Rossella Vasta, an Italian artist visiting Montana tells us words create space for silence. She listens to the silence words achieve before she begins to paint. Kenosis: to empty one’s self, to willingly make room for . . . what? The act of emptying.
Weather balloons are measured for their bursting diameters. They are meant to burst. There is no lid to this earth, yet we daily live as though we have limits. Weather balloons are also known as sounding balloons. To probe, explore: sounding.
My father slows the shutter speed when he shoots his sunrise photos. This is what it takes to let enough light in, letting colors deepen, as though readying a landscape for tea. Steeping.
When there aren’t mountains around, it’s easy to get mixed up and not know which way is up. Up, meaning north. Says the lady in the prairie store, admitting she hasn’t learned her left from her right, her east from her west. She didn’t grow up with the sun. She doesn’t know what to be afraid of first, living now on the prairie. Rattlesnake or coyote? To find her way back to calm, to center herself she recites Mount Everest.
Accidentally, I eat tacos with a former in-law. How can I not when we end up in line together at the tiny taco hut? He searches for something to say to me, sounding like my former husband. Astounding, really, to witness the genetic hand-toss, the fingers fluttering in the air to indicate “whatever, whatever” when words escape all meaning. He dictates, flips through his soundbites, the speeches he has prepared to cover any topic. He’s half union, half white collar. He wants to tell me about a place twenty-five minutes from nowhere. I want to rescue him from his discomfort as he realizes he meant to say miles but said minutes instead, but I’m running out of rescues. And also short on caves.
Rossella Vasta’s art speaks the language of French cave paintings. We assume animals drawn on walls are kill drawings. See, this is what I took down. But when we rid ourselves of that notion, we make room for imagining the spirit of an animal captured when drawn on limestone walls. Maybe that’s why we empty, why we sound. Twenty-five minutes from nowhere birds sing through the timeline. Dogs howl in such cadence the path of an ambulance winding through the river valley is tallied. The more distant the howl, the further away the trauma. Wind rattles the cottonwood leaves in my neighbor’s yard, a hundred students clicking their tongues to the beat of a conductor’s baton.