The One Book I Carry

As I was unpacking things in my new place, I came across a book I created during a writing course in the winter of 2009. Since this blog is turning into a journey about writing, it seems appropriate to add some of it here…

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February 3, 2009

LAVISH see PROFUSE
LAZY, indolent, slothful
PERFECT, whole, entire, intact

Not surprisingly, the one book I carry with me throughout my life is the thesaurus. Well, the actual book I’m thinking of is a dictionary of synonyms, which is slightly different than Roget’s thesaurus in that it also has the bonus of mini definitions for word usage, though everyone understands the broad category of “thesaurus” – synonym for “synonym”, perhaps.

Like fridge magnets I am drawn to words as the definer of self. My love of nuance between word choices a parallel of my love of fine detail. My love of metaphor, a lifelong effort to cleave meaning from the giant stone in my belly; the weight I have been lugging around with me. To chip away, form my sorrow into finely carved sculpture. To create beauty and art from pain.

I am quite comfortable on the page rolling words around the tip of the pen – and find joy in the physical act of writing and clarity in the written word. But curiously enough, it is not so to form those same consonants and vowels in air. I am always living on the tip of my tongue, like a girl peering over the edge of the diving board, afraid, nay terrified of leaping into the pool. Tongue-tied. Curious for a woman whose career places her on stage in front of audiences across the country, singing from the depths of that same water. But to speak rather than sing has the adrenaline squirting through my body in overdrive.

There is, I suppose, in the choice to bring the thesaurus with me in my travel through the years both an honouring of the beauty of the words, but also I wonder, should I get the larger, heavier full edition so that I can whap it against my skull like those monks in procession on Monty Python [based on a real sect, the ‘flagellators’ I think?] To acknowledge my deep seat inferiority complex. In an attempt to catch the smarty bus, I fortify myself with words, words, ever full of words – like a mitt full of tokens thrown down as fare as if this will put my bus into warp overdrive, and I will catch up with the years I’ve lost to the ravages of grief. The healing of my childhood, making up the lost time looking for the lost child.

But how reactionary to the idea that I would love words, could savour the subtleties of meaning, delight in the twenty shades of snow, the fifty types of rain. How many types of sadness have I experienced? How many shades of joy? This thesaurus honours my work at turning what was once a black and white world as a young woman standing on the doorstop of crisis to discover that the world is actually colourful, variegated, that there is more than the dichotomy of perfect and rotten. Rather there is a whole range of ambiguity, ambivalence, pondering, spontaneity and choice.

And now, speaking of choice, I’m thinking, hey, I could add to this book. I’m already teeming with the delightful realization that my story can be described with attention to detail rather than broad and clumsy strokes of “uh yah, her… she was born, she lives, she will die.” That my life gaily skips along the path stopping to admire minute details, spring foliage, moss on limestone, spackled light on an ash tree. And so, delight with words and my aspirations can even be greater. That I want to make *my* book the sort of book that is printed on onion skin paper, like those tomes set on special tables in the middle of libraries. Paper – soft, tactile invites both intellectual discovery of the text on page and also the discovery that the sensual world, the delicate crinkly sound as you flip the pages, is equally relevant to the discovery of meaning, the purpose of this life here on earth.

And I am inspired to tape maps of the Netherlands and places where I’d like to travel into its pages. Add collages I have made, and a recipe for shortbread. Add ink drawings, doodles in the margin, lyrics of songs I have written or songs I love that other people have written. Photos of work by people who inspire me, the copy of the string arrangement score that I recently wrote. Found poems and typed copies of these little essays I am writing for this course. A photocopy of a photo of my face pressed up into the screen on a window looking out into a winter garden at my old farm. I haven’t taken that photo yet, but I will have to.

I am trying to decide if this writing is helping to address this lingering crankiness I am feeling in the past few weeks. If I only could thumb through the thesaurus to find exactly the words that would have kept you interested in connecting with me.

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Filed under On Writing, Short Essays, Writing

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