Tag Archives: 30 days 30 words

May·pole

crown by Cristina Cleveland

 

Day 30 of the 30 days, 30 words challenge.

 

 

Well, here it is! We have arrived at the 30th day of the 30 days, 30 words challenge at the dictionary project. This project has been a valuable teacher. I have learned that I can make time and space—more than I would have imagined—for writing each day. I have learned to make something and then let it go. I have learned a healthy dose of humility for when I had to send pieces out that felt far from ready from public consumption, and I have experienced tremendous gratitude for those of you who have read and supported me—by reading, by commenting, by writing your own pieces over this time. Most of all, I have continued to learn something this project has already taught me, which is to value happenstance and constraints, to trust the process, to engage in inquiry and to follow curiosities. I extend my deepest gratitude for being a part of this experience.

 

 

 

May·pole  (ˈmā-ˌpōl),  n.  (often l.c.) a high pole, decorated with flowers and ribbons, around which revelers dance or engage in sports during May Day celebrations. [MAY + POLE]

 

 

 

The last thing she wanted to do was dance around a ridiculous pole with a ridiculous piece of ribbon. Seriously, she could not think of one other thing she would like to do less. Okay, maybe she could: it was to wear some sort of German bustier and skirt contraption and a flower wreath on her head while she danced around a ridiculous pole with a ridiculous piece of ribbon. Maribel had not signed up for this. She wanted to go to a normal school, you know, one where kids made out in the boiler room and ignored their teachers. The kind where being anti-social was cool and being on student council was not. The kind where this kind of community-building-spring-ritual-dealie would be a joke. But this was not that kind of school. Her classmates seemed to have emerged from some other planet—a planet where wearing wreaths made of plastic flowers from Michael’s on your head was some sort of boon and where dancing around a giant phallus with a piece of ribbon was a damn good time.

 

“Maribel, get over here,” Ms. Dorber called from across the lawn. She was beaming and holding out a piece of marigold ribbon in Maribel’s direction. Maribel shifted her gaze and pretended she didn’t hear. That didn’t work. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Ms. Dorber coming straight towards her. She was still smiling.

 

“Maribel, didn’t you hear me? It’s time for the Maypole dance.”

 

“Um, don’t you think I could just sit this one out? I’m not really feeling very springy today. I could just cheer everyone on.”

 

“Everyone participates,” Ms. Dorber said.

 

So Maribel followed her over to the Maypole to join her classmates. She picked the marigold ribbon up from the dewed grass.

 

The music began. It was some jaunty orchestral shit that she bet one of the teachers had transferred from cassette. Geezers. She had practiced for this, they all had. They had been weaving in and out and around the Maypole during gym class all this week, hardly physical education if you asked her. No one had.

 

Now it was time for the real deal. She tried to be as small as possible as she weaved in and around her classmates. She was not accustomed to being in the spotlight and she didn’t like it. Every time she looked up, this boy from her biology class James was looking at her. He gave her a smile that made her uncomfortable, as if the two of them shared a secret. They had never spoken. Well, once. He had asked her to borrow a pen one day.

 

There was no time to ask him to stop being such a creeper or to say anything at all because all the sophomores were weaving in and out and in and out with their ribbons. Every time she went around again, though, there he was, gangly frame and smirky smile. But the last time she passed him, he whispered something to her. The music had kicked up—violins and flutes and all that—and she didn’t quite catch it.

 

It felt like this song was going to go on forever. Spring would turn to fall and fall to winter and they would still be here, arms frozen solid, circling and circling around. The teachers looked on with the expressions of teachers who like to see young people applying themselves. Suddenly, Maribel felt her ribbon slacken and she looked up. The pole was descending quickly to the ground and suddenly it was a mess of arms and legs and torsos and heads and ribbons as people scattered, getting out of the way of the giant striped pole. And like that, it was over. The pole lay on the ground surrounded by severed flowers and tangled ribbons. Amidst the wreckage, students were strewn all over the lawn, collecting their breath. Teachers were frantic, running around to make sure everyone was okay. Maribel scanned the crowd and spotted James standing off to the corner. She caught him smiling as he looked down at the ground. It was just an instant, that slight upward turn before his face neutralized. But that instant gave her hope. Maybe she was not alone.

