A few weeks ago, I wrote about randomly drawing a word from a pool of words each day to count down the days until I see a good friend. A word advent calendar. Twenty words have danced themselves through my mind since I started. I’m having a marvelous time, stumbling into resonances and serendipity at every turn.
Here’s some of what I’ve learned so far:
One day, I found that I could consider inside without pondering outside. But on a different day, I discovered it’s impossible to separate inhale from exhale.
After a 6-week hiatus, the final term for Cambridge undergraduates started. I had been dreading plunging back into the mire of thermodynamics, special relativity, classical mechanics. I knew the students would be starting to prepare for exams, so questions about any and all of the topics we’ve explored this year could pour in. Getting back into the mind set of teaching seemed just too overwhelming. And the word I drew for my first day back teaching was ease.
Listen – On this day, I played in a concert.
Reset – I got this word on a Monday.
Rest – During a rest in a piece of music, there is no dimming of concentration and awareness. It’s simply that you are quiet.
Respond – In the word respond, I see the word ponder, and I hear a suggestion to rethink, reconsider. Although this etymology isn’t strictly correct, it’s mine. By contrast, the word react holds the word act.
Smile – The day I drew this, I was annoyed. I did not want to smile. I did not want to paint a veneer of cheerfulness on a day that felt like drudgery. When I wrote about the word in the morning, I ranted about false smiles, forced smiles, surface smiles. I thought about gargoyles grimacing. I wrote ‘My word this morning is smile, and I just want to kick it across the room.’ On the radio that afternoon, I heard a story about a study into boxers who smile for pictures before a fight. Apparently, boxers who smile are more likely to lose.
Green – On this day, my daughter needed a green t-shirt to dress as a giant in a school assembly, she choose a green ice-pop to eat in the park after school, and it was the first day it was warm enough to go barefoot in the new green grass. I was impatient for the word green when I started my word calendar; the branches were not yet showing their suggestive buds, had yet to burst into baby leaves. Of Dylan Thomas’s famous poem, the force that through the green fuse drives the flower, I recalled only the phrase ‘green fuse’ and I nodded to myself, yes, springtime is a green fuse igniting bulbs and blossoms fed by the grey kindling of winter. Then, when I chose green, I reread the poem. And I am dumb to tell the pulsing grass how in its trail I follow, wordless in its wake.