“Some people have a way with words, and other people…oh, uh, not have way.” ~ Steve Martin

Play on Words
Tristan Bates Theatre, UK

                   

“I like good strong words that mean something…” ~ Louisa May Alcott, from Little Women

Thursday afternoon. Sunny, 80’s.

I found the following on my Tumblr dash (where else?) a few days ago, and decided that it would make a great prompt for a post. Hope you like it.

11 More Wonderful Words With No English Equivalent

Seigneur-terraces (French)
Coffee shop dwellers who sit at tables a long time but spend little money.

Words, words, words

I remember sitting in a Starbucks for hours one time just writing in my journal and kind of daydreaming. I only had enough money for a coffee, but I felt no guilt at squatting at prime real estate for as long as I needed, despite the evil looks from people who wanted my table. I also used to do this at the Starbucks inside the Barnes & Noble that I frequented. I would get a stack of possible books, find a table, and sit there as I went through the books to decide which ones I wanted to buy. One time I read William Styron’s Darkness Visible in its entirety, and another time I read A Boy Called It, which made me decide to buy the sequel. And yes, I purchased both books that I read.

Ya’arburnee (Arabic)
This word is the hopeful declaration that you will die before someone you love deeply, because you cannot stand to live without them. Literally, may you bury me.

In my romantic mind, I would never want to die before my beloved as I am uncertain if I have any grief left within me after losing those I most loved. This one is a tough one, but a beautiful word.

“I’m apt to get drunk on words . . . Ontology: the word about the essence of things; the word about being.” ~ Madeleine L’Engle, from A Circle of Quiet

Schlimazel (Yiddish)
Someone prone to bad luck. Yiddish distinguishes between the schlemiel and schlimazel, whose fates would probably be grouped under those of the klutz in other languages. The schlemiel is the traditional maladroit, who spills his coffee; the schlimazel is the one on whom it’s spilled.

Words
by Ben Schott (New York Times)

Is it possible to be both a schlemiel and a schlimazel? I am quite adept at spilling things, especially my food and drink, and especially if I am wearing the most inappropriate clothes for a spill, say white silk. And as for being a schlimazel, perhaps less so unless it concerns something coming out of a baby. For the first year of Eamonn’s life, he threw up on me regularly, so much so that it was not uncommon for me to have to change nightgowns mid-night. He had severe stomach problems and had an operation when he was just three weeks old. But of the two, definitely the spiller as opposed to the spillee.

One other interesting memory: When I worked in Northern Virginia, a pack of us went out on a Friday after work, and we went dancing. My boss was there, and since I was relatively new, he offered to dance with me. I was wearing scarlet lipstick, and I tripped and fell into his starched white shirt, leaving a huge lipstick stain on the sleeve. I asked him the next day what he said to his wife as the truth seemed so unbelievable. He said that he threw away the shirt because she would never believe how it really happened. I felt horrible.

Packesel (German)
The packesel is the person who’s stuck carrying everyone else’s bags on a trip. Literally, a burro.

My ex and I used to go hiking and camping in the Virginia foothills. One time we took along a couple with whom we had been friends for years. The female of the couple wore penny loafers (which has nothing to do with this word), but the male of the pair was so whiny that on the hike back, I took his pack just so I wouldn’t have to hear him. Yes, my back used to be quite strong . . .

“She had always wanted words, she loved them; grew up on them. Words gave her clarity, brought reason, shape.” ~ Michael Ondaatje, from The English Patient

L’esprit de l’escalier (French)
Literally, stairwell wit—a too-late retort thought of only after departure.

Oh how I wish that I had known that there was an actual term for this years ago. I am famous for coming up with the biting retort—well after the other person has left the room. So much so that I sometimes wanted to run them down in the hall just so that I could fling my words at them, but of course, that would have been childish.

Awesomely Untranslatable Words from around the World

Hygge (Danish)
Denmark’s mantra, hygge is the pleasant, genial, and intimate feeling associated with sitting around a fire in the winter with close friends.

We have a fireplace in our house, a real, working fireplace. The last time we used it was a couple of winters ago when we didn’t have heat. However, years ago, when my ex lived here, we used to build fires frequently in the winter, back when we were unaware of the pollution links. I love the smell of a wood fire. There is something inherently comforting in that smell, something that makes me feel very relaxed. The same with a campfire—that smell. I remember in high school we used to have bonfires before big football games. I’m sure they don’t do that any more, at least not in cities. Too many possibilities for things to go wrong.

