Natalie Goldberg Card #4

“What is silent?”

2 min readJan 27


photo of my savory oatmeal, with garlic, avocado, salt, pepper, cilantro and lemon juice

“This is my wish for you: that you take these cards, grab the topic on one side and write, write, write . . . Remember no good or bad. Just words on the page.” Natalie Goldberg. Each card in this world-renowned author and zen teacher’s Deck contains a writing topic on one side and a short lesson on the reverse, delivered in Natalie’s honest, heartfelt urgency. I’m going through them one by one.

Today, the ‘nudge’ is this: “What is silent? Make a list of 30 things that are silent.”

What objects of mine are silent? Basically everything, if you don’t count the conversations I have about them. Or with them.

My bowl of oatmeal is silent. It makes no sound until I put a spoonful in my mouth and chew. Now, sound. The crunch of the nuts. The softer squishy impact of molars on raisins. The liquifying food, deftly moving from one side of my mouth to the other, and back, and forth — and then that satisfying completion, the sound of my throat pulling the food into the rest of me.

All of that. But was the oatmeal itself really “silent?”

Here are some of the meanings I found for the word “silent.”
Free from noise,
making no mention,
not widely or generally known or appreciated,

Before the oats in my oatmeal were harvested, all they did their whole lives was sing their own name in the fields where they grew. “Unspoken?” I think not.

Also, where is oatmeal not widely known or appreciated? I suppose wherever it can’t grow. But where it can grow, is it not widely known and appreciated? I have this feeling it’s been around since the Bible. Since the Sutras of ancient India.

Has oatmeal ever been “unpronounced?” The word “pronounced” means “decided, strongly marked.” So, oatmeal. Has it been unpronounced, undecided? Think about it. Has it shifted uncomfortably in my bowl and decided to be quinoa instead, or rice? Of course not.

Oatmeal has declared itself to me, emphatically, and to the world.

So what is actually, truly silent? It’s a question to sit with.
I know I was supposed to list thirty things that were silent, but I didn’t get past my oatmeal.

What about you? What’s your list?

Tina Lear has written since she could hold a pencil. She’s completed four musicals with her long time collaborator, writer Elise Forier-Edie, taught yoga to inmates at Rikers Island, performed for thousands at Folk Festivals nationwide, and driven cattle in Wyoming. If you want to interact with her about books, join her new very loosely held ‘book club.’ May you be happy and free.
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Novelist. Poet. Musician. Buddhist. Quilter. Animal lover. Visible grownup. Hidden child. Secret dancer when all alone. Makes good bread.