286. just a little something for Chrismas

Thanks, one and all for reading. Honestly, if it weren’t for the trickle of hits I get on my Site Meter counter (as well as the fact that people start complaining if I don’t put anything up for a while), I don’t know if I’d write as much…or at all.

And so this is for you who put up with my inconsistent writing and my potty mouth and my excuses. It’s a poem by Allison Smythe (I hope she doesn’t mind that I’m posting this). It’s about searching…and I won’t say too much about what it’s about because that takes half the fun out of enjoying poetry.

Maybe this is an odd poem to share at Christmas, but I guess I chose it because the words she uses and the way she deploys them are just so beautiful. It reminds me of what I love about writing: words. And maybe for some that seems to be an odd thing to say but I really do love words. They’re so much fun to play with.

Take a word like “obfuscate” which means to “render obscure, unclear, or unintelligible,” (from the Mac Dictionary). Just pronouncing the word obfuscate makes your mouth work, twisting your tongue and lips into odd, uncomfortable shapes. And just look at the word – all those odd consonants and vowels jumbled together. The way the word sounds and even the way it looks perfectly conveys its meaning. That is a kick ass word!

And I love how a word that normally means one thing can be used in an unexpected way or in an unexpected context and it still makes sense – you know exactly what it’s trying to say.

At my church, the sound equipment is located in a tiny loft that is only accessible by a retractable ladder. I usually run sound at the 5PM evening service so I use the ladder quite a bit. Well recently, I’d been noticing that the piece of wood that the ladder was attached to seemed to be pulling out and I was worried about something going awry (that’s another great word). I shared my concerns with leadership and they had some people look at it and they said that the problem was merely a cosmetic one – that the box to which the ladder is attached is secure and sturdy. But to ease my concerns, they added some reinforcement and that put my fears to rest.

I share this story because when the engineer took a look at the ladder and said he was going to add reinforcement, the word he used was “beef,” as in, “I’m going to add some beef up there.” And even though he wasn’t going to lather the anchor point in hamburger meat, I instantly knew what he meant. I love that about our language.

And one last brilliant example before I get to the poem.

Take a look at this line by one of my favorite singer/songwriters, the late great Kristy MacColl (two links there):

“But I’m not crazy, no I’m just mad. . .”

That’s genius right there, even out of the context of the rest of the song. It’s brilliant because in that line, the word “bad” means two different things (mad as in angry or mad as in insane) and the fact that the line makes sense both ways gets you that much more in the head of the character in the song.

The English language is just so much delicious fun.

“Hunt the Thimble” by Allison Smythe

That game we played as kids:
You’re getting warm. . . warmer. . . warmer. . . hot!
maneuvering as if by remote control for the hidden
thing — someone’s red sock, lollipop, or secret

note, knowing the hunt was richer than the prize.
It’s not so simple now if it ever was
simple, the universe as we have known it
inflating in theories of everything.

Hints lie everywhere like feathers
in a chicken coop, scattering just as you
bend to pick one up. God, the child’s
game, with all his halls of doors.

It started with a word
in a language that never was and every stab
at translation in our currency of morning
and night, of skinned knees and long departures

slants a bit of the original intent and thus complicates
the game. Maybe it’s all the concrete under
our feet or that mountains eventually hitchhike
to the sea or that I haven’t read every book

not yet written that makes time something that needs
to be found and cut loose from space; perhaps
there is something like light that we have
not yet detected but can’t stop looking

for and the one who hid it laughing
because there is always another door
cold. . . colder. . . colder
and the hider always has the most fun.

You know, it struck me while copying this poem, how apropos it is for this month of December. It’s been a great year overall but this month has been difficult and not just because of Christmas. I know of at least three friends at my church who have lost loved ones this month and I know there have been others at my church who have suffered the same. Just in this month.

And honestly, even for myself, it’s been a hard month. Writing that post a few weeks ago about love – it made me face some uncomfortable realities in my own life and even though I like to think that my life is on a pretty even keel overall, I wonder if I’m just ignoring the hidden rot underneath.

And even though that poem seems to end on a dour note, there is (THERE IS!) “something like light” to be found even as we stumble towards and away from it. And to bring it all, clumsily, back to Christmas, isn’t that what Advent is all about? The fact that Light came into the darkness via a baby in a manger to show us the way. And this Light remains.

Merry Christmas, all.

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One thought on “286. just a little something for Chrismas

  1. Oops missed this post earlier! I gotta say, I LOVE words! So much that I’ve made a career out of it 🙂 Not as a writer or linguist, though I’ve seriously considered one or the other and both. But at the root of it all, the whole point of words’ existance, is communication. The ability to have a unique thought verbalized or written and be received aurally or visually exactly the way the message sender intended it to, is a gift singularly given to humans by God. No one can deny that no other creature, monkey or dolphin, can have a complex, intricate, mutually benefitial conversation about abstract theories filled with questions, negative statements, and cohesive arguments. When the awesome power of communication is lost, the soul begins to rot. Life no longer becomes worth living. That’s why I’m a speech-language pathologist.

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