Colors of Time

Monday Morning Musings:

“People observe the colors of a day only at its beginnings and ends, but to me it’s quite clear that a day merges through a multitude of shades and intonations, with each passing moment.

A single hour can consist of thousands of different colors.”
–Markus Zusak, The Book Thief

Another Tree Spirit

Follow the shadows
through dreams colored with deep-time
longing. The seeds nested, specks
of hope, driven by time—
unleashed cycles, harmonic notes

star-born melodies
heard without, but held within
blood, skin, and organs—dust of
ancient incandescence
infinite shades of light from yesterday

merge with tomorrow
harmony and dissonance,
my parents speak in dream-time
enrooted in my mind
and heart, we are united

as midnight blue shifts
to violet, then golden
blaze, an ageless song of light
captured, remembered as
it passes, every color

in time, of time, time-
charged, time-changed by shifts of chance,
a crash, a brief encounter,
a prism of color
light reborn, transformed, transcendent.

The rising sun captured in a bottle.


I didn’t go anywhere this week or do anything special, but the changing temperatures and weather have made for some incredible skies. Influenced by Jane Dougherty, I decided to try a wayra chain today for my musings.

Merril’s Movie/TV/Book Club:

We saw The Hand of God (Netflix), Italian director Paolo Sorrentino’s autobiographical coming-of-age movie. The movie is set in Naples and full of quirky characters, as well as some surreal images, combining warmth, fate, tragedy—and soccer—in a poignant cinematic memoir.

We watched Anxious People (Netflix), a Swedish series written by Fredrik Bachman based on his novel. (He also wrote A Man Called Ove.) This limited series of 6 short, bingeable episodes (we watched it in two nights) is quirky, but heartwarming. My husband and I both enjoyed how the story was revealed over time. You would see something like a man’s bandaged nose, but not find out how it happened until another episode. The story concerns a failed bank robbery/hostage situation with a father-son pair of police officers who are not used to dealing with such crimes. It’s more Nordic charm than Nordic noir.

I read Lauren Groff’s Matrix, a novel based on the twelfth-century Marie de France. Little is known about her, so Groff is free to invent her life, which she does, in this beautifully written book.

The Books Left Behind

Old_book_gathering

By Remi Mathis (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

“When she came to write her story, she would wonder when the books and the words started to mean not just something, but everything.”

–Markus Zusak, The Book Thief

 

I am haunted by ghosts I have not seen

Some departed quickly, others not fast enough

They left the things they could not carry

They left the past behind

 

Some departed quickly, others not fast enough

They lost their loved ones, and in flame, their desires were castaway

They left the past behind

Scarred by war, they traveled far from home

 

They lost loved ones, and in flame, their desires were castaway

Stories written in many voices, stories left unread

Scarred by war, they traveled far from home

Journeying to unknown futures and uncertain fates

 

Stories written in many voices, stories left unread

I hear them calling to me

Journeying to unknown futures and uncertain fates

They shout and cry, do not forget

 

I hear them calling to me

The cast-off shoes, the abandoned books, the photos

They shout and cry, do not forget

These spirits of the past

 

The cast-off shoes, the abandoned books, the photos

Objects of the departed

These spirits of the past

The echoes of destruction, the abandonment of hope

 

Objects of the departed

Held here by shadows and memories

The echoes of destruction, the abandonment of hope

I am haunted by ghosts I have not seen

 

Never forget

 

I was inspired by this article about a Czech schoolhouse still filled with the books of Jewish families forced to leave in 1942—most of them killed in Auschwitz. Holocaust Remembrance Day (Yom HaShoah) was May 5.  I thought of the rise in hate crimes, genocide, and all of the refugees who now are forced to leave their homes because of war and hate. Then I read this story about Syrian refugees in Canada who are helping the people who have had to evacuate their homes because of the massive fires in Alberta, and I realize that there are still good people and people who believe in doing good.

©Merril D. Smith, 2016

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finding My Words

Monday Morning Musings:

“For last year’s words belong to last year’s language
And next year’s words await another voice.”

–T.S. Eliot, “Little Gidding” (lines 118-119)

“He was the crazy one who had painted himself black and defeated the world. She was the book thief without the words. Trust me, though, the words were on their way, and when they arrived, Liesel would hold them in her hands like the clouds, and she would wring them out like rain.”

