The Passion to Speak


“Wait until you are hungry to say something, until there is an aching in you to speak.” ~ Natalie Goldberg, author

I love this quote. The truth is I was always hungry to say something, but I needed more than that to actually complete my first novel.

My husband Drew and I lived for over a decade with a wealth of trees on the adjacent land behind our home. The crowns of towering yellow poplars etched the sky, and standing with them, sweetgum, blackgum, maple, hickory and many more. Our eyes and souls feasted on this rich landscape dotted in spring with white and fuschia blossoms from the dogwoods and redbuds. In summer the aroma of mimosa carried upon the wind even though their graceful pale pink blooms opened somewhere out of sight. These were the kindred who greeted me each time I walked onto the deck to feed the countless song birds and squirrels who lived among their branches or just to drink in the beauty and breathe in the life offered so freely by the trees.

How I took it all for granted, choosing to believe that this vista, these wondrous friends, would always be there, that the land would never perk and thus never sell, and this paradise would remain undisturbed except by the ravages of the elements and time.

But one clear, perfect September morning, everything changed. The rabbits in their warren, the heavy thicket that had kept them safe for so long, the birds, squirrels and chipmunks fled the sound of chainsaw and bulldozer as their homes were destroyed. And the trees, those beloved trees. For two days I wept as I watched them die despite my pleading with the forman to save some of them.

I didn’t begrudge the people behind us the right to build their home, but it took some doing to forgive the reckless removal of over an acre of beautiful trees. I cried for the forest and all its inhabitants, for the children who could have had adventures as I did in my youth and for the beauty that was erased so swiftly.

Once years before I had asked those very trees to help me write this book that I had started but, like so many similar efforts, couldn’t seem to finish. This was not the motivation I had sought, but it was what came. Their sacrifice fueled the hunger to say something beyond anything I had ever felt.

For three months from that day the story gestated, and then in just over four months it was birthed in its first form on tentative legs like a newborn foal. The trees and the animals had found their voice in my heart and mind, and at last I felt so fierce a hunger to speak that nothing—not even the inner critic—could dissuade me. ~ Diana