The latest edition to my series of little-known and under-appreciated words was inspired by this picture of my nephew, Christian.
He was supposed to point his aunt’s digital camera toward his uncle and a colleague.
But somehow, it was far more fun to watch the lens clicking, opening and shutting.
So Christian is the center of attention here.
As I rummaged around in my Oxford English Dictionary this morning for a word to match his priceless expression, I started with the word “gog” as in: He was all agog when he spotted the naked women’s volleyball team.
I always wondered what a “gog” was. (Answer: The object set up as a mark when playing quoits, a game that on this side of the Atlantic Pond we would equate with ring toss at a carnival. So I guess you could say that those cheesy stuffed animals you win are gogs. Who knew? It’s also thought to be used as a corruption of the word god when uttered in the expression: Oh my god.)
When gog didn’t make the cut, I rummaged around in the area of the word astonish and found our selection for today: ASTONIED.
So, when you are astonied, you are stunned, stupefied, deprived for the moment with the power of action.
Some days, you just have to stop and appreciate the heart-squeezing beauty around us. I visited the garden of a friend up the hill the other day. Years ago, she rescued part of an iris collection from a widow who could no longer care for her spouse’s gardens after he died.
Here are some of the results. Just enjoy.
For me, this is the best part, being edited.
I met with my editor yesterday over coffee at a café. She’s a good friend, and we never seem to have enough time to spend together.
She loved my book. There’s stuff that needs fixin’ but that’s OK. Now I know what to fix.
My manuscript is full of Post-Its, marked with green pencil, and I’m happy.
Here’s what good editing means for me. My book has been vetted by the one person in this world who will read it as closely as I will BUT with a fresh eye. She’s a discerning reader, someone who cares deeply about good prose, and my book will be far, far better because of her work.
This is why I have never understood the fear of being edited that afflicts new writers. A good editor is someone to be coveted, someone to be listened to.
If you’re good enough, you can fix the commas, the paragraphs, the way the book starts or ends. What you can’t fix is a book that bombs, that just doesn’t have a cohesive plot or interesting characters. Mending that sort of situation calls for recycling.
But she loved it. And now I have the opportunity to push my novel up the quality ladder so that it’s something I’m proud of, and that readers will enjoy.
And that’s the whole point.
I don’t know about you but I love to watch the special features that sometimes accompany a movie or television show on a DVD.
I always want to know how creative things are made. In fact, when I wrote feature articles about performance events for my local daily newspaper, I enjoyed dress rehearsals more than I did finished performances.
In rehearsal, the creativity flows, and you can see the collaborations, the fostering of ideas, and the culling that’s part and parcel of a polished play or dance or movie.
But special features are also frustrating because they seldom include writers, and I want to know what sparked this idea or why that character turned out this way or that.
For example, the town of Carding, Vermont in my novels (The Road Unsalted will be published this summer and Thieves of Fire is nearly complete) is a blend of many of my favorite places. Places such as the campground in Oak Bluffs on Martha’s Vineyard that include cottages such as the one pictured here.
This utterly charming place was founded as a religious revival spot by Methodists back in the 19th century. At first, folks lived in tents divided by gender during the summer. Then some families brought their own tents. Then some enterprising folks built small cottages.
Over the years, most of these cottages have been sold to secular folks, and they’ve been painted in these wonderful colors to emphasize their decorative details.
As you can imagine, I’ve been in love with this place ever since I visited it for the first time.
So Carding has a campground filled with small cottages, perhaps not as elaborately painted as those on Oak Bluffs.
But they are charming. And I get to visit Carding whenever I want.
If my name was Mordecai,
And my tongue was taught to say “Aye, aye,”
I would be able to certify
That the word for today is “aurify.”
It’s a word just perfect for ole King Midas
Who become mortified
When all he touched was aurified,
Turned into gold, no less.
