Summer Wine and Word Savor

‘Words have personality.’

Or words to that effect. So said a famous wordsmith named Willard R. Espy, who wrote a great deal of delightful stuff about words, and remains highly unquoted.

51b1dqao1gl._sx361_bo1,204,203,200_One word that definitely has personality is caper, which is today’s word suggestion from the good folks at WP.

I wouldn’t call myself a word expert, by any means, (terms like uvular fricative make my brain hurt) but I do love to savor a word curiosity now and then. And just like a good wine, there are certain pairings that are immediately suggested by the palate. Like a good pinot and soft goat cheese, or a full-flavored port with a dark chocolate truffle.

So therefore, with caper (though it is also a pungent little berry that goes well with seafood and a crisp, chilled chardonnay) we have a word that suggests, inevitably, frolic.

You could even pair the two as frolicsome caper, and further suggest the word antics, and at the risk of sounding octogenarian, cavort.  This brings me to my red squirrels, which, quite unfortunately, were drunk this morning on summer wine, and doing all of the above.

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Summer wine not only goes well with capers, it causes them (the cavorting sort). The wine referred to here is what we like to call the Morello cherries from our tree that have fallen to the ground, now sweetly fermenting. They grow too high for us to actually make them useful for human consumption, but the squirrels and birds are having entirely too much fun up there in the back corner of the yard.

Gambol and tumble are good side dishes, as it were. If fact, if you look up ‘gambol’, you will find the following synonyms:

‘frolic, frisk, cavort, caper, skip, dance, romp, prance, leap, hop, jump, spring, bound, bounce; play; (dated, sport)’

To which I might add “see: tippling“.

All of those definitions sound quite athletic, even for a squirrel drunk on Morello cherries, so occasionally one tumbles down the rockery and causes concern.

So far I have witnessed no injuries, and the merriment continues.

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As you can see from the picture below, the lawn is slightly elevated from the patio, giving a stage-like appearance, which the squirrels use to good effect.

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(this beautiful quilt made by a dear friend)

Other than that, the garden is (usually) a peaceful place for reading. Perhaps even sipping a bit of Morello summer wine, if the squirrels will share.

 

Greetings, Mr. Lear

Imaginary
When your imagination
Is controlling you

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An imaginary world, when created by a truly gifted, conflicted mind, has the vexatious tendency to outlive its author. An author/artist who, perhaps, had dreams of accomplishing something more weighty is remembered by Quangle-Wangles, Pobbles, and Jumblies.

As a curious word devotee, I have to give a nod to imaginary worlds as they have given us some of our greatest (and most curious) neologisms.

Edward Lear was an artist who dipped his brush heavily into nonsense. And, for the most part, that is how he is remembered. Fancible verbal creations of his such as ‘runcible spoon’, even made its way into many dictionaries (with various attempts to define this imaginary object).

But Lear’s own story is a sad one. His imaginary world grew as the real world became more painful and lonely. Stricken with epilepsy–which terrified him and caused him to withdraw from company for long periods of time–and increasing blindness, put an end to his hopes of being the artist and illustrator he dreamed of.

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“He had a lifelong ambition to illustrate Tennyson‘s poems.” [wiki]

Throughout his life Lear kept painting, and even with his diminished eyesight, his work as a ‘naturalist’ bird artist and landscape painter had him compared favorably with Audubon.

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From ‘Illustrations of the Family of Psittacidae’ by Edward Lear

Many of his earlier pieces of landscape art are lovely and intuitive, and one can only regret his failing eyesight.

But Mr. Lear, we thank you that, despite despair and illness, you kept creating habitable worlds of your own that would bring a strange rush of delight to generations to come.

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Further:


A delightful page devoted to Edward Lear here.

As I’ve written about here, on my Margery Sharp blog, this vexatious habit of imaginary creations taking on a life of their own was true of that lovable bear named Winnie the Pooh, and the warm and fuzzy vice-like grip it kept on the life of author A.A. Milne.

Where Character Comes From

Brassy.”

It’s Friday, so I like to start Happy Hour early. Here’s a bit of Ogden Nash-esque whimsy for you:

Your brassy hues, my dear

Give us cause to wonder

Are you as bold as your hair suggests

Or did your stylist blunder?

A poem born from painful memory of my first salon experience…but as the accompanying picture suggests, brassy, coppery hues and a certain scorched, peeling appearance from desiccated matter can be quite lovely in nature. Just not on me.

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I have known some fabulous, capable hairdressers since that early experience, but I must admit something of the trauma stayed with me and thus my character Mary Ringwell was born. I did grow to like Mary a great deal as I wrote about her, and in the end, she was made to be very happy. 🙂 Here’s an excerpt from the story, which was set in the early 1920’s. I had to research a lot of the hair-styling gizmos from that period to make sure I had Mary well established.

‘The next installment of Encyclopedia Britannica had arrived, volumes E through H, and Allegra was heavily involved in the life of Victor Hugo when an excited whisper broke into her concentration.

“I’ve got something to tell you that will get your nose out of that book for a while.”

It was the arbiter of taste, Mary Ringwell, a small and lively blonde with an unlimited supply of optimism. Being the only hairdresser in town, having set up shop with the newest and latest in hair technology, Mary was also the self-styled expert in matters related to glamour, fashion, and romance. Ever since Allegra had been singled out as the most appropriate target for her expertise, a strange sort of friendship had existed between them. For Mary, it had overtones of a religious crusade, to bring some fun and excitement into ‘the poor girl’s drab existence’. For Allegra, it was more attention than anyone had ever showered her with, and for that reason she found the relationship oddly fascinating in spite of herself.’ [from A Garden for Allegra]

Enjoy the weekend!