Sad, really. Will we have generations who never know the smell of woodsmoke?

One of our goals for the house is to install a gas fire in the fireplace, so that we can have the heat and appearance of a fire, but it’s just not the same.

Spesenritter (German)
Literally, an expense knight. You’ve probably dined with a spesenritter before, the type who shows off by paying the bill on the company’s expense account.

I’ve known a few of these, but I’ve never been one, never had an expense account, never had enough power to have one. One of my very dear friends at the government services firm where I worked used to take me to dinner on his expense account. And then because I was on the staff for the big guys, I was frequently taken to lunch on expense accounts, back in the 80’s when money flowed freely. I remember that the staff would always go out to celebrate after the completion of a big proposal effort or if a contract was won, both of which happened often.

As a publications manager, I was courted by all kinds of print houses, and I’ll never forget this one lunch at an Italian restaurant, the best pasta I’ve ever had. Going out on someone else’s account is wonderful as price never seems to matter, and dessert is always an option. Of course, those days are long gone.

“All I’m writing is just what I feel, that’s all. I just keep it almost naked. And probably the words are so bland.” ~ Jimi Hendrix

Cavoli Riscaldati (Italian)
The result of attempting to revive an unworkable relationship. Literally, reheated cabbage.

Hmm . . . my ex, ‘nuf said, except that reheated cabbage describes it perfectly: old, wilted, smelly, but still you try to make a meal of it until you realize that it’s totally inedible.

Words that Don’t Exist in the English Language

Bilita Mpash (Bantu)
An amazing, pleasant dream. Not just a “good” dream; the opposite of a nightmare.

As many of you already know, I don’t tend to dream on the good side, so when I have an amazingly good dream, it kind of stands out. That said, I’m having a really hard time remembering the details of any. I know that one featured Jimmy Smits, and I had that one about ten years ago (so sad, really).

I can say that most of the dreams that I really enjoy involve falling/flying, as in I leap off something and float through the air. It isn’t at all scary. On the contrary, it’s the most wonderful feeling. An alternative is when I’m flying some kind of airplane. It’s the act of moving through the air unimpeded, under my own steam. I think that this is probably the key reason as to why I still want to go up in a glider some day. I don’t care how old I get, I still want to do this.

Parachuting doesn’t appeal to me because it’s over too soon. In a glider, you move through the air for miles. There is no sound but the wind. It’s just you, in the air, as close to being winged as possible.

“Words are pale shadows of forgotten names. As names have power, words have power. Words can light fires in the minds of men. Words can wring tears from the hardest hearts.” ~ Patrick Rothfuss, from The Name of the Wind

Litost (Czech)
Milan Kundera described the emotion as “a state of torment created by the sudden sight of one’s own misery.”

I have encountered this emotion far too many times that sometimes I feel as if I’ve gotten other people’s share as well as my own. It’s a brutal feeling, realizing that you are miserable. It’s the exact opposite of the feeling I would imagine comes from gliding through the air. Instead, it’s being completely weighted down, leaden, held down by such intense gravity that even standing seems impossible.

More Words that Don’t Exist in the English Language

Litost. It’s both a beautiful word and a sad word, and that it is Czech in origin seems perfect, somehow.

Murr-ma (Waigman, language of Australia)
To walk alongside the water while searching for something with your feet.

I’m glad that this word is last as I have the best story to go along with it.

About a year after Caitlin died, we were at the beach in Nags Head, North Carolina. I was walking through the shore on my own, and I was moving my feet through the sand. I suddenly stopped, and within my head I pleaded to whatever gods that be to give me a sign, any sign, that things could get better. In the next second, my toes encountered something hard. I reached down and picked up the most beautiful perfect seashell. It was small, but it was there, and my heart suddenly felt hope again.

I’ve enjoyed this. I hope that you have as well.

More later. Peace.

Music by Colin Smith, “Organ in Your Chest”

                   

The Words Under the Words

for Sitti Khadra, north of Jerusalem

My grandmother’s hands recognize grapes,
the damp shine of a goat’s new skin.
When I was sick they followed me,
I woke from the long fever to find them
covering my head like cool prayers.

