Sunday, March 29, 2009

Lusting for Lexicons

What is it about books?  How is it that some seem to grip us so?  Why are there those that transcend time and remain pertinent throughout the ages?  Is there one common denominator found within the literary classics?  Think about it – from Homer to Shakespeare, Margaret Mitchell to Louisa May Alcott, even Jane Austen to, dare I say, M. Hill – what is it about the way a story is constructed that makes it last? 


Well, I think the answer is fundamentally simple.  It's in the words.  Yup, the words.  Words are magical; and the way they're strung together on the page, if done right, can almost be like dancing – one continual fluid movement that takes you from one place to another.  Step by step, word by word, we vicariously experience different worlds, times and places with the turning of each page.  This is why those that resonate with us, emotionally, are always our favorite books.  We feel connected – and it's the words that are the connecting sinew.


I love words – they are an unending source of wonder for me: homonyms, synonyms, antonyms.  Nouns, verbs, gerunds.  Adjectives, adverbs, participles – dangling or otherwise.  What kind of a world would we live in without words?  Pretty quiet, for one thing – but the question was rhetorical…


I'm not the only one who marvels at words.  Take a look at what some others have said regarding these versatile intellectual stimuli:


"Words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by man."

 - Rudyard Kipling


"To speak mere words is much like speaking of mere dynamite."

 - C.J. Ducasse   


"The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and the lightning bug."

 - Mark Twain


I'd be remiss if I didn't include the partial lyric, "Words to memorize, words hypnotize, words make my mouth exercise…"  Hey, what ever happened to PWEI?  Never mind that…


Anyway, I recently had the opportunity to sit in on a writer's group where one of the exercises was prompted by loose dictionary pages – I got an H page.  We were supposed to write something inspired by one of the words, but as I looked at my page, my eyes found focus on a picture of a hawk.  Here's what I wrote:


I love the dictionary.  Not only is it chock full of information, but it is an endless source of amusement, as well.  Yes, that's right, amusement.  Looking at page 119 of some disemboweled dictionary, it's the picture of a hawk that catches my eye.  A hawk, as almost anyone knows, is any of several predatory birds with blah-blah-blah, ya, we all know what hawks are.  The thing about this hawk is that it recalled a memory of mine from many years ago. 


One time I came across the word grebe, and coming from a more urban than rural background, I was not familiar with this word so, naturally, I went to consult... The Book.  A grebe, as it turns out, is a very small dabchick.  Hmph!  A dabchick – how 'bout that.  See, the thing is, I had no idea what a dabchick was – the dictionary is like that, one word often leads to another; honestly, you could spend days within the pages of a dictionary.  I went straight to the Ds – d, d, d, dab, dabchick – there it was.  A dabchick is a noun; it is one of any variety of small grebes.


So there you have it – the dictionary – a funny, funny book!


It's probably no wonder, with my affinity for words, that one of my favorite books is, in fact, the dictionary – that massive collection of words, those teeny-tiny building blocks, just waiting to be assembled in such a way as to tell the next story, to transport you to the next place, to reveal to you completely new worlds and experiences… don't even try telling me that's not magical.


 Forever mystified,

  - M

Sunday, March 15, 2009


Change is inevitable.  There's no escaping it.  In fact, we can actually rely on it as surely as we can trust that the sun will rise tomorrow.  And, I'd probably go as far to say that most change is good.  Most, of course, is not all.  There are those changes that occur that we cannot seem to stop – those that don't really fit the definition 'for the good.'


If you recall, I previously shared that in spite of my slender arms, my triceps flap like a billowing flag when I either wave a hearty hello or enthusiastically season my food.  I'm in my 40s – it's just the way it is. 


Here's another horrifying tidbit of mid-40s self-discovery.  First, you should know that my bathroom is a room chock full of reflective surfaces – between the mirrored closet doors, the giant vanity mirror and the glass enclosed shower stall, it is nearly impossible to be in that space and not see yourself everywhere you look.  So, the other day I'm getting dressed for a hike and, for whatever reason, after dispensing with my PJs, the first thing I put on was my socks – from a standing position.  (I don't know why.)  As I bent over to put the sock on my foot, my reflection caught my eye.  And, as if being bombarded by the multi-faceted images in a Fun House Hall of Mirrors, I had nowhere to look to avoid seeing this shocking brush with reality – Elsie the Borden cow was all I could think of.  When the heck did this happen?  UGH!  I immediately put on my bra.  Then my T-shirt.  Then the fleece. 