–Markus Zusak, The Book Thief

I’m at a loss for them today, so I decided to write about words. Unlike Eliza Doolittle in the musical, My Fair Lady, who sings:

“Words! Words! Words! I’m so sick of words!
I get words all day through;
First from him, now from you!
Is that all you blighters can do?
Don’t talk of stars burning above;
If you’re in love, Show me!”

–“Show Me” From My Fair Lady, Lerner and Lowe

I am never sick of words. I love words. I didn’t know—or more likely did not remember—that it was Humpty Dumpty in Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass who first explained that a portmanteau word was like the suitcase called a portmanteau: “Well, “slithy” means “lithe and slimy”. “Lithe” is the same as “active”. You see it’s like a portmanteau — there are two meanings packed up into one word.” (You can read more about it here.)

One of my favorite Carroll portmanteaus is “chortle,” a word that has entered everyday vocabulary. I love it because it sounds exactly like what it is, and it makes me laugh to even hear the word in my head. You can find some new portmanteaus here. I think “Internest” is a great word because I’ve seen my daughter do it. It means “the cocoon of blankets and pillows you gather around yourself whilst spending long periods of time on the Internet.” Another favorite is “epiphanot”: “ an idea that seems like an amazing insight to the conceiver but is in fact pointless, mundane, stupid, or incorrect.” I’m not judging anyone here. I think I’ve had plenty of epiphanots myself—although I do picture Cliff Clavin from the old TV series, Cheers, when I hear the word.

This weekend my husband and I saw two very different movies—hey, it was movie catch-up weekend—Far From the Madding Crowd and Ex Machina.

In Far From the Madding Crowd, Bathsheba Everdeen (isn’t that a great name?) says in a line from Hardy’s novel: “It is difficult for a woman to define her feelings in language which is chiefly made by men to express theirs.” It seems to me that it is not so much the language of the time, as it was the moral constraints imposed on women that prevented them from speaking. Bathsheba could not talk of sexual passion and desire. But the men, too, talked around it. They discussed marriage in economic terms, not in words of love. Much cannot be said, and perhaps was not even thought. Perhaps then there were no words to describe what they felt. Actions, however, have consequences in this story. Women who give in to desire are punished with death or debts. Women who use words thoughtlessly—as in sending a Valentine’s card—must also pay a price. The movie is beautiful—you will want to move to Dorset, England. The acting is wonderful, too. (I found this short article that discusses the movie and book, if you want more information.)

In Ex Machina language becomes not so much a means of defining or limiting gender, but rather, it becomes a method testing what it means to be fully alive. Reclusive billionaire and definite alpha male Nathan Bateman (a bulked-up Oscar Isaac) brings nerdy but cute programmer Caleb Smith (Domhnall Gleason) to his estate to Turing-test his A.I. Ava (Alicia Vikander). We all know that computers can use words and can be programmed to talk and write, but can they do more? The movie is exciting and thought provoking in its exploration of what it means to be human. Does an A.I. have feelings? Can an A.I. pretend? Can it feel pleasure or desire? And would a human know?

Humans seem to be hardwired to use words and form languages. We like to name things. It would be an epiphanot to say that languages evolve over time. (See what I did there?) I think most people know that whatever language we speak is different from that same language spoken centuries ago. Cultural and technological changes and inventions fuel the desire to create new words.

The creativity of novelists, poets, and other artists has also led to the invention of new words. Who can forget the scary terms coined by George Orwell in 1984? Orwell deliberately invented new words, such as thoughtcrime, newspeak, and of course, doublethink. He wrote, “Doublethink means the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them.” English author and former spy, John Le Carré has also created words, such as mole, meaning someone who infiltrates an organization. You can find some others here. Words can bring goodness and light; they can incite evil, too. They can be used to deliberately obfuscate, or to enlighten.

“Words – so innocent and powerless as they are, as standing in a dictionary, how potent for good and evil they become in the hands of one who knows how to combine them.”
–Nathaniel Hawthorne, “The Custom House”

Words. I was at a loss, but now I seem to have used 939 of them. I’ve finished the job, but I don’t think it’s complete. What is a word for that?