How is it that line & shape & weight make a letter and letters make words and words become sentences expressing ideas that pierce our souls and expand our minds???
"Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never harm me"
But words do hurt and wound and scar.
But words can also heal...
I learned to read early on in my childhood and I fell in love with words. I consumed dictionaries, encyclopedias, books, magazines... anything in print form.
To this day I love discovering new words.
Recently a friend who is a priest used a word I had not heard before.
- : having the intent or power to save or redeem
I went around the rest of the day repeating it aloud, to feel how it felt in my mouth, how my tongue and teeth moved to form the syllables.
The odd thing is that I had had an earlier conversation with another friend who is a chaplain about fun words as he had used "indubitably" and thus began a conversation about words with us listing a few favorites such as "facetious" and "flapdoodle".
It's not just the sound of words or the "mouthfeel" but also the image they form on the page: poetry with its meandering paths; prose in beautiful fonts; ideas & dreams creating word pictures in my mind.
I will often re-read books just to experience the language. There are authors who bring me to tears with their words. Pat Conroy for one, he writes with a savage brutal beauty that makes me weep for characters that become so real to me through the written word.
And the sound of poetry, Alliteration: consonance & assonance creating at times a dissonance of ideas. See? Isn't this fun?
But poetry! I fell in love with Emily Dickinson in 7th grade when we could read for extra credit. My teacher, Mr. Hunley, loved to have us read poetry and used current song lyrics to draw us in.
He taught us to read both silently and aloud, to hear the words and to seek the meaning in them.
Now I love to read Mary Oliver's poems; also Robert Penn Warren, William E. Stafford, Robert Frost. As a child I memorized poetry for fun. I, however, have forgotten so many words...
I still read aloud, not just poetry but my clinical notes because for me, hearing the words is just as crucial as seeing them.
There is an episode of "The Twilight Zone" in which a man (Burgess Merideth is the actor) escapes an apocalypse because he has hidden away in a bank vault to read on his lunch hour. He emerges to a world as the single survivor and realizes he can spend the rest of his life reading, at which point he accidentally drops and shatters his glasses...
I wept the first time I saw this episode as a child. I was DEVASTATED for him. I learned from that short TV show about horror, irony, compassion. For days I ruminated on it, thinking perhaps he could find another pair of glasses in a store, wanting to know more of the story, wanting a happy ending. To this day I am haunted by that episode!
I cannot bring myself to toss books or magazines into the trashcan. For years I kept books that I didn't even like that much just because I couldn't bear the thought of them being destroyed. Finally I culled the herd and donated them to the library in hopes they would bring pleasure to someone else.
I love when there is a bad weather day and I have to stay home. No TV for me, I gather a stack of books and curl up and read for the entire time. For me that is the most decadent and luxurious way to spend a snowy day.
I am grateful for all the poets and writers, scribes and printers, all those lover of words who have touched my life. And for Johnnie who started this post by using the word "salvific".