It’s not as impressive as Jesus appearing in a piece of toast, but it did make my day.
Happy 4th of July.
In an age where convenience can strip away creativity, I’d like to make a plea for thoughtful presents. You see, I’m faced with buying a 12-year-old boy a gift, and I’ve been guilty recently of taking the easy way out. The gift card. A present is reduced to a strict exchange of dollars. It feels hollow, in a way, but it does get the job done. Safeway has a kiosk right by the check-out stand that is 6 feet of colorful gift cards from every retail business around. Certainly every giftee – man, woman, child from infantcy to seniorhood – could use something from one of those stores.
I’m here to tell you about a certain salad bowl that I received as a gift. A woodworker named Lloyd General lovingly turned (literally, he hand turned it on a lathe) a massive chunk of California walnut into a work of functional art. I just ate a salad out of that gorgeous striated brown bowl. I have eaten or served items out of that bowl for close to 20 years. And when I do, a tiny piece of my heart goes out to the woman who thought enough of the importance of gift buying to get it for me: my mother-in-law Lou Ann. It is, simply put, a five-star gift that my son will inherit when my salad eating days are done.
Now, I’ve given some wacky presents in my day. A worm composter to my sister-in-law was an abject failure. (I mean, who hates worms?) But to a girlfriend mourning the loss of her husband, I gave a pair of soft-as-a-kitten cashmere socks. I told her that if everything else was going sideways, at least her feet would feel loved. And she could think of me, in those dark, cold days of winter, when she pulled them on and felt the warmth from my heart.
People say things all the time. Others write a whole hell of a lot of words. Pablo Neruda, the poet, loves words as much as I do. Probably more, I’d reckon. From his Memoir, the last sentence has stayed with me since the moment I read it close to 20 years ago.
Savor this morsel:
“You can say anything you want, yessir, but it’s the words that sing, they soar and descend … I bow to them … I love them, I cling to them, I fun them down, I bite into them, I melt them down … I love words so much … The unexpected ones … The ones I wait for greedily or stalk until, suddenly, they drop … Vowels I love … They glitter like colored stones, they leap like silver fish, they are foam, thread, metal, dew … I run after certain words … They are so beautiful that I want to fit them all into my poem. … I catch them in mid-flight, as they buzz past, I trap them, clean them, peel them, I set myself in front of the dish, they have a crystalline texture to me, vibrant, ivory, vegetable, oily, like fruit, like algae, like agates, like olives… And then I stir them, I shake them, I drink them, I gulp them down, I mash them, I garnish them, I let them go … I leave them in my poem like stalactites, like slivers of polished wood, like coals, pickings from a shipwreck, gifts from the waves … Everything exists in the word … An idea goes through a compete change because one word shifted its place, or because another settled down like a spoiled little thing inside a phrase that was not expected her but obeys her.”
Ogle. Now there’s a great word. With everyone now knowing how to pronounce Google, you might think that ogle is pronounced as if you simply chopped off the first bit of Google. But, alas, it is not. It sounds like “hog”. Ogle is a strange looking word, as if it should be about something ugly or weird. It does have a kind of Jekyl and Mr. Hyde nature, in that you can ogle someone in a nice way (flirtatiously) or in a super creepy stalker way (think that dead eye stare that fighters give one another when they are sizing each other up before the match.) Either way, I love it.
My other word I love that I used a lot this weekend is goggle. It sounds just like what it is. Funny looking and mildly Germanic (in both the tone and how the item is highly functional).
Which brings me to agog, the love child of oogle and goggle. To be agog means you are in a “state of eager desire.” Oooh, yummy. Sort of half off your rocker with excitement being curious about something. It’s a good one, folks.
Be agog today.
I have said this for a long time. I love words. There are so many to choose from, or, conversely, from which to choose. So, indeed, there are many ways to arrange all these scrumptious words into a pattern that is different almost every time.
Some words are so very groovy to me because of how they sound. Some poke out of your mouth, like they are rip raring to go and can’t wait another moment. “Fart” is one such word. It almost gets stuck in there, and needs to be shoved out. (Love how that particular word sounds like it means.) It is also almost always likely to get a laugh from a child under the age of 10.
Other words take their own sweet time. They are Rubenesque. Delightful. In keeping with the aforementioned 12-year-old boy theme, the word “poo” is so soft and floaty. Don’t say it like you’re pissed or you are trying to scare someone. Say it as if you only have a teaspoon worth of air in your mouth, and the last thing in the world you’d like to do is use it.
I wish people would use more words. The real popular ones get so tired, poor things. So maybe try to bust out some new, fresh words this week.
To wit: roll “tenuous” around your mouth a few times. It means very weak, very slender or fine; insubstantial. It’s a great word.