The Wingspan of One’s Voice

This morning I was listening to a recording of a radio interview featuring two folksingers—Elise Witt and Sara Thomsen.  During the conversation, Elise made mention of “the wingspan” of voice. How fortunate I felt that such a lovely expression was one of the first things I began to consider as I sipped coffee. It led me to think about my own voice and what fits within its wingspan… How my voice has learned to stretch, to shelter, to take flight…

Ever since I was a child, I have loved to read out loud.  Words felt good in my mouth.  I was amused by them, curious about what they meant, and they made me laugh.  I can still remember reading poetry aloud to myself while sitting cross-legged on my bed and repeating over and again the parts that were especially delicious to me.  My mother and father both read aloud to me and did so with intention and meaning.  I was aware of the connection between the sound of voice and sense-making, Intonation and what it could convey.

Then there was the speech class requirement in high school– a dread I put off until the final semester of my senior year.  At one point I had to do a personal experience speech and for a host of reasons, I did not want to share an actual experience of mine with the class. I asked the teacher if I could make one up and he gave me permission.  I developed a ten-fifteen minute talk about the day I met the Queen of England. The entire class believed me.  This was a different sort of power that I began to associate with voice.  To speak well in public was a way to have people attend to what was being said.  People would listen and care about what I had to say if I spoke with confidence (or freedom), with strength, and with a sense of story.

Combining these two essential bits of knowledge—the connection between sound and sense-making and speaking with freedom and a sense of story—has helped to both shape my sense of self and given me ways to express it.  My voice, in both its internal and external expressions—whether vocal or written, is a way for me to connect, to communicate, to discover and to reveal…

The wingspan of my voice

Oh glory what can gather
in the wingspan of my voice…
a way to release-ha…
a way to sing-yeah…
a way to call-mmhmm…
These wings, my voice-
oh the pleasure 
when it flies,
when it smooths and when it
pauses; when it rises;
when it follows a sonnet’s contours,
when it wails and when it laughs;
when it is freed on the power
of a spiritual truth and wakes
the Word from the page
and conforms to it, tastes
the story and speaks the feast;
These wings, my voice.
Oh, Job said…
that my words were written down,
that they were inscribed in a book!
For I know that my Redeemer lives.
I know my Redeemer lives—
what I do not yet know, what I consider,
in awe and curiosity,
is how far this voice,
can stretch.
I want to use these wings until
at day’s end they are weary
and can go no further.
I want
to soar
on the currents of God.

Kimberly M. King, RSCJ

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