My grandmother’s days are made of bread,
a round pat-pat and the slow baking.
She waits by the oven watching a strange car
circle the streets. Maybe it holds her son,
lost to America. More often, tourists,
who kneel and weep at mysterious shrines.
She knows how often mail arrives,
how rarely there is a letter.
When one comes, she announces it, a miracle,
listening to it read again and again
in the dim evening light.

My grandmother’s voice says nothing can surprise her.
Take her the shotgun wound and the crippled baby.
She knows the spaces we travel through,
the messages we cannot send—our voices are short
and would get lost on the journey.
Farewell to the husband’s coat,
the ones she has loved and nourished,
who fly from her like seeds into a deep sky.
They will plant themselves. We will all die.

My grandmother’s eyes say Allah is everywhere, even in death.
When she talks of the orchard and the new olive press,
when she tells the stories of Joha and his foolish wisdoms,
He is her first thought, what she really thinks of is His name.
“Answer, if you hear the words under the words—
otherwise it is just a world with a lot of rough edges,
difficult to get through, and our pockets full of stones.”

~ Naomi Shihab Nye

I had that dream last night, You know?

Tylenol (Kekulé Diagram)

The one in which everything ends? That one.

I was in that room again, but it wasn’t the same. The baby in the crib was mine, but she wasn’t, it wasn’t her. The power went out, and the nurses and technicians were all giving the patients oxygen manually, squeezing that large ball, forcing air into that mask, but it wasn’t enough. The doctor who came in was outmatched but wouldn’t admit it. I pulled back her nightgown and a dark red spot was growing on her chest under the skin, and I thought, that’s not right, that’s not what happened. House came into the room. I had sent for him. He was real, not the character on the television show. He limped over to the crib and looked down at her and then looked at me, and then I knew. There was a lot of noise, monitors, the whoosh click of the machines. I had given her Tylenol when I put her down for her nap. Teething, I thought; that’s why she’s been so grouchy. Why didn’t I remember about the teething? The children’s Tylenol will work, but is children’s Tylenol and Infant Tylenol the same? No, I remember, it’s not, so which one? Only Tylenol doesn’t have much effect when there’s something growing in your brain. I didn’t know. How could I know? She fell asleep on her side almost as soon as I put her down, she had been in the high chair, and I gave her a Ritz cracker, only she didn’t want it, and Cheerios were chocolate chip flavored, and I thought that wasn’t a very good snack for a baby, so I pulled up the side of the crib, and then we were in the room, the hospital room, and it was happening all over. House couldn’t help her, and he couldn’t help the young boy who was seeing symbols, the one that the mean nurse had tried to turn away, but a different nurse admitted him. The mean nurse said that he had been to the ER three times with this same problem, and he couldn’t come back any more, but the boy was bleeding from his nose, and his father was frantic, so the nice nurse wheeled the boy into a room and called for House because the boy was seeing symbols in the air. This was all in the dream, and it was happening simultaneously, not linearly. And a woman who came into the room, the room that I was in, with House said that she needed to get back to her job, and I stopped her and said no. If you leave, you’ll regret it for the rest of your life. She looked at me and said that I was going to try to make her feel guilty the way that House did, and House remarked that she didn’t know what guilt was. And I said to her, she was Kirsty Alley for some reason, I said, “If you leave, she’ll die, and you won’t be here, and you’ll have to live with that guilt forever, you won’t have been here when she took her last breath, you won’t remember any of this,” so she stayed in the room. So there was me and House and Kirsty Alley and the first doctor, who still didn’t know what to do. And there was the baby in the crib, and she was dying, in the same way that she dies every single time that I go into that room, and the nurses outside the room were moving very quickly because the electricity had come back on, and patients everywhere needed help, but in the room, in that room that is hell and every awful, terrible place that has ever existed, in that room, it was the five of us, and one of us was dying. And the whoosh-click kept going and going, and the only good part was that I woke up before she died this time, and when I did, I felt pain all over my body, but especially my head, and I remembered the teething, and wondered why I didn’t think of the teething when she first started to get fussy, and then I remembered that all of the Infant Tylenol in the world can’t help with that kind of pain.

Tomorrow would have been Caitlin’s 24th birthday.