We have a friend who’s an organic farmer who lives on the same river we do, just upstream. Both of our homesteads were hit by Irene, and we’ve kinda, sorta kept track of each other’s progress, checking in when we meet at the farmers market where he plies his wares.
In our first such conversation last spring, Geo joked that Irene had added spice to our lives. I shook my head because at that point, I was at the bottom of the paperwork hill we needed to climb in order to complete our recovery.
But his remark stuck with me because Irene’s disruption somehow pushed my own creativity into a higher gear. I’m writing more, quilting more. The Parkinson’s Comfort Project has moved up a notch, a revival in the wake of the hurricane.
I’ve signed up to take a drawing class with Jane La Fazio on the recommendation of a friend, and I’ve worked out a way to expand my project management business for independent publishers, and it’s underway. My gardens are expanding into the final plan I made for them so many years ago.
There are days when I feel as though I’m bursting with ideas.
Now I would never ask to live through such an event again, ever, nada, no way.
But now that we are close to two years away from all that, and I look at the changes we have wrought, I realize Geo’s observation was right on. A little spice now and then is a good thing.
Alexandra Petri at the Washington Post wrote a recent column about the last day of the National Spelling Bee.
She used the bee to illustrate one of my pettest of pet peeves—spell check. Every time she added one of the obscure words from that day’s contest to her ongoing column, she got one of those incredibly annoying zigzag lines under it. “No such word,” Microsoft announced, as if they had the right to rule on the English language.
Petri’s point was that we are losing part of our language because of the truncated view of too many unimaginative people working for the software companies that think adding “spell check” is a good idea.
So in that spirit, I have declared Tuesdays word days, shining a beacon on a word that should be part of our language but somehow isn’t. Besides, this gives me the perfect excuse to rummage about in my Oxford English Dictionary.
Today’s word is so appropriate: LETTRURE.
To whit, “a writing, a written book, a story” or if you prefer, the second definition is “knowledge of letters or books, learning.”
Isn’t that a pleasing word?
Back in early February, a friend who lives up the hill from us stopped by the house. As soon as she got out of her car, I knew something was terribly wrong.
That’s how we learned that we’d lost a very dear friend, Ben Moore.
His death was sudden, a heart attack. As it happened, he’d spent a great deal of time during the previous year losing weight, getting in better shape.
He was a talented graphic designer, which is how I first met him so many years ago, but he had suffered through the end of a job when the ownership of his company changed, and the new boss didn’t value Ben’s considerable talents. In the last conversation we had, I learned how much he’d recovered from that setback, and he was truly joyous.
Ben was one of those kindling spirits. He kindled friendships, long lasting, deep friendships. He drew his whole neighborhood together into a tight community. We all remember his smiles, his stories, his many acts of kindness.
Yesterday, friends of Ben gathered to celebrate his life. Jay picked a bouquet of dames rockets and ferns. I arranged them. We all brought food. There were stories and laughter and pictures and incredible music played by the new boss in his life, jazz musician Marcus Roberts.
And we didn’t lay him to rest. Oh no, that would be inappropriate. We celebrated and absorbed him.
He loved it, every moment.
I’ve been back and forth with my editor—she’s also a good friend—just to check in on how she feels about my book. It’s funny, as long as I have done this, waiting to hear from your editor about whether the sweat equity lying on the page in front of her is worth the read or not is nerve wracking.
Like me, she’s a gardener. In fact, she and her partner grow a lot of their food so earth time is precious time, and gardening has been a bit tough around here lately. (Think cold—snow predicted tonight in the mountains of Vermont—and windy and overcast.)
Bearing that in mind, it’s no surprise that she’s taking a while.
But still—just a little word or two? I know I can fix trouble spots to smooth out wrinkles, etc. But is it worth the read? That’s the tougher question.
I got my wish today. As I suspected, she’s been trying to keep up with outside chores plus her usual busy life. But she’s ignoring the fact that she’s tired because she “wants to know what happens to those people”
A good sign, eh?