Usually I have the privilege of understanding language, and just as all privilege is experienced, I take that knowledge for granted. But this morning at the gym, I listened yet did not understand two women speaking Eritrean in the sauna. The words were sharp with a distinct rhythm and I enjoyed the sound without meaning. I do not speak Thai, though it was my first language and I know it still runs through me. When I am surrounded by Thai, I take in a lot through certain known words, tone, and context. It is a particular way of experiencing language that allows presence and detachment at the same time. Words and meaning bubble up here and there, but the flow keeps moving. After having the gentle ease of that experience, the contrast of the language I know feels abrasive and jarring.

Here, on Sunday, spirituality seems so busy with words.

Where I had been, I had grown used to not knowing

language. There, my other senses were alive –

while the warm water of words passed over me,

barely noticed. But on Sunday, winter in Minnesota,

language pours from everything, and the cold wind

presses on stained glass windows, whistles along with words,

every one of which I know, but do not understand

so well as the raining rhythm of the monk’s blessing.

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