Every day, it seems, I find myself looking up words and their etymologies, trying to get at the root of what something I've just read means. Sometimes it's a word in the Bible, and I end up wading my way through ancient languages I've never studied, searching for clues. Other times it's just words from daily life that suddenly pertain to some matter I'm struggling with or considering. Often the word has changed over the centuries; I find such words particularly fascinating—particularly when, as is often the case, the word's current meaning is at odds with what it once meant. Some of these word studies find their way into my writing projects. My goal is to post new words weekly, sometimes brand new material and sometimes excerpts from my books.

28 November 2007

Back Again!

Yes, it's been two months. I've been busy with other writing tasks—not the least of which, by the way, is my monthly post for Today's Christian Woman that you might want to have a look at if you have been missing the comforting voice of the fellow struggler and amateur believer. It's here: http://blog.todayschristianwoman.com/walkwithme/. You can also give me advice there, as those who comment frequently do. This initially bothered me. I guess I thought, Hey! I'm the one who's writing this blog; I should be the one doing the advising. But I have come to find it amusing. And often encouraging. A kind of advice column in reverse, where the messed up columnist details her doubts and struggles and questions and her savvier readers write in with counsel. And it brings the added benefit of all these people out there praying for me—people much more secure in what they believe and surely much better at articulating to God what it is I need. I usually don't know. I'm pretting much of a groaner, when it comes to prayer.

Anyway, I reenter this blogspace with new resolve to write shorter, bloggier posts on a more regular basis and thus enjoy it more. We'll see if I am successful. It's part of my New Year's resolution (yes, I know it's early for that; I'm all messed up in my schedule this season) to try, in the context of some or the other daily event, to do unto others what I would have them do unto me. My husband routinely lets this mandate direct his encounters and most mundane decision-making, and it has always impressed me. I want to see if I can make doing what I would have others do in similar circumstances into a habit, as it seems to be for him. And so I thought, what kind of blog posts would I like my friends and former students and current students and interesting strangers to write? I decided each post should be small and succulent. Like a lamb chop. Or, rather, like several little lamb chops, since one is never enough. In their little puddle of that wonderful vinegary mint sauce that the British eat on lamb.

Okay, so that's one new thing. The other is that I have been running. I don't know if I have put this in past posts (and I'm too lazy to check), but I started in the early summer and I now run 9 MILES three days a week. Added up, that's a marathon a week. I don't know how this happened. I could barely get to my mother-in-law's house at first. It is some sort of miracle. I run, in any case, on a straight, hilly road near my house. I still dread it—I am writing right now when I should be running—but I love it once I get out there. I get to notice so many things I never would have noticed—deer, bird songs, a neighbors' buffalo herd, this black mule with a dusty mouth I've fallen in love with that I have named Beautiful. The other day I found a young-looking owl lying open-eyed on the roadside. Seemingly uninjured—just dead. I've never seen one up close before. And I have all sorts of ideas for writing. I've planned so many books that I will never be able to write them all. Something about running unlatches my thoughts. I'm not fast (I go around 12 and 1/2 mintes a mile) and I'm not getting a bit skinnier, since I can't seem to shake the notion that with all this running I should get to eat whatever I want. But it's a great stress reducer, which I especially need at Christmastime, which triggers all my post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms.

I always have some song at Christmastime that kind of takes over my brain. Whatever I'm doing, from the when I wake up, it's there in my brain. An Ohrwurm, as the Germans call it— earworm. Or, like the Jesus prayer that Eastern Orthodox train themselves to repeat constantly. It's usually a melancholy, almost hopeless song that speaks to my Christmastime misery. Amy Grant's "Breath of Heaven." Or Pedro the Lion singing Longfellow's anti-war carol, "I Heard the Bells." ("There is no peace on earth, I said!") Or that James Taylor version of "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" that came out right after 9/11, in which he reverts to the original lyrics of the song in lieu of Sinatra's cheerier take, singing "Until then we'll just have to muddle through somehow" instead of "Hang a shining star upon the highest bough." This year, my inescapable Christmas song is Sufjan Stevens' "Sister Winter," with lyrics just shy of maudlin about trying—unsuccessfully—to be grateful and merry in the wake of a love relationship that failed in the previous summer. The central line is "But my heart is returned to Sister Winter," and he repeatedly tells his friends, "I apologize, apologize." It reminds me of that scene in one of Lulu's favorite movies, Notting Hill, where Hugh Grant apologizes to his friends for having been depressed for so long. That's a really captivating thing about that movie: that healthy, supportive group of friends. I wish us all a group of friends like that this Christmas. Anyway, that's what's in my head these days: But my heart is . . . apologize, apologize. It's there when I lie down and when I get up and when the girls make me take them to the mall. It's enscribed on the lintel of my door. The only place I hear other noises is when I run.

There. That's four little lamb chops worth of my thoughts, five morsels for your reading delight, in their little puddle of vinegar. Advise away, friends. I'm off to run.


Ann said...

It's good to hear from you again, Mrs. Kirk. Your posts are always lovely. Congratulations on the running -- that is not easy to do. I started a new blog a few months ago at girlfromthenorthcountry.wordpress.com if you're interested in taking a look. I'm trying to get more literary and less bloggy with it so I can push myself to write better on a daily basis, but so far I don't know if I've been successful. I miss those workshop classes with you and the English majors and how they used to challenge me. I pray that you and your family are well.

Katy said...

Mrs. Kirk! Wow! I'm so impressed with your running! I started running May, and I stop and start and can't seem to get past three miles. I've run two 5Ks without stopping, and that's the best I can seem to do. I am supposed to run a relay in March, of which my portion will be three legs each about six miles long over a stretch of two days. I don't know if I can do it, but you have given me hope. Nine miles! Wow!

Christy said...

The running is very impressive, as I'm someone who thinks walking is good exercise b/c it's the only thing I've found that doesn't cause pain! But I'm more impressed with the fact that you are writing normal, doubtful, human, and real articles for what was a pretty saccharine magazine the last time I looked at it. Good for you and good for them for realizing reality should be allowed!