 

 

 

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spy

Sherlock_holmes_pipe_hat

 

Day 29 of the 30 days, 30 words challenge

 

 

spy  v.  spied, spying  1  watch closely and secretly see –n. pl. spies one who spies, esp. to get another country’s secrets.

 

 

 

I spy with my little eye…

 

We play this game as children. Something is spied—a red shoe, a green tree, a gray button—and then must be discovered. We get a hint. We guess. We get a hint. We’re getting warmer. We’re getting oooh, ice cold. We want to get it right. We want to know what our playmate was thinking. We want to see the same thing they saw. We learn the tremendous power of observation.

 

“I Spy” is excellent training ground for our creativity. We learn how keen our notice can be. We learn how to scrutinize and select. When we are the spier, we have to pick objects that will be harder and harder to guess. When we are the guesser, we must uncover the tiny details our playmates have decided upon.

 

We learn to discern between shades of the same color (is something lemon yellow or mustard yellow?). We learn how to read those around us (what objects would he pick?). We learn to be persistent, when we have guessed and guessed and still haven’t guessed right.

 

I used to love reading mysteries when I was younger: Nancy Drew and Sherlock Holmes and R.L. Stine. When I was a little older, I read Mary Higgins Clark insatiably. What I loved about mysteries was how they hinged on one small detail. This detail had been there the whole time, for the detectives and the reader to see, but we hadn’t seen it, not until that dramatic moment when we did. And that tiny detail is what made everything make sense. We now knew who did it. We knew the motivation. We knew what needed to be done. Justice = served.

 

However, the same attention to detail that can make writing come alive can be self destructive when applied to our lives. These mysteries can be so satisfying because they offer a resolution we don’t always get in life. As we grow up and become grown ups, we employ the same level of curiosity except with an intensity rooted in a desire for perfection rather than a need for play. We can look and look and look at the details of our lives: scrutinizing our choices, making pro and con lists, charting out graphs, asking friends for advice, weighing and measuring and weighing again. Sometimes, this can help. Sometimes, however, we are applying this attention to detail in an attempt to excavate ourselves from a hole of uncertainly. And it just doesn’t work. We flood ourselves with details. We guess and second guess. We don’t know which details are the most important. We have too many to measure.

 

I had a co-worker once who told me that on his Sunday, he had cleaned his house, including making sure all of the screws in the outlet covers were facing in the same direction, vertically. That detail stuck with me, I guess, because it gave me insights into him, into myself, into our differences. There are times when details are very important to me—for example, when planning what to wear for a special event, when selecting or making a gift for a friend—and there are times when I couldn’t care less, as with the direction of the screws on my outlet covers (or, as is true for me now, whether to replace a broken outlet cover). When I find myself spying all the details and becoming mired in them, I know I have lost the bigger picture.

 

The same attention to detail that serves us in making quality choices can also be our undoing if we can’t let them go. We can make sure our home is in perfect order, that our dishes are clean and stacked, that all our files are labeled and catalogued, that our clothes are put away neatly in our closets, but sometimes we do these things not for sheer tidiness but to produce an illusion of control. We will all experience discomfort. We will all suffer. We will all die someday. And our attention to detail will not save us from these things. On the contrary, they may give us a false illusion of safety that will backfire when we face obstacles.

 

I think one key is allowing ourselves to observe details in a way that makes us liberated instead of entrapped. Can we notice the details of what makes our lives rich and full at least as much if not more than we notice the details that complicate our lives or challenge us? Can we pay attention all the time instead of just when we are stressed out? Can we allow observation to be the pleasure it can be instead of a chore? Can we investigate and spy without the intensity of needing one definitive answer?

 

 

 

 

A few things I spied today:  my little black-and-white dog curled up in the comforter; the sun cascading white light through the curtains; a string of mala beads, brown joined with red thread; the red light blinking; a long row of beige tables lined up with a place-setting of papers at each seat; maple and sprinkled donuts on a platter; canary yellow pineapple and strawberries and blueberries in a bowl; a light blue dress with a white pattern; a tattoo of red roses; turquoise bangs; the round marbled body of a banjo; a blue pocket dictionary with white lettering; a blue and black hummingbird floating mid-air just beside me before skirting off to a new destination; an orange and black butterfly coasting just in front of me; two white-haired ladies, one wearing mustard jeans, chatting at a black table over two cups of coffee; a red, green, and gold box with this quote inside: “Happiness leads none of us by the same route”; blue pieces of paper folded inside the box; a white napkin holding a handful of purple grapes, a piece of dark chocolate, a tortilla chip with guacamole, and an oreo cookie; a blue sofa; the yellow and white reflection of the ceiling fan in the glass of the picture frame holding a red and orange and black painting of ships at sea.

