Tag Archives: words

The love of doing, redoing and not doing

In a year of great doing, and the sometimes even harder task of not doing, we thought we’d pause and share our appreciation of the things that give us joy, purpose and meaning no matter what is happening in the world around us.

Julie let what she loves–creating images and writing–speak for itself.

Flourish and Grow by Julie Paschkis

By Julie Paschkis

Planting Thoughts by Laura Kvasnovsky

Illustration by Mila Marquis

Here you are again, on your knees in the dirt. 

Close your eyes and feel the sun warm on your back and the dry papery husks of the bulbs in your hand: Muscari armeniacum.

Breathe in the sharp scent of sandy soil and the darker fragrance of compost and leaf mulch, and hear the birds, if they chirp, and the rustle of the breeze.

The earth waits. Dig in and settle the bulbs, grateful for that ancient impulse to grow, to bloom, to go to seed, to fade.

And grateful for the turning of the seasons that finds you here again, on your knees in the dirt.

Mending by Margaret Chodos-Irvine

Dress and photo by Margaret Chodos-Irvine

Close your eyes and think about the clothes you are wearing.

Think about everything that went into making them: 

The people who put them together, somewhere in the world, 

the plants and animals and energy that were used in making them.

We mend in gratitude for all these things. 

We practice patience. We practice acceptance. 

We embrace imperfection as part of what makes everything unique.

Words Full of Promise by Julie Larios

Illustration by Piero Schirinzi

I’m a poet. To me, being a poet means using words – individual words – words made of evocative letters. How can letters evoke feelings? Well, when I see the letter “j,” I love the dip it takes below the line, the little hook that feels rebellious, non-conformist. I love the letter “z” in a word, because it feels (and even sounds) strange; it’s a letter that can’t decide if it wants to go forward or backward. When you write it, it reverses direction. It’s a letter full of doubt, and I prefer doubt to certainty. The letter “k” is a bit aggressive, very certain, the Genghis Khan of letters. Each letter of the alphabet has a unique personality, yet together they cooperate, they cohere, they form little societies called words. 

This Thanksgiving, I’m grateful for each letter of the alphabet, and for the way letters make words and words make poems, and poems are, by nature, inclusive, they invite people of differing experiences to contemplate shared feelings – they help us share a spot at the Thanksgiving table. 

I invite you to think about the shapes of letters. Rebellious, uncertain, bold, shy – you’ll find their nature if you look. String some together into a word, two words, three. Don’t worry about grammar yet. Build a poem with one-syllable words. Right now I’m thinking of the word “thirst.” Begins with a “t,” ends with a “t.” That word feels suspended in time -something hangs in the balance, makes a growl. Then I consider the word “juice.” Playful. Generous. Put them together for a two-word poem, full of promise – “Thirst? Juice!”

Sleep by Bonny Becker

Illustration by Eugeni Balakshin

Close your eyes and think about sleep.

Turn off noise, color, fear, hate, right, wrong.

Even love can wait.

Nothing needs you right now.

Turn off the story.

Slip over the edge into the velvet void.

Nothing needs you right now. 

Be done today with do.

Rest and begin anew. 





Thank you from all of us to all of you.

A New Word: Solastalgia

I like words.  That’s a condition endemic to writers (along with an obsession with stationary supplies) but I don’t think it comes out in quite the way people imagine.  It’s not like I love a thesaurus, which, if used with too much enthusiasm, can produce writing  filled with inflated diction. No, writing like that, all tarted up, is not what loving words is about, at least not in my opinion. I don’t make lists of my favorite words and then look for random places to insert them in my writing. What I’m more interested in, in terms of words, is where they come from – their etymologies and how they made their way from one part of the world and one language group to another part of the world altogether, and how they changed as they moved through time and space. The Oxford English Dictionary handles etymologies brilliantly – I’ll take the OED over a thesaurus any day

Since I love words and their complicated provenance, it makes sense for me to be interested in neologisms – newly-invented words. The other day my sister told me about this one: Solastalgia. It looks a little like something that might send you to bed with the sniffles, or maybe like something in a 19th-century novel when the heroine requires “mustard plasters.”

