Saturday, October 3, 2009

The Right Words

The scarlet stems of an unnamed weed trail across the brittle grey-brown of dry land.
In the shade of the cottonwoods a spray of golden leaves contrasts with the bark of a winter felled branch.

Sunshine and shadows, leaves yellow and gold-mottled green, tawny cattails and ripened grasses reflected in the pond.

The cottonwoods by the irrigation ditch all lean to the west yet the prevailing winds usually sweep from the mountains, to swirl across the foothills west to east. A mystery why the trees don't favor the opposite direction.

The early morning hours of 30th September brought crisp temperatures and snow to the foothills. Snow frosted the fallen leaves and lay for a few hours in cold sparkling patches in front of the house.

I have always loved words. In speaking or writing I search for the word or phrase which will perfectly convey my impressions of colors, shapes, scents, feelings. My ears delight in the vernacular of peoples and places, the expressions common to a given locale. Without trying to be pretentious I don't hesitate to use a slightly "different" word, one that occasionally has a friend saying in mock exasperation, "Now just what does that mean?"
A man I know who has a way with words and tells a story well, once reminisced to me of a time of country living when his children were small. In speaking of the goats he kept briefly, he mentioned that their goatly ways proved too "capricious" for his patience. Hearing him, the zodiac symbol of the goat, Capricorn, came immediately to mind, and I could see the wickedly gleeful goats ravaging his garden, chomping the windfall apples, poking curious heads through the gaps in a fence, their slanted yellow eyes seeking an opportunity for mischief, the entire scene made vivid by his use of that one word.
Words should paint a picture for our readers or our listeners, creating a shared experience, a sense of delighted recogntion, capturing our attention, reminding us of moments half forgotten.
J. was away one night last week and I seized the opportunity to work very late on a family history project. Another researcher had shared an unlikely source of information regarding our mutual family line. Although she posted the quote I wanted to see it in context and went nearly cross-eyed scrolling the pages of an online fascimile history: A DeKalb County, Illinois Biography published circa 1880. Familiar New England surnames chimed in my ears as I read of folk who left towns familiar to me to settle and become prominent citizens in Illinois. In nearly every case, several generations of the family was cited, along with church affiliation, business accomplisments, marriages, domestic joys and sorrows.
The daughters of one such family had been well educated, one becoming a local school teacher, another praised for the poems and stories published in ladies' magazines and in the weekly newspaper. Of this woman it was recorded for posterity: "She is a fluent writer, specially strong in expressive adjectives."
I doubt I will ever happen upon any of her abundantly produced prose and poetry--but I think I would have recognized in her a kindred spirit---a person who enjoyed finding the right words.


  1. Hullo MM,
    The photo of the west leaning trees is beautiful, just fantastic. It conveys a sense of control, power and endurance somehow.

    I enjoy your postings and often find them evocative and thought provoking and here, I love the connectivity here between language now and language skill of forebears.

    I find that common threads often link generations in significant but often unknown, and perhaps unimportant ways, common behaviours, traits and interests that to me show that life is a truly magical thing.

    I wonder sometimes how much of 'me' is unique to me and how much inherited. I have my fathers laugh, his eternally warm hands as well as the wide pads of his fingerprints and as I grow older feel so much that is imprinted in me from the family psychologically rather than physically.

    It would be fascinating to be able to sit and talk with an earlier completely unknown generation and find connections common to both. I'm sure they would be there.......

    nice post.

    kind regards.....Al.

  2. A red weed beautiful.
    I also LOVE photos with reflections, so mused for a while on yours, in close up mode.
    Love your recount of the man with goats too.You also have a way with words.
    Lastly ... what fun ...and tired eyes ... you must have had with your FH. I love reading snipits of history and to come across familiar names ....adds even more to it.

  3. Like you MM, I love the written word, the shape, the sound, the picture a word can evoke. i love Dylan Thomases' poetry - much of it I don't understand, but I feel his desperate need to put the words down before they are lost.

    Words add such a richness to our lives, a fulfillment of emotion and wonder. Sometimes they come to me, unbidden, a certain juxtapositioning which pleases me. Sometimes they hide in the recesses of my mind, and then I take my pleasure from other peoples' writing. No wonder I have such a weakness for books . . .