 

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mad·cap

1-bonnie-and-clyde-faye-dunaway-1967-everett

 

Day 28 of the 30 days, 30 words challenge:

 

mad·cap  (mad cap)  adj.  1.  wildly impulsive; reckless; rash; a madcap scheme  —n.  2.  a madcap person, esp. a girl [MAD + CAP1]

 

 

Character Sketch of Madcap Gal:

 

 

1. Character Functions:

The Madcap Gal is audacious. She is not afraid of women or men. She is manipulative but without others recognizing her manipulation. Her charm makes those around her want to be part of her crazy adventures, even against their better judgment. She is a (sometimes antagonistic) protagonist, love interest, a best friend (the one with more control in the relationship), a catalyst but never comic relief.

 

2. Character Emotions

Sometimes, the audience sympathizes with Madcap Gal (in the way that cops sometimes let crying women off for violating traffic laws). At best, the audience empathizes with Madcap Gal, because they see parts of themselves—the more wounded, hidden parts—in her. At worst (especially true for fuddy duddies), they view her as reckless, irresponsible, and they rejoice in her fall.

 

3. Character Components

a)     Interior – Madcap Gal was raised in home environment where she didn’t get much attention. With aloof parents, she did everything possible to command attention: acting up, acting out. When that didn’t work, she decided to take her efforts elsewhere, moving out at sixteen and traveling the country. She never stays in a place for too long. She gives the illusion of being completely open and transparent without ever actually being open and transparent. When we are introduced to her in the opening scene, she has already been in Town A for six months, as long as she’s stayed anywhere. And she is torn because for the first time in her life, she feels compelled to stay.

b)   Exterior – She dresses flashily. In loud plaids, in menswear, in tight pencil skirts. Her hair is styled in a tight bob, but she often wears wigs. Most times when we see her, she is wearing a hat. Her favorite is a beret, situated to appear tossed on when it has really been arranged just so. She imagines herself a modern day Bonnie without the Clyde. She walks rapidly, as if she is always late to the next thing (which is often true). Her small apartment is decorated with art she finds on the street. Her rooms are painted bright colors: turquoise, mustard seed, tomato. There is a sort of clutter about the shelves of knick-knacks—old skeleton keys, figurines, glasses—on the living room walls and the pans hanging in the kitchen. But every time she moves, she drags most of these possessions on the curb, taking only her white Samsonite suitcase. Over the course of the first thirty minutes, we see her working three different jobs: at a thrift store, at a coffeeshop, at a fortune cookie factory. We find out she has also worked at a rollerrink, at a record store, at a grocery store, among others. In a flashback, we see her arriving at Town A by riding the rails.

 

4. Character Background

a) Where is the character from (background)?

The audience doesn’t know precisely where Madcap Girl is from, because she has a different story for each person she encounters. She is from a nondescript town in the middle of the country. She invents new places to be from because the reality of her hometown is too boring for the image she creates for herself.

 

b)     What was she doing just before this scene?

Just before the opening scene, she was sleeping.

 

c)      What does the writer say about this character?

Writer says she is running from herself. That her antics are a kind of disguise she wears for having no sense of who she really is or what she really wants.

 

d)     What do others say about this character?

Madcap Girl is either the source of admiration or of scorn. It is impossible to feel neutral about her.

 

e)      What does the character say about herself?

She doesn’t say much about herself. She is a woman of action.

 

5. Character Objectives

These are the main needs and wants of a character (what people want out of life)

 

a)  SUPER OBJECTIVE: “To Be Perceived as Madcap Gal”
What is the primal motivation of the character?  To be perceived by others as spontaneous, adventurous, the life of the party.
What are the main needs of the character? To keep moving, to distract herself, to keep her truer needs ands desires invisible to everyone, especially herself.

 

b) OBJECTIVES
What does the character want (motives)? Attention, excitement, constant movement. And, though she wouldn’t admit it, love.
What are the active choices to achieve the Super Objective? Constantly switching in and out of identities and jobs and relationships, avoiding like the plague anything that could be perceived as practical.