Actually, the word “Solastalgia,” coined in 2003 by Australian philosopher Glenn Albrecht, is a condition similar to nostalgia, with a twist; it occurs not when you are far from home and long to return, but when you are still home and feel the loss of home due to the changed nature of the landscape or environment in general. My sister and I are now convinced we suffer from this condition, since we live in a world so changed from what we remember – we are constantly looking for the landmarks that have disappeared, we keep longing to repair the damage and restore a well-loved spot to it’s former health.

Take Elger Bay, for example, midway down Camano Island in Puget Sound, with its old waterfront cabins from the 30’s (no indoor plumbing, no electricity) replaced now by 6000-square-foot mansions. Signs have gone up saying “Private Beach, Keep Off.” The trees are gone, eagles are gone, driftwood has been replaced by cement bulkheads. The cabin my great-grandmother built with her husband is gone. But what we’re feeling isn’t nostalgia. We’re not longing for a simpler time. This is the heartache (or “psychoterratic illness”) of searching for a landscape that once was whole and now is damaged. Solastalgia (a mix of the root word solacium, meaning comfort, and -algia, meaning pain.)

I don’t imagine that word will  make it into my writing for children any time soon. But what an interesting word it is.  Also, terrible.  I might try writing a story about a girl who is homesick even when she’s home.

All because I heard about a new word and looked it up.

[ADDED NOTE: The Australian blog mentioned in the comments below – Healthearth – has a wonderful explanation of solastalgia – click here for a link. This is the blog of Glenn Albrecht, who first developed the concept of solastalgia and came up with a name for it.]

Cats, Dogs, Rats, Cabbages…

Yesterday it rained. And rained.   Guess I should be used to it after 37 years in the Pacific Northwest, but I admit to feeling a bit “under the weather,” literally.  The French say it another way: Avoir le cafard – “to have the cockroach” – in other words, to be down in the dumps They also say that to be depressed is to “grind the black” – broyer du noir.  Maybe the rain is making me grind a black cockroach, but I sure wish it would stop. Of course, if wishes were horses, beggars would ride….I wonder how the French say that? Outside, the drizzle has chased hummingbirds away from our new feeder; inside this afternoon, I gave up and turned on the heater, and I thought “May 3rd, for heaven’s sake, and it’s raining cats and dogs.”

Why would someone think “cats and dogs” when the rain comes down?  Where do these figures of speech come from? Did you know that in Spain, it doesn’t rain cats and dogs, it rains jugs? Esta lloviendo a cantaros!  In France, it rains ropes.  Odd.  Of course, in some places in America, it rains pitchforks. Odder still, but we just don’t think it’s quite as odd because we’re used to it. One of the wonderful things about studying another language is not only learning new idioms (did you know that while American women “give birth,” Mexican women “give light”?) but also hearing our own language in a fresh way.  And that’s what a writer need to do, too – hear his or her own language almost as if it were a foreign tongue.

My wish that the rain would go away is “pie in the sky” – unattainable – or, as the French say,   prendre la lune avec les dents – taking the moon with the teeth. One of these days, it’s going to stop raining and we’ll go straight from our in-like-a-lion days to the dog days of summer – lions and dogs, odd again – without ever seeing spring.  Rats! (or, as the Italians might say Cavolo! Cabbage!)

I guess I shouldn’t get too cranky about it – the rain, the deluge.  We tolerate, we get by little by little or in fits and starts or in bits and pieces or in – well – andiamo por singhiozzo – we go by hiccups. And it’s important, in Seattle to ponder what the Romans famously said: Nos poma natamus. We apples swim.  We are unsinkable.

Next time I write a poem, I might try to write about people who are like apples floating in water. Or I might write a poem where I sink my teeth into the moon. People ask me where I get my ideas. This is where. Cats, dogs, rats, cabbages, hiccups, the moon.  Language.

It’s Poetry Friday today, by the way, and Elaine Magliaro at Wild Rose Reader is hosting the round-up. Head over there to see what poems, thoughts about poetry, and links people have posted.