Twenty four hours of rain and a nighttime of snow. Winter in the Arizona high desert. All is still dark and very still outside. I awoke thinking.
“No, please. No writing in my sleep yet – this time. It’s not the time. I am not done cleaning my writing castle.”
In this 100-year old house the dirt accumulates like someone swept it all in here off of somebody else’s porch steps. Right into my space, every tiny corner of my space. When the wind blows during dry seasons – which includes all but a few weeks per year – there is little to stop the dirt from sweeping in. Under my bathroom sink I find it, under the kitchen sink, too. In all of my closets, in every groove of every lamp, falling within the pages of my books on my shelf. Burying into the rim of every unopened can in my larder. Dirt.
Now that the snow is holding the earth down, sitting as it is this dark 4 a.m. morning, I can get more than a handle on this creeping earth inside of my house. (Inside of my brain?) Nobody knows but the survivors of the dust bowl days what THAT dirt was like as it ate up your soul and left only a body that tried to survive in Texas eating tumbleweeds.
Nobody lives here but me (and a small dog, two cats that live outside and eight hens which obviously live out there, also). When I feel lonely, which I can often do if I let THAT dirt creep in and accumulate in the spaces surrounding my heart, I think about this situation being rather a luxury. Alone. A writer with her thoughts.
My friend Sandy has sent me a book by Alfred Lansing, Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage. It could have been titled, How to Survive on a Few Penguin Feet and Like It.”
I have been fasting for many, many years. I only read developmental neuroscience. I have reasons for this fast, and I won’t know until I know when I will be free again to read any old (or new) thing that I like. Right now, because I know I have a trauma-formed body-brain from severe abuse that began at my birth, I will not feed my brain other people’s words any more than I can help it.
My brain is extremely efficient. It has no ownership (as I have complained on this blog in recent times) of words. Any handy combination of words is good enough for me. My brain doesn’t give a “tinker’s damn” (or is that “dam?”) where any words come from, so if something is needed I will be as likely to snatch something stored in my verbal memory and use it that belongs to someone else (so they say) as reinvent the literary wheel.
But this book. Wise, Sandy is. What am I finding in these pages?
“Oh, yes Sandy. I remember. I know what that word means.”
Or at least I am beginning to remember.
An ultimate sort of tale. How to be continually miserable as you live through it.
Cleaning my thinking castle. I want to chase words like those 28 men during the years of WWI chased land. Or tried to as they floated around on rotting ice floes that tried to eat them alive, but not quite, ’cause the men were quicker.
I want to romp around with words like one of those sled dog puppies would rather have tossed around a half dead rabbit than be shot and eaten by the very men they worked so hard to help stay alive.
But life is life.
And too many words spoils the appetite for more.
I could tell you that in the dark of morning, using what shadowed light my own few lamps provide me, damp rag in hand, pulling every stocked up useless thing from the crannies of my computer desk – whose arrival in my life itself belongs to a story with too many words in it – I just removed my wonderful now-loved copy of Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, 11th Edition off of its shelf where it’s been sitting since the last good desert rain accumulating dust and dirt.
Taking the book I spank its pages together hard. The dust flies out. The words stick, because hard copy dictionaries are made that way.
Years ago when one of my beloved daughters won a spelling bee she was gifted with one of these dictionaries and she gave it to me. One of my regrets for my misbehavior in life. Years ago a bit later I was living with a woman whose esteem I evidently sold a part of my soul to obtain. She criticized me as so many had done before since I was 18 for using TOO BIG WORDS. Who did I think I was? A snob?
We were standing in front of her raging fireplace. I reached for the poor defenseless dictionary and in an act of “Love me!” I threw my precious book into the flames so it could turn into ashes, words and all.
I half-way later replaced that book with this one, but no inscription lives inside its cover to my dear daughter. Yes. A shame on me, a shame I was so removed from being perfectly OK with who I am: A thinker and a writer. (Among many other things).
Now? I use the online versions for word searches.
2: the ability to withstand hardship or adversity; especially : the ability to sustain a prolonged stressful effort or activity <a marathon runner’s endurance>
3: the act or an instance of enduring or suffering <endurance of many hardships>
I have to go to ENDURE to find this word’s origins as it came into Modern English
1: to undergo (as a hardship) especially without giving in : suffer <endured great pain>
2: to regard with acceptance or tolerance <could not endure noisy children>
1: to continue in the same state : last <the style endured for centuries>
2: to remain firm under suffering or misfortune without yielding <though it is difficult, we must endure>
ORIGIN OF ENDURE
Middle English, from Anglo-French endurer, from Vulgar Latin *indurare, from Latin, to harden, from in- + durare to harden, endure — more at during
What about this word? How do these two states of being connect and relate, coexist with one another?
1: to remain alive or in existence : live on
2: to continue to function or prosper
1: to remain alive after the death of <he is survived by his wife>
2: to continue to exist or live after <survived the earthquake>
3: to continue to function or prosper despite : withstand <they survived many hardships>
ORIGIN OF SURVIVE
Middle English, to outlive, from Anglo-French survivre, from Latin supervivere, from super- + vivere to live — more at quick
Surviving 18 years of childhood from birth under the constant watch of Mother’s evil eye and the nearly continual interruptions of my experience of being myself in my life by her horrendous psychotic abuse. Yes, this counts as OUTLIVING what Mother did to me. It counts as SUPER-LIVING.
And endure? This word intimates a deeper state of inner permanence that allowed me to come out of “all that” intact.
But the truth is I don’t really understand the difference between these two words. Are they redundant? Does language clean up its own house over time to remove extraneous words that really aren’t necessary because some other word says exactly the same thing – and why keep two when one will do?
I don’t know. Only solution? Get back to cleaning the outside out of the inside of my house as I do the same for my thinking mind – because some part of me KNOWS the difference. The other parts of me don’t yet know what I know.
This is, I suspect, exactly why Sandy sent me this book to read.
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