This song was playing in the background of my dream: Butthole Surfers, “Whatever (I Had a Dream Last Night)”

“Every horizon, upon being reached, reveals another beckoning in the distance. Always, I am on the threshold.” ~ W. Eugene Smith

A perigee moon rises above the Almudena Cathedral (Pedro Armestre/AFP/Getty Images)

                            

“It shocks me how I wish for . . . what is lost and cannot come back.” ~ Sue Monk Kidd, Traveling with Pomegranates: A Mother-Daughter Story

Sunday afternoon. Cold and cloudy. Below normal temperatures.

Super Moon in Pembroke, NY by jimsanders52

I finished the taxes; we owe for state, but we’ll be getting a federal return, which will immediately go towards getting a new back door. Now I need to do the FAFSA’s for Eamonn and Brett; of course, I am past deadline. I had such good intentions about getting those done in a timely way, but my health hasn’t been cooperating for a few months now.

I had wanted to post yesterday so badly, but just sitting here for an extended period was too painful. At such times, I long for my old laptop, the one that crashed and burned when I finished grad school. Maybe one day, but too many other pressing things for now.

Yesterday was Caitlin’s birthday. I didn’t even make it to the cemetery, didn’t make it out of sweats, actually. I have bought new flowers, spring colors.

 Were she still alive, she would be 23. It pains me to think of what kind of young woman she might have been. Would she have gone to college? Would she have been as driven as I was at that age? What would she have looked like; who in the family would she have resembled with her dark hair and almond eyes?

These are the things that I contemplate as each year takes me farther and farther from that painful point in my history. Yes, I know. Such extended grief is not normal, but it has been a part of me for so long that I would not know how to live without it. Truth be told, I have no desire to live without it. I mean, I am no longer consumed by my grief, but it remains with me like an old sweater that I notice occasionally when I open the drawer, and sometimes, I am so chilled to the bone that I must take out this well-worn sweater and put it on. I believe that this is a comfortable place in which to reside. It may not work for someone else, but it works for me.

“Grace is what matters in anything, especially life; especially growth, tragedy, pain, love, death. About people, that’s what matters. That’s a quality I admire quite greatly. It keeps you from reaching for the gun too quickly, keeps you from destroying things too foolishly. It keeps you alive and it keeps you open for more understanding.” ~ Jeff Buckley 

Super Moon behind St Michaels Tower on Glastonbury Tor Hill (Ben Birchall/PA/AP)

We do have good news in our house, though. Corey got a call from Precon, one of the two companies that he had been counting on. This was his second choice, but it’s still good. He starts work on Monday as a deck hand, working locally, daily.

I told him that I think that it’s actually good that he got this job first as it will allow him to readjust to being back on a boat, get his sea legs, if you will. The pay is just a bit more than his maritime security job, but he will definitely be working 40 hours a week, with probably overtime. So we can count on a regular base pay each week, something we haven’t had for three years.

It’s also good that he doesn’t have to travel as the truck is not yet working. Ford still has not come through with their buyout of the Windstar. They have paid so much more in rental fees than they owe us for the recall, but we have no control over the situation. As long as they are providing Corey with a vehicle, we are good.

Anyway, I know that Corey is quite anxious about going back on a boat. I have assured him that it will all come back to him once he is in the midst of things. Then, if and when the second company calls, he’ll be ready. Since company-hopping is pretty much standard in the industry, he shouldn’t feel any qualms about taking the much better-paying position should it be offered to him.

“The past is never dead. It’s not even past. All of us labor in webs spun long before we were born, webs of heredity and environment, of desire and consequence, of history and eternity. Haunted by wrong turns and roads not taken, we pursue images perceived as new but whose providence dates to the dim dramas of childhood, which are themselves but ripples of consequence echoing down the generations. The quotidian demands of life distract from this resonance of events, but some of us feel it always.” ~ William Faulkner, Requiem for a Nun

Super moon over Prague by Benjine

I know that Corey is also carrying around a sense of loss these days. He has been thinking quite seriously about taking guitar lessons. It’s something that he has wanted to do ever since I met him, take guitar, piano, and/or voice lessons. He has a wonderful voice, and he wants to improve his range, just for personal satisfaction, which I think it lovely. He had wanted me to teach him how to play the piano, but I had to disappoint him because I know that I would not be a good teacher to someone with whom I have a personal relationship. My standards are incredibly high, and my patience is incredibly bad.