Okay, so there's apparently an unavoidable toll that gravity takes on the body.  What's next?  I'm almost afraid to ask, wrinkles?  So far, I've been pretty lucky with that one. 


What I haven't been spared of, however, is waking up in the night to use the bathroom – at least once, often twice, sometimes three times in a night.  Is this part of the aging process, too?  If so, it certainly would account for all the crotchety curmudgeons out there.  Apparently, after a certain age, a good night's sleep is a thing of the past.  A thing of the past like toned arms and perky boobs, I suppose. 


There is something else, though, about the bathroom experience as we age.  Has anyone else begun to notice a change in… well, in… velocity?  Seriously, this latest development could easily be parlayed into a game show – albeit a disgusting game show, but a game show all the same.  It could be called something like The Speed of Your Stream or How Slow is Your Flow?  In it, people of all ages would enter a bank of bathroom stalls, sit and, after a buzzer sounds, commence urinating.  The contestant, placed on the opposite side of a partition – similar to The Dating Game, would have to guess the participant's ages by – you can see this coming, right? – by the speed of the stream:  fast and furious = teenager (male, likely); smooth and steady = your average adult; trickling tinkle = senior citizen.  See?  What?  You don't think this would take off?  It could.


It's not really any worse than those sadomasochistic, esteem-eradicating carnival Guess Your Age & Weight games.  In those you're on public display while some dorky guy in a red and white striped vest tries, by assessing your physical appearance, to guess your age and weight.  He looks around, picks out some poor unsuspecting victim, then, after asking for a name, he addresses the crowd.  "Well, folks, whad'ya think?  I'd say Karen, here, is around 42 years old and about a buck fifty.  Let's see, shall we?"  Goaded by the mob around her, Karen begrudgingly steps on the scale saying, "I'm 26, jackass," when the needle redlines, at which point, the smarmy barker yells out, "Owhhh, Karen – 220!  Here's a Twinkie, thanks for playing."  Okay, maybe my little pee game is worse.  I've digressed. 


See, there are just some things we cannot escape as we age; but here's something unexpected that's happening to me that I never really heard anyone talk about before.  Lately, when I hear of an issue that strikes a chord in me, or of something that tickles my fancy (tickles my fancy? How old am I? Wait, let me…), I've begun to write in to people – radio hosts, magazine editors, newspaper columnists.  I don't know why; I never used to do things like this – and, honestly, I don't really have the time for it – but I'm 44 now and I'm beginning to think that, perhaps, this is just another step in the aging process – one taken on the way to becoming a cantankerous, golden girl who will invariably complain about the cost of a gallon of milk or the continually rising cost of a postage stamp.  I wonder how long it will be before I start to write my local politician about similarly inane bits of personal interest.  At what age does that happen?  


I wonder what other changes I have to look forward to.  Who knows?  I guess I'll just have to wait and find out – time will tell!     


 - M


Sunday, March 1, 2009


I cannot seem to concentrate

Everything's a chore, of late

My head is pounding

And I can't think straight


Itchy, runny eyes that tear

Discomfort fills my inner ear

Inflammation grows

And I can barely hear


My eyes flutter and almost close

As pressure in my sinus grows

Tingling sensations

Tickle my nose


I'm sneezing, wheezing

And barely breathing

My lips are chapped raw

From chronic mouth breathing


Pain in my throat makes me weak

Easing comfort is all I seek

As I'm unable to swallow

And can't even speak


Yes, laryngitis – that's my thing

With a choking phlegm that really does cling

I pray for the relief

A healing would bring


It's every day stress

And mental duress

That's making me

Such a physical mess


I gargle and sleep

And try not to weep

I don't complain much

Since I can't make a peep


The dry cough I could do without

Hacking like that just wears me out

But that's what's next

I have no doubt


Time after time

It's the same, I find

So I know I will fight

This mucus and slime


Getting better, I cannot force

This just has to run its course

And when my voice returns

Naturally, it will be hoarse


That's okay, I say to myself

Thinking about what is true wealth

It's certainly not riches

It's more about health


So, this will pass and go away

And I'm looking forward to that day

But until it gets here,

What can I say?


Winter colds suck!


Muculently Yours,                              

- M J