 

c) MAIN ACTIONS

What the character DOES…initiates schemes, stays up all night, recruits followers to be a part of adventures
to get what she WANTS…attention (feeling of worthiness)
to fulfill her NEEDS…to be hidden (to be seen)

 

6. Character Dialogue: excerpts

“A man with a record!”

“You think you’re free? I’m free! You don’t know what freedom is! I’m free. I can breathe. And you… will choke on your average fuckin’ mediocre life!”

“Forget regret.”

“I may have made a mistake but that is no reason to patronize me. It is dismaying that your expectations are based on the performance of a lesser primate, and also revelatory of a managerial style which is sadly lacking. Is it any wonder then that I’ve chosen not to learn the intricacies of an antiquated and idiotic system?”

“Hate is a very exciting emotion. Haven’t you noticed? Very exciting.”

“At the end of the day, we can endure much more than we think we can.”

“I have many skills.”

“He’s dull as powder”

“You’re never gonna jump, are you?”

“Do you think I may one day escape?”

“I’ve been living my life, okay? I’ve been in good relationships and I’ve been in shitty ones… and I’ve moved alot… and I’ve been happy, and I’ve been sad… and I’ve been lonely… and that is what I’ve been doing. Which is a lot more then I can say for some freak, who thinks he’s gonna get the Ebola virus from a bowl of mixed nuts.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

*sketch format based off of formula suggested by Peter D. Marshall

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shent

quote by Brene Brown

quote by Brene Brown

Quote by Brene Brown

Quote by Brene Brown

 

Day 26 of the 30 days, 30 words challenge

 

 

shent  (shent),  adj.  [ME. Schent  <  pp. of schenden, to put to shame, harm; akin to G. chanden], [archaic & Dial],  1.  disgraced.  2.  lost, ruined, or defeated, as a case.  3.  injured; damaged  4.  reproached.  

 

 

Social work researcher and storyteller Brené Brown spent six years studying shame. She had gathered people together to ask them about their greatest accomplishments, their experiences with love and belonging. However, she found when she asked about these things, participants instead told her their greatest failures, their experience of lost love, their most painful experiences of not belonging. When she looked closer, she found shame.

 

We’ve all experienced it. That burning sensation that begins in the gut and spirals up through the chest until it reaches our cheeks, setting them ablaze. Our faces grow red and hot and we feel a deep sense of not okayness. We want to hide. We wish we could disappear. Whether our shame emerged from something said or done by someone else or from our own self talk or deeds, we are familiar with the feeling of shame searing through us.

 

Brené Brown says that shame can be lethal. Whereas guilt can be a powerful motivator for change as we realize: I did something bad, shame has the capacity to destroy us because the message is: I am bad.  The tricky thing about shame is that we often feel like we are the only ones who experience it; this breeds isolation and, in turn, more shame. Brown says, “If you put shame in a Petri dish, it needs three things to grow exponentially: secrecy, silence and judgment.”

 

Our moment of difficulty or confusion spins out so that we search for all the areas in our lives when we are wrong. Perhaps a coworker alluded to us not doing enough on a work project and this was this initial hit of shame, but we didn’t catch it. So soon we are spinning stories left and right about our inadequacies: we shouldn’t have taken this road: look at this traffic, idiot ; we haven’t been attentive enough to our relationships: you said you were going to call your best friend back and you still haven’t done it; you are SO selfish ; we skipped the gym: you are undisciplined, fat, ugly; we didn’t wake up as early as we said we would: and wasted the morning, we are bad friends, bad employees, bad children, bad parents, bad bad bad. It is so easy to get caught up in this web of unworthiness. Shame spins us in circles.

 

Each shame we experience is embued with the memory of our early shames. These early childhood shames had us worrying we were not okay except without the awareness that these moments of self doubt or feeling not okay are things everyone experiences.

 

When I watched Brené Brown’s first TED talk, I was blown away by her articulation of what it means to be vulnerable and why it can be so scary sometimes. She spoke of how hard it is to live life with your whole heart. In her second TED talk, I was grateful that she spoke so honestly about her own vulnerability following the huge success of her first TED talk. She said that she had been intentionally flying below the radar, keeping her work small. Her desire to stay small mimicked the findings from her research: she feared what would happen if more people knew about her work.

