Wordy Wednesday

words

WORDY: using or containing many (usually too many) words

I embrace Wednesdays in my own way. In lieu of a photo, I offer you this random collection of other people’s words that impacted me this week as well as a handful of new words I added to my vocabulary.  I acknowledge that I am offering you less than the going exchange rate of 1,000 words per picture.  Forgive me.

Other People’s Words


I love when I’m reading fiction and come across a truth spoken with artful clarity. Here are a few great truths about motherhood capture in fiction:

From Diana Gabaldon in Dragonfly in Amber: Babies are soft. Anyone looking at them can see the tender, fragile skin and know it for the rose-leaf softness that invites a finger’s touch. But when you live with them and love them, you feel the softness going inward, the round-cheeked flesh wobbly as custard, the boneless splay of the tiny hands. Their joints are melted rubber, and even when you kiss them hard, in the passion of loving their existence, your lips sink down and seem never to find bone. Holding them against you, they melt and mold, as though they might at any moment flow back into your body.  But from the very start, there is that small streak of steel within each child. That thing that says “I am,” and forms the core of personality.

From Barbara Kingsolver in The Poisonwood Bible: A first child is your own best foot forward, and how you do cheer those little feet as they strike out. You examine every turn of flesh for precocity, and crow it to the world. But the last one: the baby who trails her scent like a flag of surrender through your life when there will be no more coming after–oh, that’s love by a different name.

From Jodi Picoult in Perfect Match: Sometimes when you pick up your child you can feel the map of your own bones beneath your hands, or smell the scent of your skin in the nape of his neck. This is the most extraordinary thing about motherhood – finding a piece of yourself separate and apart that all the same you could not live without.

 

Words I Had to Ask Webster About


  • Alacrity: a quick and cheerful readiness to do something
  • Meretricious: tawdrily and falsely attractive, superficially significant
  • Sangfroid: the ability to stay calm in difficult or dangerous situations

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Wordy Wednesday

words

WORDY: using or containing many (usually too many) words

I embrace Wednesdays in my own way. In lieu of a photo, I offer you this random collection of other people’s words that impacted me this week as well as a handful of new words I added to my vocabulary.  I acknowledge that I am offering you less than the going exchange rate of 1,000 words per picture.  Forgive me.

Other People’s Words


This week I finished reading Peter Heller’s book The Painter.  It seems fitting to celebrate the book with a quote about art:

The reason people are so moved by art and why artists tend to take it all so seriously is that if they are real and true they come to the painting with everything they know and feel and love, and all the things they don’t know, and some of the things they hope, and they are honest about them all and put them on the canvas. What can be more serious?  What more really can be at stake except life itself, which is why maybe artists are always equating the two and driving everybody crazy by insisting that art is life.  Well.  Cut us some slack.   It’s harder work than one might imagine, and riskier, and takes a very special and dear kind of mad person.

Then, I picked up Johanna Stein’s How not to calm a child on a plane and other lessons in parenting from a highly questionable source and enjoyed a laugh (or ten) per page.  It’s more funny than any small quote can do justice, but here’s a taste:

…even a brainless jellyfish knows you never ask a lady if she is “with child,” even if said child is bungee jumping on the end of an umbilical cord that’s dangling from said lady’s lady bits…

…Of course I recognize this anxiety for what it is – an absurd and totally irrational fear that has no basis in reality but is predicated on an insidious set of cultural beliefs, which contribute to the notion that there exists a “perfect” style of mothering, but which of course we can all see is “perfect” only in that it is “perfectly” unattainable. On the other hand, if I do die trying…I think I can safely say that that “Mother of the Year” Award is mine.

“29 things I’ve lost since becoming a parent… #21 – A handle on current events; if pop culture knowledge was an animal, mine would resemble a groundhog emerging every six weeks to randomly yell out a social trend (“Gangnam Style!” “Game of Thrones!” “Ryan Gosling!”) only to retreat back into its hole of social oblivion and stale macaroni for another six weeks.

Words I Had to Ask Webster About


  • Prurient: marked by or arousing an immoderate or unwholesome interest or desire
  • Putsch: a secretly plotted and suddenly executed attempt to overthrow a government

Wordy Wednesday

words

WORDY: using or containing many (usually too many) words

I see Wordless Wednesday blog posts and often think, “I should do that.” But then I remember that I’m terrible at taking pictures.  So, I embrace Wednesdays in my own way.  In lieu of a photo, I offer you other people’s words that impacted me this week as well as a handful of new words I added to my vocabulary.  I acknowledge that I am offering you less than the going exchange rate of 1,000 words per picture.  Forgive me.

