Ephemeral

Ephemeral

I love the word, ephemeral.  It’s a wisp of a word that flies out of my mouth on fairy wings and disappears the moment it is said.  I love the fleetingness of it, the here-one-moment-gone-the-next thrill of saying it aloud.

That I was able to capture this sunset was also a thrill.  I hadn’t planned on it.  My husband and I were simply driving to meet some friends, and there it was, the trees along the way stretching their arms up in halleluja, singing the sun’s praises.  Will you look at that, they seemed to say.  Isn’t it glorious?  It was, indeed.  Seconds after I got this shot, the gold blister of sun was replaced by a thin stitch of orange along the horizon line.  The yellow glow was gone.

And so were we.

Inspired by the Weekly Photo Challenge which can be found here.

Verboten (in a manner of speaking)

It started because we all wanted a seat on the couch.

As is often the case in large families, there weren’t always enough places to sit.  The living room in our house had enough space for two large arm chairs and a couch.  My parents got the arm chairs, we kids had to fight for a piece of the sofa.  We could squeeze four of us without touching — a key element to relatively peaceful TV watching.  That left three kids on the floor.

Like all good families we had rules.  Number one rule on TV night:  if you were lucky enough to get a seat on the sofa (first come, first served), you were good.  But, if you got up for anything you HAD to say, “I get this seat when I get back.”  And say it loud enough to be clearly heard.  Otherwise, you lost that prime spot to the quickest kid on the floor.

We were a scrappy, contentious lot, but we were honorable.  As long as you played by the rule, your place would be waiting after you went to the bathroom or got your drink.  If you forgot to say the phrase, though, all bets were off.

Surprisingly, there were plenty of times that one of us would forget, and we would try to wheedle our way back into that still-warm spot, hoping that everyone else had missed the fact that we hadn’t said anything.  But there was always someone who knew you hadn’t and an argument would ensue.

One night my father put his foot down.  He forbade us to say “I get this seat when I get back”.  Never again, he said.  My father always meant what he said.

This was a problem.  We would no longer have a modicum of control over where we sat and for how long.  Without our rule there would be constant seat stealing and chaos.  What were we to do?

. . . . and yet a true creator is necessity, which is the mother of our invention Plato wrote in The Republic.  Plato was a pretty smart guy.

In our case, necessity led to the invention of mongwa.  My brother Jaime its creator.

We slipped that word into the matrix of our family life so smoothly my father didn’t notice at first.  One word is so much shorter, ergo, less noticeable than eight.  By the time he did notice, I think he actually thought it was pretty clever, so the word stayed.  It moved beyond the living room and into the kitchen, the dining room, the porch steps — any situation where there were more people than places to sit.

Decades have rolled by since mongwa entered our lexicon.  Now it’s as much a part of our family as our DNA.  We all still use it, though its necessity is seldom the point.  It’s a secret handshake, a wink, a nod.  An acknowledgement.  We were kids once in a fractious family and we lived to tell the tale.  Most of us.  Two brothers are no longer here.  Still, they were part of it and saying mongwa brings it all back and we are kids again.  We remember.

But every once in awhile it still means the same thing.  I get this seat when I get back.

It’s the rule.

Six of us standing (no need to say mongwa). One sister missing  - she's probably taking the photo.

This was taken about the time mongwa was invented.  Only six of us posing. Our word creator is the last one on the right with blonde wavy hair.  One sister is missing – she’s probably taking the photo.

Filed in: Weekly Writing Challenge: A Manner of Speaking

 

 

End-of-year salmagundi . . . .

Bird on saucer pm 2 signed

The picture has nothing to do with the post, but I like the insouciance of the little bird eating off the plate. I’m also a painter who doesn’t paint anymore because of the chemicals, and I like that I can take a photograph and manipulate it to look ‘kinda’ like a painting.

I am not a resolution person – I am a word person.  Word.  (Used by itself, word becomes an affirmation, which means I effectively just agreed with myself.)  I don’t believe in starting a new year with self-promises of giving up chocolate or swearing, or that I will exercise more, write more, and generally be a better person than I was the previous year.  Not that there’s anything wrong with people who do want to begin anew that way.  It’s just not for me.   So I was thrilled last week to read a blog post (by the lovely Jennifer Flint) that offered something different:  instead of making resolutions, choose a word.  The idea being that you think about what you would like to change in your life and find a fitting word that will inspire.   It’s not about trying and maybe failing, it’s about having a consistent source of inspiration.  I like that idea.  A lot.  And so, after careful consideration, my word for 2013 is:  RISE.  I’ll let you know next year how it worked out for me.

I liked this year.  Sure there was a lot of no-good-horrible stuff that happened in the world, but sadly, that’s always going to be the case, and you try to keep your head above it and do what you can to make it better or more bearable.  On a personal level, though, my son graduated college, found a job he really likes; my husband is finally able to drive the 1936 Dodge he’s worked so lovingly on restoring for that last decade-and-a-half; and I learned some important things about myself.  I also got an iPhone, which brought me back to photography.  And I’ve been writing.

One of the things I like about this time of year is looking over all the best-of lists, and the year-end round-ups in various magazines.  I have a terrible memory for events in time as it happens, but I find that if I look back at it in photos and/or read about it, things stick better in my head.  Someone recently pointed me to Google’s zeitgeist site.  God, I love the internet.  My only wish is that Al Gore would have invented it sooner.  It would have made homeschooling my son a lot easier and cheaper.

And what of the salmagundi?  Like revenge, it’s a dish best served cold.  It also means mixture or miscellany, like hodgepodge, which is the word I originally intended to use as a means of corralling my thoughts for this post.  But salmagundi is cooler.  Don’t you think?

My wish for today and tomorrow, is that we go fearlessly into the new year with spectacular results. Happy 2013, y’all.

Oh, little children . . . .

And a woman who held a babe against her bosom said, “Speak to us of Children.”
And he said:
Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself. 

— Kahlil Gibran

The shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary school tore through my heart and has left me numb these past several days.  Like most people I have struggled with feelings of grief and outrage and anger – for the guns and the violence, and for an imperfect mental health system that too often fails the people who need it most.

I’ve gone back and forth about writing anything; so many have already talked about, and written eloquently on the complex issues surrounding this tragedy.  I doubted that I could add much to the conversation.  My voice is small, my words feeble.  What more can there possible be to say?

But, I can’t stop thinking about those children.  Those beautiful, beautiful children.

I adore children.  I’ve always believed that they are sweet, guileless cherubs put here, not merely to propagate the species, but to remind us that, difficult as the world may be, it is still a place filled with magic and wonder, laughter and light.  I marvel at their capacity to love, at their willingness to trust.

When I was nineteen and about to leave home for good, my seven-year-old brother pushed a note under my bedroom door.  It said – I love you – just that, but it touched me more than any words have since.  That was when I first knew that the world was a better place for all the children it contained.  I still have that strip of paper, still curled from my brother wrapping it around his finger before he slid it beneath my door.  It reminds me when I forget.

We pin our bright hope for the future on our children.  Which is why we are all so gutted by this shooting in particular.  So I add my words to the throng, and hope that words do count, and that love can heal what’s broken.