 

Shenpa is the Tibetan word for attachment. Attachment feels like a mild word for what shenpa feels like. It’s when we cannot let go of something and it takes control of us. We keep returning and playing the same scenario in our mind and in each replaying we feel more and more out of control. We are so attached to the vision of what we want to happen that when something happens outside of this, we easily fall into stories. Shenpa is like shame. Instead of realizing that the world is uncertain and that we have very little control over our lives, we spin out, pretending that if only we hold ourselves accountable, if only we had done things different, if only we took the perfect path, we wouldn’t have to suffer. But this is a lie and it is a lie that disempowers.

 

We can’t go back and undo our past experiences with shame nor can we prevent it from arising from time to time. But we can choose to recognize it when it shows up. We can say,  I see you, shame, and I know that you are not telling the whole story.

 

I find it interesting that yesterday the word was regret and today the word is shent. Both of these can cause us to feel strong emotions. In both of these, we have choices. We can regret our experiences and learn from them to make better decisions in the future. Or we can use our regrets to steep in shame, deciding that our regrets alone define who we were, who we are, and who we will be.

 

There is a trick though, to overcome shame. Brené Brown says that if that petri dish growing shame is doused in empathy, shame cannot survive. We need to be mirrors to one another. This is why the practice of tonglen can be so helpful. In tonglen practice, when we are most immersed in our own feelings of grief or anger or loneliness, we can free ourselves of believing we are alone by breathing in our own feelings and the feelings of all the other beings around the planet who are experiencing the same emotions. Then we can breathe out relief to us all. Tonglen is a helpful reminder that, even when we feel alone in our “unique” experience, there are countless individuals experiencing similar feelings. That solidarity can save us from losing ourselves in shame.

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re·gret

Regrets-590x399

 

Day 25 of the 30 day, 30 word challenge

 

re·gret  (ri-ˈgret),  v.  –gret·ted, –gret·ting, –grets.  –tr.  1.  To feel sorry, disappointed, or distressed about.  2.  To remember with a feeling of loss or sorrow; mourn.  3.  regrets. A courteous expression of regret, esp. at having to decline an invitation.  [ME regretten, to lament < OFr. Regreter : re-, re- + greter, to weep (perh. Of Gmc. Orig.)  –re·gret·ter n. 

 

Cartoon by Laure Porché

Cartoon by Laure Porché

 

The origins of the word regret mean “to lament” or “to weep.” There is a bitter taste that permeates regret. We want things to be other than they are. We feel loss. We wish we had behaved differently or tried harder or let go sooner. People often hand out the trite saying: you’ll regret the things you didn’t do in life more than the things you did. But I think there is plenty of room in Regretsville for them both. I also think, in this privileged land of choices, we spend too much time regretting or anticipating regretting the wrong things.

 

Some regrets mark a culture in which we are too scared to even be in touch with our deeper desires and regrets. Teenagers and young adults say FML when they have a challenging day, when they don’t get precisely what they want. Microsoft boss Steve Balmer said “his biggest regret” was missing out on the smartphone boom (This was incidentally, the first result when I searched for “my biggest regret” is). Saying one’s biggest regret is not getting in on an industry to make more money seems pretty silly in the grand scheme of things. But I think it is a helpful canary for a culture that is driven by accumulation of more and more wealth.

 

Regret can also signify our desire for constant control of every aspect of our lives and our inability to recognized our own humanity. My mindfulness teacher once told me not to be too hard on myself about my actions in the past. “If you could have done something differently, something more skillfully, you would have,” he said. “That was the best you were capable of at the time. Regret as fuel for change and for acting better in the future seems productive. What doesn’t seem productive is using regret as a weapon against ourselves. Our today self decides that there was something that our years-ago self could have done so that we wouldn’t have regret. But our years-ago self wasn’t capable of more mature or wise action; that self hadn’t yet learned the lessons.

 

Palliative nurse Bronnie Ware spent years assisting people who had gone home to die. She spent time listening to them and asked them what they would have done differently. Did they have any regrets? The most common regrets were:

 

1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.

2. I wish I didn’t work so hard.

3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.

4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.