Other People’s Words


This week I’ve been reading Peter Heller’s book The Painter. I’ve been giving myself permission to just read and enjoy it, rather than taking notes on passages I love. But, as a Seattle girl I couldn’t pass up sharing this evocative passage about rain:

…What I’d noticed was that here, in the windshadow of the mountain, it often smelled like rain. It might be raining up on the ridge, I might see the veils and rags of rain hanging down out of the scudding clouds, I might see shrouds of rain hauled over the country the way a fishing boat might drag a net, but – no rain here. A spatter, maybe, then nothing.  Willy told me when I first moved in that it was like living in a strip bar.  So close, looks so good and you never get laid.

Words I Had to Ask Webster About


  • Caterwauling: protesting or complaining noisily
  • Fugue: a disturbed state of consciousness in which the one affected seems to perform acts in full awareness but upon recovery cannot recollect the acts performed
  • Panopticon: a circular prison with cells arranged around a central well, from which prisoners could at all times be observed
  • Scudding: running before a gale

Wordy Wednesday

words

WORDY: using or containing many (usually too many) words

I see Wordless Wednesday blog posts and often think, “I should do that.”  But then I remember that I’m terrible at taking pictures.  So, I embrace Wednesdays in my own way.  In lieu of a photo, I offer you this random collection of other people’s words that impacted me this week as well as a handful of new words I added to my vocabulary.  I acknowledge that I am offering you less than the going exchange rate of 1,000 words per picture.  Forgive me.

Other People’s Words


This week, I was the fortunate recipient of my brother-in-law’s summer stash of The New Yorker.  I devoured months’ worth of great writing from the other coast.  Here were some highlights:

From John Green as quoted in a profile piece (The Teen Whisperer) by Margaret Talbot1:

“I love the intensity teen-agers bring not just to first love but also to the first time you’re grappling with grief, at least as a sovereign being – the first time you’re taking on why people suffer and whether there’s meaning in life, and whether meaning is constructed or derived.  Teen-agers feel that what you conclude about those questions is going to matter.  And they’re dead right.  It matters for adults, too, but we’ve almost taken too much power away from ourselves.  We don’t acknowledge on a daily basis how much it matters.”

From a piece about discovering forgotten books (Ghosts in the Stacks) by Christine Smallwood1:

…The number of Americans who read books has been declining for thirty years, and those who do read have become proud of, even a bit overidentified with, the enterprise…the merchandising of reading has a curiously undifferentiated flavor, as if what you read mattered less than that you read…

…Shelves and open stacks offer not only immediate access to books but strange juxtapositions.  Arbitrary classification breeds surprises – Nikolai Gogol next to William Golding, Clarice Lispector next to Penelope Lively.  The alphabet has no rationale, agenda, or preference…

From a critique of the 9/11 Memorial Museum (Stones and Bones) by Adam Gopnik2:

…The idea that we celebrate the renewal of our freedom by deploying uniformed guards to prevent children from playing in an outdoor park is not just bizarre in itself but participates in a culture of fear that the rest of the city, having tested, long ago discarded.

The site contains more contradictions, unresolved and perhaps unresolvable, than any other eight acres in Manhattan.  A celebration of liberty tightly policed; a cemetery that cowers in the shadow of commerce; and insistence that we are here to remember and an ambition to let us tell you what to recall; the boast that we have completely started over and the promise that we will never forget – visitors experience these things with a free-floating sense of unease…

…Happiness writes white, and pluralism builds poorly…

…And so the double bind we find ourselves in is even more double and more binding than we knew.  On the one hand, no agreed-on figural style can any longer represent a society so plural and so quick to take offense at “partial” representations; a sublime minimalist reticence seems the best we can do.  On the other hand, the pressures of lives require feeling, and so the minimal isn’t good enough; we bring American relics and personal scraps, the roadside fold-memorial style, to the temples of sublime simplicity.  The American memorial style is powerful as an engine of pathos but is obviously limited as a language of representation.  It feels, but it cannot show…

From a piece about justice in the age of viral videos (Instant Replay) by Margaret Talbot3:

More and more often, when someone behaves badly in public, someone else is there with a cell-phone camera to record it, and a video goes viral. Watching such videos turns us into witnesses after the fact, but it also turns us into ersatz judges and jurors. There’s a tendency to compare and rank the wrongdoing we see on our screens, and the comparisons make us more aware of the jaggedly uneven distribution of consequences and, at the same time, less able, from the discomfort of our living rooms, to do much about it…

…Videos that do show crimes in progress may be helpful in identifying perpetrators or in drawing attention to an injustice that might have been neglected.  But the proliferation of those videos can have a numbing effect.  There they are on YouTube, or on Twitter, scrambled together with celebrity gossip and cat antics, administering brief shocks, then slipping from the grasp of our compassion.  They seem at once urgent and very far away…

If you liked Talbot’s essay, you might also like my essay Consequences: Then and Now featured on Brain, Child Magazine’s blog last summer.

