The Language of Remembering

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I’m a self-professed WordNerd. Perhaps that seems obvious for a writer, but my fascination with words extends deeper than the stories they can tell. I’ve been known to play with sentence structure for hours and get lost in a thesaurus searching for synonyms. After hearing or reading a new word, I practically leap to a dictionary to discover its meaning and origin. To me, the way a word develops, its etymology, reveals a story unto itself — so many thousands of words and phrases altered in context over hundreds of years as society changes its course.

Just as fascinating as the linguistic changes (at least from a WordNerd viewpoint) are the commonalities, proving that some emotions and situations stick firmly to our human condition… the dangling participles on our DNA. The ribosomes of our verbal cytoplasm build a vocabulary of love, hate, pain, joy, honor, deceit, pride, humiliation, peace and war.

War. As unending and constant as all the others.

Memorial Day rests on the calendar for this weekend. I annually clarify the point of Memorial Day to my children, lest they grow up believing this holiday’s moniker comes from instructions to remember ingredients for the BBQ sauce recipe: “It started after the Civil War as a national movement to honor the fallen soldiers of that conflict, and continued from there. We all take a day to reflect on those who sacrificed their lives for their country.” This year, I’m challenged for further interpretation by one of my younger ones (maybe a burgeoning WordNerd-let?) who wants to know exactly what a “Memorial” is, rattling off the other uses of the word — Memorial Day, Memorial Fund, In Memoriam, Memorial Foundation, Memorial Gardens, Memorial Hospital — and asking me if those are all for honoring soldiers. Nothing sparks locutionary research like the curiosity of a beloved little boy.

I tell him the moniker comes from the act of remembering, whether the life of a soldier or a friends and family or a heroic deed; to memorialize means to openly acknowledge our admiration for someone or something never to be forgotten. He needs to look it up… definitely a dangling participle of my DNA. As I expected, we find the the ancient roots of memoria in Latin and smarati in Sanskrit which denote “remembering”. Yet, unexpectedly, we find that the Greek terms merimna and mermeros convey “care and thought” and “causing anxiety” respectively; Welsh and Old English terms also equate these roots with “sadness, anxiety, mourning.” But, the favorite discovery by far turns up the legend of a Norse giant called Mimir who guards and ancient Well of Wisdom. That one stops us in our figurative tracks.
How powerful. We picture Viking warriors around a flame telling tales of Mimir, all of them understanding through these legends that knowledge is acquired by listening to the ancients. The Well of Wisdom overflows with lessons from the past, messages remembered and taught to the next generation. And isn’t that what we truly want from all of our various memorials — to hear the voices of our ancestors telling us how to move forward without them? Those proverbs may be etched in stone monuments, heralded in song, festooning doorways  or paraded down the street.  But, they are also whispered in prayers, blossoming in fields, gleaming from a baby’s eyes and glowing from a firefly. Are you listening? Will you remember?

Nepal

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And so it happened again. Another earthquake in the same beautiful ancient region shaken last month. Another reminder of the inherent power in the Earth. Forces working together for  countless epochs to bend, shape, twist, crack, push, lift and crumble. Forces we try to measure with little numbers — number of miles away from here, 7.3 on Richter Scale, property damage costs, casualty tallies, lives displaced, hearts broken.

Of course, attempts to quantify only further exemplify our innate human tendency toward definitive explanation. We crave understanding and demand answers. We need to predict and prevent, to gather facts and collect data, to blame or blaspheme. It is our nature to question Nature. Yet, Nepalese culture and tradition inherently honors those forces more than most. The people of Nepal practice Hinduism and Buddhism and respect ayurvedics, revering the human connection to and relationship with Earth, Air, Fire, Water and Spirit. Landlocked between the majestic Himalayans on one side and subtropical lowlands on the other, the country rests right on the edge of the Eurasian and Indian tectonic plates, reverberating with extremes… perhaps a sacred peace emanates from that energy source, waving along with the characteristic colorful prayer flags that brighten the horizon. Perhaps we have much to learn from that energy… Teach us, Nepal.

Bless Nepal. Bless the Earth. Bless the forces of nature that link us together, even when things fall apart.

Śānti.

Spring en Pointe

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Spring en Pointe… Spring seems to taunt us in the South, doesn’t she? She waves about warm breezes and flickers sunshine, then flips a switch back to chill. She sputters to life in fits and starts, finally blossoming out a full display in dramatic fashion, waiting for us to swoon and gasp before giving a coquettish wink that says “Oh, THIS old thing, it’s been in the back of the closet for years!” Her annual promenade feels wistfully brief, sometimes merely weeks until her sultry sister, Summer, takes the stage. Yet, that short stay only enhances her mystique and encourages us to develop ways of savoring our fleeting dance with Les Printemps

We’ve grown accustomed to this performance, gearing up for the first few steps at Easter and Passover time and then striking up the band for Mother Nature herself with Earth Day revels. We’re eager to stretch out on sun-warmed grass or stroll through fragrant gardens. We’re ready to see her en pointe… watching the pas de deux as the withered Winter bows before the Ingenue. She’s nurtured us through the bitter cold months and now, without further adieu, she’s SPRUNG!  Each open flower gives an added flourish, and, of course, we’re harnessing the best of those natural talents in our ingredients.

How do you celebrate the glorious Rites of Spring? What are some of your favorite signs of the season? Tell us about them … we’re on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.

azaleas

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Azaleas, in the same family as rhododendrons, can live for hundreds of years. Native to Japan, they can reach a height of 12 feet. With over 10,000 different varieties, one is at a loss to choose between them.  This one is golden azalea or native azalea and is blooming in my backyard. Folklore remedies properties include hypertension and cough. Azaleas symbolize modern, forbearance and temperance.

columbine flower

columbine1Columbine is a native wildflower to North America and is in the same family as the buttercup.  Its name comes from Latin meaning dove like (Columba) and eagle (Aquilegia its scientific name). Symbolism of the flower ranges from foolishness to seduction. It is that state flower of Colorado. There it is actually illegal to uproot the flowers on public land and you are limited to picking 25 flowers. Medicinally the petals have been used an astringent, soothing sore throats and Native America used the petals in tea to treat heart ailments. The flowers are edible and are quite sweet. They are pollinated by bumblebees and hawk moths and are dined upon by hummingbirds. The photo is my columbine in my window box that just bloomed.

 

 

apples

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Apples, did you know there are over 7500 varities world wide? It is the number one fruit eaten in the U.S. and rightly so. With no fat, sodium or cholesterol it is only 80 calories and 25% of it is water, that is why they float. It takes 36 apples to make one gallon of cider. And did you know the largest producers of apples is China?

This blossom is from one of my two apple trees in my backyard and it has yet to produce a harvest. It takes about 5-6 years to produce fruit, and as I am not quite patient, I do enjoy the beautiful blooms. Polinated by bees, I try and plant bee loving plants around the yard.