5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

 

Ultimately, what they seem to boil down to is one word: connection. Connection with ourselves and connection with others. Connection with ourselves allows room for us to become aware of how we want to use our gifts and our lives and to trust that over the feedback we get from socialization and expectations of others. Connection with others allows us to value relationships over work and to reach out and make ourselves vulnerable with the support of those we care about. Realizing our connection to everyone and everything allows us to get out of our selfish spin cycles of thought and into the world that we belong to.

 

The Dalai Lama said, “The pain of regret didn’t go away. But I don’t let it pull me back and drag me down.”  I don’t think it is possible to be human and not have regret. We will inevitably mess up. We will do things we wish we hadn’t done. We won’t do things we wish we had. But I think there is a healthy way to acknowledge our regrets without getting mired in them. Miring ourselves in regret is a trick. So long as we fixate ourselves on the past, we don’t have to be present right now. And right now is when we actually have some choice.

 

 

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bridge sign

moored

 

bridge sign,  Naut.  a sign on a pier or quay to show where the bridge of a certain vessel should be when the vessel is moored.

 

 

We moored ourselves. The journey over water had been long and now we edged in from the sea. Places we knew before only by faint lines on a map were now vivid to us. But there was something even more thrilling than the adventure: the arriving, safely, at the quay. We pulled in to the space marked by the sign and anchored. Home.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Ko·mo·do drag·on

Komodo dragon/ Adam Riley

Komodo dragon/ Adam Riley

 

Day 22 of the 30 days, 30 words challenge:

 

Ko·mo·do drag·on  (kə-ˈmō-dō-)  a monitor lizard, Varanus komodoensis, of Komodo and adjacent Indonesian Islands that grows to a length of 10 feet: the largest lizard in the world. Also called  dragon lizard, giant lizard, Komoˈdo lizˈard.

 

 

When the dragons came, they came all at once and they were everywhere. Dragons on the sidewalks, dragons in swimming pools, dragons at the grocery. We couldn’t tell where they had come from—they simply weren’t there and then they were. It can be alarming to find oneself surrounded, suddenly, by dragons. We tried to make the best of it. We gingerly walked around them as we went down the street. We swerved to avoid hitting them while driving. We wondered what they ate and if we fed them whether they might find other things more attractive than, say, us. We found they were fans of kale but not carrots and Cheetos but not Doritos. We noticed there were less stray cats around. We began to take provisions, snacks for us and for them, when we left the house and they began to wait for us. Once we fed them, they became accustomed to it and their appetites grew insatiable. The waddled up close with their scaly short legs and licked at ankles, nibbled on calves until they were given food. Soon, there were more incidents: thick cuts and bites, infections, loss of blood. More and more people were going to the emergency room. Something had to be done. So the human that all the humans trusted went to talk to the dragon that all the dragons trusted. The trusted human said, “When you arrived, we didn’t know where you came from. We tried to be generous with you. We fed you and now you won’t leave us alone. What is your problem?” “Well, that’s the thing,” said the trusted dragon, “before you fed us, we didn’t know to be hungry.”

 

 

 

 

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tu·ber·ous

Botanical-Root-vegetables-4-694x1024

Day 19 of the 30 days, 30 words challenge:

 

Short piece today about planting. Speaking of which, I recently wrote an article about local Arizona farm, Sleeping Frog Farms. They happen to plant all kinds of tuberous vegetables. You can find the article in Edible Baja Arizona here.

 

 

tu·ber·ous \ˈtü-b(ə-)rəs, ˈtyü-\  adj.  of, resembling, or being a tuber.

(tu·ber: a short fleshy usu underground stem (as of a potato plant) bearing minute scalelike leaves each with a bud at its base)

 

 

 

They waited to plant until snow had almost melted off the mountain. They shoveled and hoed, digging straight, shallow trenches and planting cut potatoes inside. They planted and planned other crops and flipped through seed catalogs and ordered and  waited. When the green sprouts from the earth were eight inches high, they hilled. They raised soil up around the vines on each side. They were careful not to disturb the roots. They made sure soil was loose and the mulch had space to breathe. When the plants began to flower, they knew they could soon harvest. A few weeks after the plants flowered, they dug into the loose soil around. They pulled the tubers, red and yellow and brown from the ground. In the kitchen, sweet potato pie and potato leek soup and mashed potatoes. They roasted potatoes with butter and rosemary. They sprinkled potatoes with olive oil and salt. They worked and planned for when it was time to plant again.