 1 From the June 9 & 16, 2014 issue of The New Yorker

2 From the July 7 & 14, 2014 issue of The New Yorker

3 From the August 11 & 18, 2014 issue of The New Yorker

Words I Had to Ask Webster About


    • Elegiac: expressing sorrow often for something now past
    • Ersatz: being a usually artificial and inferior substitute or imitation
    • Panoptic: presenting a comprehensive view
    • Reify: to regard (something abstract) as a material or concrete thing

Wordy Wednesday

words

WORDY: using or containing many (usually too many) words

I see Wordless Wednesday blog posts and often think, “I should do that.”  But then I remember that I’m terrible at taking pictures.  So, I embrace Wednesdays in my own way.  In lieu of a photo, I offer you this random collection of other people’s words that impacted me this week as well as a handful of new words I added to my vocabulary.  I acknowledge that I am offering you less than the going exchange rate of 1,000 words per picture.  Forgive me.

Other People’s Words


This week, I’ve been reading How the Light Gets In by Louise Penny.  I like her books but they don’t necessarily provide pithy quotes.  However, this passage made me laugh:

…In the front seat, both the Chief Inspector and Isabelle Lacoste cracked open their windows, preferring the bitter cold outside to what threatened to melt the upholstery inside.

“Does he do that often?” she gasped.

“It’s a sign of affection, I’m told, “ said the Chief, not meeting her eyes.  “A compliment.”  Gamache paused, turning his head to the window. “A great compliment.”

Isabelle Lacoste smiled.  She was used to similar “compliments” from her husband and now their young son.  She wondered why the Y chromosome was so smelly…

I’ve also been reading The Death and Life of Great American Cities by Jane Jacobs.  Here are a few passages that showcase Jacobs’ ability to punch the planning profession in the gut using only words:

…Although the numbers of arrogant old gatekeepers have dwindled with time, the gates themselves are another matter.  Anticity planning remains amazingly sturdy in American cities.  It is still embodied in thousands of regulations, bylaws, and codes…and in unexamined public attitudes hardened by time.  Thus, one may be sure that there have been enormous and dedicated efforts in the face of these obstacles wherever one sees stretches of old city buildings that have been usefully recycled for new and different purposes; wherever sidewalks have been widened and vehicular roadways narrowed precisely where they should be…wherever downtowns are not deserted after their offices close; wherever new, fine-grained mixtures of street uses have been fostered successfully; wherever new buildings have been sensitively inserted among old ones to knit up holes and tatters in a city neighborhood so that the mending is all but invisible.  Some foreign cities have become pretty good at these feats.  But to try to accomplish such sensible things in America is a daunting ordeal at best, and often enough heartbreaking…

…Cities are an immense laboratory of trial and error, failure and success, in city building and city design.  This is the laboratory in which city planning should have been learning and forming and testing its theories.  Instead the practitioners and teachers of this discipline (if such it can be called) have ignored the study of success and failure in real life, have been incurious about the reasons for unexpected success, and are guided instead by principles derived from the behavior and appearance of towns, suburbs, tuberculosis sanatoria, fairs, and imaginary dream cities – from anything but cities themselves. 

Words I Had to Ask Webster About


  • Cypher: a person who has no power or is not important
  • Perfidious: deceptive
  • Querulous: full of complaints; carping
  • Vituperative: harsh and abusive

Wordy Wednesday

words

WORDY: using or containing many (usually too many) words

I see Wordless Wednesday blog posts and often think, “I should do that.”  But then I remember that I’m terrible at taking pictures.  So, I embrace Wednesdays in my own way.  In lieu of a photo, I offer you this random collection of other people’s words that impacted me this week as well as a handful of new words I added to my vocabulary.  I acknowledge that I am offering you less than the going exchange rate of 1,000 words per picture.  Forgive me. 

Other People’s Words


I read Jenny Offill’s Dept. Of Speculation this week.  Here are a few passages that made me laugh or ponder: 

…The Buddhists shy there are 121 states of consciousness.  Of these, only three involve misery or suffering. Most of us spend our time moving back and forth between these three.

…People keep telling me to do yoga. I tried it once at the place down the street.  The only part I liked was the part at the end when the teacher covered you with a blanket and you got to pretend you were dead for ten minutes. 

…There is still such crookedness in my heart.  I had thought loving two people so much would straighten it.

