there under the big summer leaves and said that it was okay, that we would always be friends no matter what.
Be grateful for good friends all your life.
Later we walked to the empty baseball field down the street and sat on the dugout roof, watching the clouds purple.
As I write this I am aboard the SV Pelican sailing south along the east coast of Australia towards Sydney where I will take a cargo ship back to New Zealand. I am the only woman on board. My bicycle is stowed under the captain’s bed.
My job, in addition to helping with odds and ends in the galley, is night watch: 11pm-3am. I am charged with monitoring the navigation line and noting changes in the wind. I scan the horizon for lighthouses and boats and UFOs. I wake the snoozing captain if anything happens.
The stars are patient listeners. Night watch has been a beautiful time to commune with myself and to filter words onto the page. The unwriteable things are as valuable as the writable ones.
I own my shadow. I ask the hard questions. I am gentle with myself as I await an answer. I crowd out the clutter and give myself permission to just be.
It is in this silence that I roar.
I choose to surround myself with people who are doing what they love and who love to see me thrive.
I walk away from people who do not wish me well. They are struggling with something that I know nothing about, and I cannot help them.
I have given up on trying to please everyone.
When I surrender to my roar, I am free.
Devi K. Lockwood is a poet / touring cyclist / storyteller whose quest to collect 1,001 stories about water and climate change is ongoing. You can read more about her travels at www.onebikeoneyear.wordpress.com and support the journey at www.patreon.com/devi_lockwood.