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cap

Navy Hat MO 8350jpg

 

Day 17 of the 30 days, 30 words challenge:

 

cap  (kap),  n. v.  capped, capping.  –n.  1.  a covering for the head, esp. one fitting loosely, made of softer material than a hat and usually having little or no brim.  2.  a covering of lace or similar material for a woman’s head, usually worn indoors.  3.  a headdress denoting rank, occupation, or the like:  a nurse’s cap.  4.  mortarboard (def. 2).  5.  anything resembling or suggestive of a a covering for the head in shape, use, or position: a cap on a bottle.  6.  summit; top; acme.  7.  Bot. the milieus of a mushroom.  8.  Also called cap piece, lid  Mining. A short, horizontal piece at the top of a prop for supporting part of a roof.  9.  a percussion cap.  10.  a noisemaking device for toy pistols, made of a small quantity of explosive wrapped in paper or other thin material.  11.  Naut. a. a fitting of metal placed over the head of a spar, as a mast or bowsprit, and having a collar for securing a further spar, as an upper mast or jib boom, at some distance above its lower end.  b.  a metal hand at the end of a spar.  c.  a cover of leather or tarred canvas for the end of a rope.  12.  a new tread applied to a worm pneumatic tire.  13.  Archit. a capital.  14.  Carpentry. a metal plate placed over the iron of a plane to break the shavings as they rise.  15.  Naut.  a wooden or metal place at the head of a mast, for supporting and steadying an upper mast, as a topmast or topgallant mast.  16.  Fox Hunting. See capping fee.  17.  cap in hand, humbly; in supplication: He went to his father cap in hand and begged his forgiveness. 18.  set one’s cap for, to attempt to catch as a husband: Several girls in the class were setting their caps for the new young biology instructor.  v.t.  19.  to provide or cover with or as with a cap.  20.  to complete.  21.  to surpass; follow up with something as good or better: to cap one joke with another.  22.  to serve as a cap, covering, or top to: overlie.  –v.i.   23.  Fox Hunting, to hunt with a hunting club of which one is not a member, on payment of a capping fee.  24.  cap the climax, to surpass what has been considered the limit; exceed expectations: This latest prank really caps the climax.  [ME cappe, OE cappe  <  LL capp(a) hooded cloak, cap; akin to L caput head] –capless, adj.

 

 

The skipper placed the cap on his head and pulled it down snug. It had been given to him years ago by a woman. In an old black and white photograph tucked at the bottom of a drawer, the two of them sat at a picnic: him—bearded and rough around the edges, even then—and her—pretty and pinafored, with her ruffled dress and white laced bonnet. She’d given him the cap that day and he’d taken off his military issued one, replacing it with the soft fabric, a relief to his forehead. He was on leave. They spread out a blanket by the river and then went for a walk on a trail in the nearby woods. He plucked berries off bushes, showing her which were poisonous and which were safe for eating; they harvested mushrooms, tucking the chanterelles and scarlet cups into cloth napkins. He told her he was done with the sounds of guns firing, the quick sparks. He would work commercial now, directing men on ships he commandeered. The sailors under him staying the sails, securing the caps. But the sailing meant leaving, still and always. She wanted a life on the land. The tires hit every loose rock on the road as he drove her home that day, and the jarring ride felt fitting as he listened to her. She stared out the front window telling him why her answer was no, why it couldn’t be him. He stopped the car at her house and turned, handing her his naval cap but she shook her head. She didn’t turn to look at him, not once, as she got of out the car and walked to the front door. The barriers he had taken down erected themselves quickly. He steadied himself with assurances. He couldn’t give up one love, even for another. Walking on deck, the salty air stung his eyes and he shook off the memory. He didn’t know then that storms are not meant to be borne alone. He didn’t know then that chances are as ephemeral as waves.

 

 

*In this piece, I tried to use every meaning of the word cap in the definition above. The ones I couldn’t manage to sneak in was the capping fee for fox hunting, or capital, or mortarboard. For the most part, the definitions appear in chronological order.

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Men·she·vik

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Men·she·vik  (men(t)-shə-ˌvik, -ˌvēk),  n. pl.  viks, -vik·I,  (in Russia) a member of the Social Democratic party in opposition to the Bolsheviks and advocating gradual development of full socialism through parlimentary government and cooperation with bourgeois parties: absorbed into the Communist party formed in 1918.

