Thursday, September 20, 2007

Word-Napping

WORD-NAPPING

In one of the vases of tools on my desk, standing tall with the straight-edge and scissors, the letter opener, the exacto knife, the Canadian flag, is a plastic star. The kind you find at a dollar store, silver with rhinestone diamonds embedded along the lines linking its five points and all down the handle. The kind of sparkly thing that attracts my “magpie eye”. A child’s toy really, for a fairy godmother costume. And that’s in a sense why I bought it. As an instructor, a workshop facilitator, I want to impart the magic of words, to tap participants on the head and, Pouf, You are changed forever. Enlightenment. To awaken them to the numinous, the way God’s finger sparks Adam on Michelangelo’s chapel ceiling. The way Tinkerbell sprinkles the Magic Kingdom on television every Sunday evening. The way the turning of the Earth makes us believe that the stars of the whole sky are falling, every August. I watched the Perseid meteor shower once from a boat on Okanagan Lake when both my parents were still alive and both my brothers were there with us. When the world still seemed complete and the sprinkling of stars into reflective lake water whispered, hissed, not of loss but of wonder, at chin-dropping awe, at eye-frying recognition of this beauty within which we live.

Of awakening to this world’s beauty Proust said: It is not in discovering new lands, but in seeing with new eyes. My summer travels took me on a return visit to the Leo Mol Statue Garden in Winnipeg’s Assiniboine Park. With eyes wider-opened, I noticed statues I hadn’t noticed before—the bush pilot, the log-boomers, the wrestling bears, a fiery Moses, finger to the stars, looking like Wordsworth’s Druid on Salisbury Plain. And DA ZAAIER. Da Zaaier. As a Scrabble player, every Zed catches my eye. The phrase must be Dutch, with the double A. The statue is of a farmer with a bag slung over his shoulder, walking (outstanding in his field) and broadcasting seeds. Up closer, I could see the English caption: THE SOWER. And then: 100th Anniversary of the arrival of the Dutch in Manitoba. Celebrating a centennial of a people settling in Canada with the symbol of the sower of seeds seems most appropriate. Da Zaaier. The Sower.

Being “so-o” literal, having an artist’s eye for connection, a human desire for revelation, I stopped short and I took a snapshot for future reference; then, I pondered the juxtaposition for days. Say it out loud. DA ZAAIER must read as DESIRE. What does desire have to do with seeds? Surely not that biological imperative again. Surely not that Desire = Sex = Reproduction (seeds). Desire is so much more; and so not tied to reproduction in my mind, or body. Associations have their own logic. Desire. Longing. For connection. For meaning. For meaningful connection—heart, mind, and body. Foot to earth; eyes to sky. Longing for home. For feeling at home.

When I got home to my computer, I began to explore the DESIRE/SOWER connection. My dictionary is a Book of Revelation. The origin of deSIRE is the Latin DeSIDERare—de meaning from, and SIDERER meaning Star. Literally DESIRE means to await from the stars. Waiting for something? Longing for something? I don’t get it. SEEDS and STARS? Go to CONSIDER, the book hints. This is a LEXICON CACHE; a SYNTAX TREASURE HUNT. CONSIDER? From the Latin CONSIDERARE, to look at closely; to observe attentively, the way we gaze at stars, it implies. Con meaning with, SIDERIS meaning star. Wow. I’m thinking of the Pleiades, a star cluster, also known as the Seven Sisters, changed into stars by the gods to evade the amorous hunter Orion. Another old story says that the Pleiades are our real home, our original home, our place of origin, and that in our heart we long to return. But is there a literal connection? Are SEEDS really STARDUST? Are we watching, waiting, for the spaceship to take us home? Or is longing merely the seeds of desire within us? Desiring that which we have lost?

I look up SEED. Indo-European, SEI meaning to cast, to let fall. Latin, SERERE, to plant. The Latin for one who plants is SATOR, the sower. Back to the biological again. So my dictionary has given me the word cluster: DESIRE, SIRE, SIREN, CONSIDER, STARS, STARDUST, SEEDS, CAST, SATYR, SOW. Now my brain wants to enfold, to encompass more. What about GRAINS? Are GRAINS SEEDS? Are the GRAINS in GRANITE really SEEDS? OR BETTER yet, STARDUST? Quickly, I check SILICA. From FLINT. From SILEX, SILICIS, for the way it chips, breaks, and falls down. SILICA is the STARDUST winking in the beach sand, signaling, desiring the stars, longing to return home. Art as epiphany; the artist made me see the connection.

I pick up the snapshot of the row of steel bins, granaries, in my best friend’s childhood farmyard, the foxtail grass flashing in the wind, shining in the foreground like shards of fallen fire. At my last workshop, when I handed out the mystery bags, each hiding an individual rock, to practise relating to the elemental, touching the earth, to trigger associations, I asked the participants to brainstorm, to make a word cluster. Of the huge chunk of white granite fused to green/black basalt, a contact zone, a student associated NAPPING. Napping? I’m always fearful they’ll be telling me, This is so boring, I’m falling asleep. (Another reason to go in armed with the wand.) Yes. Knapping, he says. Knap. To chip, to strike, to break off, the way people make arrowheads out of flint. Ah, yes. KNapping. What a great word. Likely Anglo-Saxon, with the K, the KN. Onomatopoetic, the book says, in Old Scots.

And isn’t that the fun of this writing game, this star-trekking, this playing? English is so eclectic, abducting terms from everywhere. The magic is in the origins. Word-napping. Eloping. Acting upon our desire. Scattering seeds.

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