…Hard to believe I used to think love was such a fragile business.  Once when he was still young, I saw a bit of his scalp showing through his hair and I was afraid.  But it was just a cowlick.  Now sometimes it shows through for real, but I feel only tenderness.

…It is important if someone asks you to remember one of your happiest times to consider not only the question but also the questioner.  If the question is asked by someone you love, it is fair to assume that this person hopes to feature in this recollection he has called forth.  But you could, if you were wrong and if you had a crooked heart, forget this most obvious and endearing thing and instead speak of a time you were all alone, in the country, with no one wanting a thing from you, not even love.  You could say that was your happiest tie.  And if you did this then telling about this happiest of times would cause the person you most want to be happy to be unhappy.

…How has she become one of those people who wears yoga pants all day? She used to make fun of those people…But now it seems possible that the truth about getting older is that there are fewer and fewer things to make fun of until finally there is nothing you are sure you will never be.

 Words I Had to Ask Webster About 


 

  • Estivate: to spend the summer, as at a specific place or in a certain activity
  • Geminate: to couple or arrange in pairs
  • Nepenthe: something that induces a pleasurable sensation of forgetfulness
  • Squamulous: covered with tiny scales
  • Voluptuary: characterized by preoccupation with luxury and sensual pleasure

Wordy Wednesday

words

WORDY: using or containing many (usually too many) words

I see Wordless Wednesday blog posts and often think, “I should do that.”  But, then, I remember that I’m terrible at taking pictures.  If not for the CDs of images that appear from my in-laws a few times of year, there would be little visual documentation that I have two children.

I’ve decided to embrace Wednesday in my own way.  In lieu of a photo, I offer you this random collection of other people’s words that impacted me this week as well as a handful of new words I added to my vocabulary.  I acknowledge that I am offering you less than the going exchange rate of 1,000 words per picture.  Forgive me.

Other People’s Words


I’ve been reading The Woman Upstairs by Claire Messud.  Early in the book, she writes this passage about the perspective you absorb from the place you live:

“It makes sense that if you stand almost daily in the middle of a perfect crescent of shore, with a vista open to eternity, you’ll conceive of possibility differently from someone raised in a wooded valley or among the canyons of a big city.”

A few days after reading that passage, I was listening to The Writer’s Almanac when Garrison Keeler shared this quote from the poet Heather McHugh about the impact of surroundings on our sense of self:

“I have always lived on waterfronts. If you live on the edge of an enormous mountain or an enormous body of water, it’s harder to think of yourself as being so important. That seems useful to me, spiritually.”

A few more great passages and strings of words from Messud:

“…the person I am in my head is so far from the person I am in the world.  Nobody would know me from my own description of myself; which is why, when called upon (rarely, I grant) to provide an account, I tailor it, I adapt, I try to provide an outline that can, in some way, correlate the outline that people understand me to have…”

“…do you know this idea of the imaginary homeland? Once you set out from shore on your little boat, once you embark, you’ll never truly be at home again.  What you’ve left behind exists only in your memory, and your ideal place becomes some strange imaginary concoction of all you’ve left behind at every stop.”

“Doubt, that fatal butterly, hovered always in my breast.”

In preparation for a presentation I’m giving in the fall, I’ve been re-reading some classic environmental texts, including Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring.  What was astounding to me, page after page, was how valid and timely her observations remain after fifty years:

“The rapidity of change and the speed with which new situations are created follow the impetuous and heedless pace of man rather than the deliberate pace of nature.”

“This is an era of specialists, each of whom sees his own problem and is unaware of or intolerant of the larger frame into which it fits.  It is also an era dominated by industry, in which the right to make a dollar at whatever cost is seldom challenged.  When the public protests, confronted with some obvious evidence of damaging results of pesticide applications, it is fed little tranquilizing pills of half truth.  We urgently need an end to these false assurances, to the sugar coating of unpalatable facts. It is the public that is being asked to assume the risks…The public must decide whether it wishes to continue on the present road, and it can do so only when it full possession of the facts.  In the words of Jean Rostand, ‘The obligation to endure gives us the right to know.’”

Words I Wanted to Make My Own (but wasn’t sure what they meant)


  • Bonhomous: good-natured easy friendliness
  • Deliquescent: tending to melt or dissolve
  • Diaspora: a group of people who live outside the area in which they had lived for a long time or in which their ancestors lived
  • Frisson: a sudden strong feeling or emotion
  • Glaucous: of a pale yellow-green color; of a light bluish-gray or bluish-white color; having a powdery or waxy coating that gives a frosted appearance and tends to rub off
  • Rive: to split with force or violence