 

So here we were, going along all smooth and easy with our 30 days, 30 words challenge until today, Day 16: Menshevik. I knew after so many amazing words to work with, I was going to bibliomance a tricky one sooner or later. But the rule is no do-overs. The word picked is the word picked and you have to do something with it. I’ve held myself to that since Day 1 of the dictionary project.

 

 

Don’t Know Much About (Certain Parts of) History

 

 

It’s funny because just today I was talking with students in class about history. We were discussing the advantages and disadvantages of showing (or utilizing sensory description) and telling (or exposition) in writing. We were naming different disadvantages of using exposition exclusively, one of which is the danger of being too cut and dry and thus boring. I used history books as an example. “What are most history books made of?” I asked. “Telling,” they responded. I said yes, most history books are comprised of exposition and that is exactly why I thought history was boring as hell in high school. It’s why, I’m sad to admit, I didn’t take a single history class in college. It wasn’t that I didn’t like history, it was that I had never been made to care about history, at least when it was labeled that. I always had a hard time with straight memorization. I had no interest in learning names and dates with no context. One of the stupidest things I had to do for history class was to memorize all the U.S. presidents’ names in the order they served. I would have much preferred to spend time learning a little bit about some of them then to spend all that time putting these random names in order. The people on the pages of my history books were flat characters at best and stereotypes at worst. Why should I invest in situations that happened long ago to people who I knew nothing about?

 

I learned more about history in my other classes, where history was made relevant for me. Like in my high school religion class where we watched Gandhi with Ben Kingsley and Romero with Raul Julia. We learned about the movements these men started, movements rooted in compassion for their fellow human beings. In Mrs. A’s religion class, we talked about real people and the injustices done to them. We talked about the ability of individuals and communities to reach out with compassion and nonviolent resistance and to make a difference. One day, we had a special guest. Mrs. A brought in her son Matthew, who was fourteen, in a wheelchair, and had severe developmental disabilities. She told us that at the orphanage, he was in a crib alone and had begun to curl up in the fetal position. None of the staff there had held him for long periods of time and when the doctor examined him, he said that the little baby boy had begun the process of dying, his organs were beginning to shut down. Infants not only need milk to survive; they cannot survive without human contact. Without touch, they fail to thrive.

 

I learned about history in my English classes where we read The Power and the Glory and Edith Hamilton’s Mythology and Les Miserables and Beowulf. We read Shakespeare and The Color Purple and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Their Eyes Were Watching God. We read about different kinds of people from different places, all of whom were facing struggles in life, all of whom were battling with moral quandaries. We talked about them as if they were real people and we wrote about what their stories meant, why their stories were important. One day, in my English class with Mrs. T., she brought in a small boombox. The night before, a legendary sports figure in New Orleans had killed himself by inserting a tube from the tailpipe of his car into the nearly closed window and letting the car engine run as he sat inside. She played us two Simon and Garfunkel songs: “A Most Peculiar Man” and “I Am A Rock.” Simon and Garfunkel sing, “I have my books/And my poetry to protect me/ I am shielded in my armor/Hiding in my room, safe within my womb/I touch no one and no one touches me/I am a rock, I am an island/And a rock feels no pain/And an island never cries.” After the last song finished, she turned to us, her eyes wet, and asked us, please, to not be rocks or islands onto ourselves. It was clear that other people’s lives mattered to her, that we mattered to her. I’m sure that her class and her teaching is one of the reasons that I bring in current events–the ones that stir us, that remind us of both the beauty and fragility of being human–into the writing classroom for discussion. Because history is happening all around us. Because I want my students’ ideas and feelings to be part of that conversation.

 

I don’t know much about this particular portion of history: the Mensheviks and the Bolsheviks. I won’t pretend that I do, or that a quick look at Wikipedia will give me the information I need to write with any authority about it. I am grateful that I came to history on my own over time. I’m grateful that I now have a deep desire to learn about history, because I realize that history is simply the stories of people. People who are trying to live their lives in an imperfect world. People who disagree with one another. People who suffer deeply and sometimes act out from this suffering. People who just want to be able to feed themselves and their families. People who want to create art and language and music. People who want to discover why the planets move the way do or create inventions to make life better for all humans. People who are passionate about so many different things. People who have their own stories to make and their own stories to tell.

 

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