This was my view from the bed this morning when I woke up. The mountain bluebirds love this water fountain – and they always feel like a good luck visitation to me!
Our topic at the SFF Seven this week is “Dealing with an almost willful misinterpretation of the text.” Come on over for my take.
Today I’m over at Word Whores, talking about the worst convention I ever attended.
I’m over at Word Whores today, blathering about how Rogue’s Pawn releases tomorrow. Oh, and about the stupidest mistake I made on the path to publication.
And, because I’m promo girl, I’m also over at the LERA blog, talking about what I learned from Susan Elizabeth Phillips’ visit yesterday.
My mind is blurry today. Sometimes I think the mucus from a cold gets in between the neural spaces and inhibits transmission. Yeah – I paid more attention in Neurophys than that. Still, that’s how it feels.
I’m trying to embrace the mistiness of it. I do believe the teaching that conscious thought is only the tip of the iceberg of our thinking processes. I like to have precise, clear thoughts, but I’m letting go of the idea that it’s so very important.
Still – mist is, by nature, a nebulous thing.
I love the look and feel of it, but when I try to capture it, it never seems quite right. Like the fog rolling off the Jimez mountains in the pic above. So spectacular in reality. Kind of meh in this photo.
I notice when my mind is less focused, that I tend to substitute words in odd ways. Usually it’s a sound-based substitution. For example, I once typed “actually” instead of “accidentally.” This is clearly not a spelling error or me not knowing the difference between the words. Somehow the cadence of the words are matched in my brain. My right brain, with all her lovely impulsive mistiness grabbed for a close-enough word and it took a moment for the left-brain monitor to catch up and correct the error. I did catch it, before I finished the sentence, but the bizarre substitution amused me. Sometimes I even type “know” instead of “no,” which is just more work to make the mistake.
One of my writer friends does this, especially when she’s struggling with a migraine. She wrote a blog post that mentioned “an arbiter of things to come.” I gently suggested she meant “harbinger.” She was chagrined, but I could see it’s exactly the same kind of substitution I make – based on sound and cadence. She knows the meaning of both words perfectly well, but they’re twinsies enough to switch with each other.
In my family, we call this an Iggly Wiggly. This is taken from the internally famous incident when my grandmother told me she’d been to the movies. I asked what she’d seen and she said “Iggly Wigglies.” Without a pause, I asked how she liked Legal Eagles. (For the record, she thought it was silly, which is probably a fair assessment.) Some of this is knowing my grandmother. A large chunk, though, is affinity for words and language sounds. I understood perfectly well what my grandmother meant, what my blogging friend meant, even what I meant.
It reminds me of that game where they take the vowels out of all the words in a sentence, to see if you can still understand it. Which we all can. As much as we cling to precision in writing, with proper spelling and punctuation, the actual communication usually makes its way through.
Or the accidental communication. I forget which.
David and I, both children of the West, call them stinkbugs, although we’re apparently supposed to call them pinnacate or darkling beetles. At any rate, they’re these guys. They’re also the same beetles that I mentioned seem compelled to drown themselves despite my efforts to provide climbing platforms out of the rain catchments. The stinkbugs are drawn to everything moist. The day after a rain, they scuttle about everywhere, following sedate and determined paths.
I’m quite fond of them.
So when David says that the stinkbug that hard marched across the patio, to visit me, I claimed, was now trying to climb my chair leg, I thought he was making fun of me for that old story, about the cockroaches climbing the brass bed and how I did one of the worst things I’ve ever done.
Turns out he’d never heard that story.
It’s an old story, from my college days. I think it came to mind because I’ve been reading Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout. It’s really an amazing book, kind of a novel formed of sequential stories. We come to have ideas about Olive from the stories of other characters. They talk about Olive, or encounter her in various ways. We don’t really see into Olive’s mind until a story about her son’s wedding reception, when Olive overhears her new daughter-in-law saying how awful Olive is and what a difficult mother she’d been to her son.
It’s brilliantly done. The daughter-in-law is talking softly to a friend, in a place they shouldn’t be overheard. She’s not catty or cruel, but Olive is deeply hurt. And enraged.
The cockroach story is like this. It started with one of my college roommates being freaked out by cockroaches in our apartment. They were waterbugs, it turns out, but that’s no never mind. Only she and I were home. She melted down to the point where she refused to sleep on her mattress on the floor or my futon, for fear the cockroaches would get her in the night. Around 2 in the morning, I convinced her to sleep in our other roommate’s brass bed, even though the fearful one declared that she’d be able to hear the cockroaches trying to climb the brass legs all night.
See? I told you there was a connection.
I told our other roommates the story when they returned in the next day or so. It was a very funny story. And I can milk a story. I would culminate with making scratching noises on a piece of metal, to imitate the cockroach legs. Other friends heard references and begged to be told the full story, which took 15-20 minutes to tell.
I admit it: I loved telling this story. There’s nothing like having a roomful of people laughing so hard they can’t stand.
Well, one night, we had a 4th of July gathering at our apartment. The roommate in question was working. Ten or twelve of us, including my visiting mother, sat around the dining table — which was a piece of painted plywood on blue-painted cinder blocks — talking and drinking beer.
Well, yes, someone asked me to tell the story.
You know what’s coming. I demurred, since I was normally very careful not to tell it anywhere my friend could hear. but I didn’t take much convincing. I had just gotten to the part where I’m clicking my nails on the beer bottle when that cold silence fell over the room.
Of course, she was standing in the doorway behind me, having come in through the kitchen door to the alley.
She slammed off to her bedroom and the party broke up. Everyone was horrified. I felt awful.
What’s funny is, she and I never talked about it. I’ve never known how much of the story she heard. She was the type to yell at you if she was mad. This she never said a word about, which made me think I truly hurt her.
She reads this blog from time to time, so if you see this: I truly apologize for that. I should have said so sooner.
So that’s my second in a series about careless words. Funny how certain themes rise up, for no particular reason. Old stories come to mind.
Life lessons, all of them, I suppose.