No Made Up Tale

As usual, when I sit down to write upon a topic, that topic immediately becomes much vaster than the ‘brief paragraph or two with accompanying picture’ will give justice to. I am a long-winded writer because…well…things are just interesting. Right?

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Or not. You see, ‘portion control’ is what I have been striving to achieve with my blog. Most people relate portion control to food, if they tend to overeat. For me, it is related to what I choose to read and write. Some reading is just downright depressing, even if they are classics. Or perhaps the fact that they are classics and have survived this long with that much baggage is enervating to think about. I don’t know, actually. I just know that portion control in reading is a must for me to keep my psyche running lean and fit.

As to that, long-winded blog posts that I tend to write need portion control. I so love interesting side trips and digressions. All too often, though, they don’t fit the appetite of today’s reader.  So, if you have been following this blog for awhile, you may have noticed that my blog posts are shorter, and more infrequent.

Today’s post is a classic (pardon the pun) example of what I fight constantly as a reader and writer. It was to be about a simple parallel between a classic story—the Iliad—and an old-fashioned story set in Kentucky that I believe is one of the finest stories I’ve ever read.

But one doesn’t just quickly set about doing brief blurbs when it comes to some of the finest words ever put to paper. And one doesn’t just spin off a quick sentence or two about the strangely connected worlds of Homeric Greece and the Southern States without thinking of ‘Oh Brother, Where Are Thou’, the fabulous song ‘Man of Constant Sorrow’, and the generally often shrill insensibleness of epic heroes.

At this point I will just remind myself: Portion Control.

While I can get carried away by the sheer beauty of the poetry, the muscular power of imagery in books like the Iliad and The Odyssey, the weirdness (for lack of a better word) of the ancient mind can get a bit trying. It’s a similar kind of emotionally erratic journey I experience in reading the literature of ‘olden times’ in Appalachia, or the Kentucky hills, with all their quaint ‘dreamy-drunken’ expressions, as I call it. A lyrical poetry in the expressions, a sing-song seduction of narrative carries me along and before I know it I am similarly ‘cloud walking’ or caught adrift amidst the ‘fingers of rosy-colored dawn’.

Odysseus was ‘a man of many sorrows’—his tears became their own sort of character in the narrative, yet it is interesting that Man of Constant Sorrow is also an Appalachian folk song with a heritage that goes back hundreds of years, maybe more. Intense tribal loyalties, coupled with unbalanced vendettas against petty trifles–bringing on a cycle of war and feuds–these also share the same patterns of crazy quilt imagery both from the ancient Greek world to the southern hills of rural America.

These themes can be traced endlessly, and, especially when it comes to the folk songs and those indescribably erratic folk tales…are endlessly fascinating. Yet…for this not to go on for pages (or even be written at all) here is a simple comparison. It’s not even the best one–just the one I could access and distribute the fastest….

The book? Cloud-Walking, written in 1942 by Marie Campbell. As I said, one of the finest books I’ve ever read. I am not sure its unique power would be for everyone–for one thing, it resonates with me because I have a family history that relates to the Appalachian Mountains and Kentucky hills, and all those wild-hearted, stubborn, delightful people. But oh, this woman could write. (more on this book later!)

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Marie Campbell

The second book needs no introduction: Iliad, by Homer. The tragic tale of heroic deeds and, yes…oh brother killing brother where art thou? (too close to home, I’m afraid).

‘For as long as it was morning and the holy day was waxing, the weapons thrown by both sides reached their mark and the men kept falling. But when a woodcutter makes his dinner in the mountain glens, when his hands are tired with cutting the tall trees and weariness has touched his heart, and desire for the pleasure of food takes over his mind–then the Danaans showed their worth and, calling to each other down their ranks, they broke the enemy line…Agamemnon was the first to spring through and kill his man, Bienor, shepherd of his people…’ [Iliad]

And back to the mountains here…

‘Back in other settlements they was killings aplenty over politics. Way over on Lone Creek five persons was killed and three more looking to die from ‘lection troubles. One place two brothers shot each other over who to vote for, and Uncle Blessing’s woman’s boy killed his woman’s pap and hisself over politics. From the time politics started in the spring to make ready for the primary voting till the candidates was picked and politics settled agin Nelt counted up about thirty persons shot to death in settlements about the country.’ [Cloud Walking’ 1942]

As Marie Campbell says in her forward, ‘this is no made up tale’. Sad but true.


More on Marie Campbell coming soon. (yes I really think it will happen this time!)

For yesterday’s visual of my fanciful Odysseus tears, see here.

 

 

 

Odysseus Was Just Here (plus a haiku)

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That one perfect drop
Shimmers with just a sweet trace
Of yesterday’s sun

Last night I strolled through the garden, enjoying the air freshened from the rain, the golden light of pre-dusk, and the intense scattering of water droplets.

In a fanciful mood, and with a glass of scotch in hand, one might call to mind history’s greatest criers, in fact and fiction. You could imagine, for example, that the mighty Odysseus had just wandered, (brooding) through the garden previous to my own visit, shedding his epic tears; lamenting his lost friends.

‘His eyes never dry, his sweet life flowing away with tears…’ [Odyssey, Book V]

Or that Dorothy Parker had just wafted past, weeping while exuding brilliantly tragic commentary, (she, crying, while everyone else is laughing delightedly at her wit) trailing long, drifty caftan sleeves and drinking gin. The largest, most lustrous rain droplets would surely have been her tears.

In truth, yesterday’s rainstorm left ‘tears’ of the happiest kind. Here are a few pictures I took in the early evening.