So Corey found a woman in Suffolk who teaches music with whom he made an appointment several weeks ago. We’re going Tuesday night to meet her before making any commitments.

What has Corey so disappointed is that his father had a 1960 Gibson Les Paul electric guitar that his father gave to him when he was a teenager. I have heard about this guitar for years; Corey has spoken of it in such loving terms, has told me the family history of how it was passed around, of how his older brother tried to sell it for $50 to make a quick buck. A few years ago, both of Corey’s brothers tried to convince his father to sell the guitar on E-Bay. Corey talked his father out of it—or so he thought.

Turns out, his dad sold the guitar three years ago to someone to use for parts. Seriously, I thought that Corey was going to cry. That guitar was the one thing that he has always talked about wanting to keep in the family, and I know that he was working up the nerve to ask his dad if he could have the guitar to take lessons. To find out that the guitar is gone, that it’s been gone for years, was such a blow.

He’s been heartbroken, and to tell him that we’ll find him a vintage guitar sometime in the future doesn’t quite ease the sting. It won’t be his father’s guitar. It won’t be the one his grandfather bought.

I really do understand because my mother is always threatening to sell things in her house that I cherish. My mother has never been the sentimental type, as I’ve said before, but some of those things are part of my history, just as this guitar was part of Corey’s history.

We are all products of the soil from which we were grown. Sometimes that soil is rich and nourishing; sometimes it is fallow. Sometimes it’s better to leave that soil behind, and sometimes we want to take some of that soil with us when we put down new roots. What happens when that choice is taken from us?

“Who am I, in fact, as I sit here at this table, but my own past?” ~ Katherine Mansfield

Supermoon over Upper Makefield, Pennsylvania by Mark Setash

Ah well, onto other things. I went to see my other mother-in-law at the rehab center this past week. It was terrible. She would only open her eyes once in a while; she mumbled; she couldn’t feed herself. All of these things have happened in just the last week.

I didn’t go see her on her birthday because my ex was going to be there for the family get together, but Ann, my sister-in-law told me that she was jolly and singing the Montana state song. That was on St. Patrick’s Day. Two days later, she was completely changed.

In between the mumbling, she would say something audible, and at one point, she said, quite clearly, “I’m at the end of my rope.”

I did not allow myself to cry while I was there. She didn’t need to see my tears. And as heartless as it sounds, I sort of understand why people stop going to see family members when they are in those places: It’s damn depressing. But then I think about the individual who is there, in and out of moments of lucidity, and they must wonder why they are there; they must wonder where their family is.

I’ve decided that I’m going to try to go at least a few times a week and read to her. She used to love to read, and we used to exchange books. Since Corey will be gone throughout the day with his new schedule, I’m thinking that I can drop off Brett at school and then just go the few miles down Hampton Boulevard and stop in and read for a bit.

I don’t know if it will help, but it certainly can do no harm. I know that her decline is really getting to my own mother who is only one year younger, but my mom won’t say anything.  But I can tell you this, after seeing this vital woman being reduced to a shell of herself, I vow that there is no way that I will go through the same thing. I don’t want my family to see it, and I don’t want to be trapped inside my own mind.

Perhaps you may think this a cowardly decision, but I do not. Sometimes, it’s better not to overstay. But don’t listen to me. I’m a tumble of emotions at the moment, and I know it. I think that I’ll stop now.

More later. Peace.

(All pictures are from the super perigree moon on March 19. This perigree or supermoon is visible when the moon’s orbit position is at its closest point to Earth during a full moon phase. The perigree moon, which occurs approximately every 18 years, appears 14 percent bigger and 30 percent brighter. Unfortunately, it was not clear here, but people all over the world got some wonderful pictures.)

Music by Jonathan Czerwik,  “Tears and Laughter”

                   

Resurrection

Poetry slips into dreams
like a diver into a lake.
Poetry, braver than anyone,
slips in and sinks
like lead
through a lake infinite as Loch Ness
or tragic and turbid as Lake Balatón.
Consider it from below:
a diver
innocent
covered in feathers
of will.
Poetry slips into dreams
like a diver who’s dead
in the eyes of God.

~ Roberto Bolaño, from The Romantic Dogs, trans. Laura Healy