By Kathy Bernier
All those years when I was trying to find my voice, and come to find out it has been inside me all along. It was the thing I was trying to get away from and it would never let me go.
It’s the deep gritty mud that clings to my rural roots. It’s hair on my legs, and the sound of coyotes calling from way down back on a hot summer night with all the windows open, and the taste of the first spring radish.
It’s breathing in the warm sweet barn smell first thing in the morning, and looking out the bathroom window at the dark silhouette of the fir trees when I get up to pee at one in the morning, and wishing there were enough money in the checkbook to just pay somebody to do stuff and take a day off from worry once in a while.
It’s squeezing my eyes tight and pretending it’s the glare of the sun when I help load the yearling goat that I delivered on a stormy night last summer into a crate headed for the slaughterhouse, repeating the tired old “you can’t keep them all” mantra and knowing it was the only way and refusing to let myself hear the panic in his bleating while I try to swallow the panic in my soul.
It’s giving myself the okay to say words like shit and even the eff word out loud even though I love God. I know he’s listening, but he hears them whether they’re in my heart or in the air, so what the hell. I guess that’s what the voice is, really. It’s the words that God put inside me.
It’s not words I chose, I can tell you that. I wanted my words to be all smooth and polished and chic and sophisticated. Every one just right, every one pithy and impeccable with the swoop of a cartoon princess veil and a rock star chef and an Olympic giant slalom skier oozing from their pores. Edgy in a cool hipster round-framed glasses kind of way.
I wanted to be good at something that I could be confident about and that everyone would know I was good at it and I could say to the world, look! Lookit how good I am at this! I didn’t want to be consumed by this fire in my soul that makes people say stupid stuff like how it doesn’t matter if I pour my heart out on the keyboard all my life for free and live without two nickels to rub together ever and even though they expect to be paid for being nurses and contractors and lab workers they seem to think it’s okay if I can’t make a living doing the only thing I ever wanted to do.
I didn’t want to be a writer, I didn’t want to have a voice, I didn’t want any of it. It chose me. It swallowed me whole, really.
My words are clumsy, all clumped with emotion that blurts out like baby vomit when I least expect it, spewing all over the dress somebody was going to wear to the movies, making them have to remind themselves that they really do love me but they just wish I could be less me once in a while.
My words are about stupid things like canning green beans and walking way far around the place I saw the snake last time and buying a used dress for the wedding and hoping that this daughter-in-law will like me. My voice careens down gravel roads so narrow and precarious that I have trouble staying out of the ditch.
The voice has caught up with me now, after all these years. I’m the partner in crime and the helpless victim and the eyewitness and the anchorwoman on the nightly news, but I never get to be in charge of this voice thing.
All those things they always told me God is, it turns out that’s what my voice is too. No matter how pissed off I get at either of them, they both hang onto me.
Kathy Bernier has always been a writer. Sometimes acknowledged, sometimes practiced, occasionally published, and always real. Her portfolio is comprised of stories short and lengthy, feature articles, letters, and online informational pieces. Kathy’s current work can be found at:
- The Practical Prepsteader, stories about living close to the land, at https://practicalprepsteader.bangordailynews.com/
- Pioneer Settler, an online source for getting back to your roots, at https://pioneersettler.com/
- Off the Grid News, ideas for off-grid living, at https://www.offthegridnews.com/
- Serial memoirs about faith, farming, and ill-fortune, always hardcopy and never easy to ignore.