August 20, 2010

Words I Like

I love words. I love trying to use them in interesting ways, while at the same time preserving them. I am loathe to use the popular and, to me, heretical short forms of so many words in our language today; I use "through," "doughnut," "light" and "night," "you" instead of "U," "for" instead of "4," that kind of thing. Even on Twitter. To me, it's worth the extra characters.

English isn't an easy language, and it may not even be a beautiful language all the time, but there is something so inherently wonderful about its ability to be both flexible and traditional at the same time. It is such a amalgamation, having adopted and absorbed so much from many other languages and cultures, but keeping its identity. Its rules are many and complex, and are often confusing, but it has become the de facto global language so it must be doing something right.

I've gotten into discussions with people about what I call the bastardization of our language (and here I mean American English, just to be clear) when I'm in a bad mood about it, or the diminishment of it when I'm in a...better...mood about it. While I recognize that language is changeable -- it has to adapt and grow to survive and remain relevant -- I also believe that it shouldn't be compromised just because we're in a hurry and shorthand is easier. Contractions are a part of that adaptation, certainly, but there's a difference between contractions that developed through verbal changes to the language over time and shortcuts that I feel are just lazy and don't further it in any way. "Nite" may be a phonetic way to write "night," but it doesn't change it in any significant way, with respect to its meaning or usage, for instance.

And that wasn't at all where I intended to go with this post. Sometimes I get worked up about the subject, obviously. The point behind this was that I love words, and there are some I love more than others. I've done a fairly miserable job of keeping up with my lists, so when this one occurred to me, I ran with it.

List 6*: Words I Like

- Alpenglow
- Bailiwick
- Bespoke
- Bijou
- Cattywampus
- Defenestrate
- Flummoxed
- Ignominious
- Kerfuffle
- Lollygag
- Onomatopoeia
- Perambulate
- Portmanteau
- Preternatural
- Quaff
- Repose
- Rubenesque
- Sumptuous
- Twitterpated
- Vermilion

Care to share any of yours?

* If you're keeping track, though I sincerely doubt anyone is, my last list was marked "List 2" in error. It was actually List 5. Just thought you should know.

August 18, 2010

The Unknowable Story

In the weeks prior to my trip to New York, I'd been keeping my eye on a bird's nest outside, which had been built up above the walkway on our floor.

I stopped short the first time I noticed the nest, spotting the one beady little black eye of the mother bird, sitting ever so still as I approached, keeping me in her sight and hoping I'd just keep going. It was a Mourning Dove, which, if you aren't familiar, are some of the dumbest birds on the planet. They're so sweet looking, and make such a lovely sound when they coo, however, that you can't help but look at them and admire them.

Of course, I stopped and just stared back at her for a minute. She never moved, not even a twitch, as I was too far below her to be an immediate threat. Mourning Doves are very devoted parents and their eggs are almost never unattended. I know this because I've had them lay eggs on my porch in previous homes, in some of the dumbest places a bird could put a nest. (Thus my assessment of their smarts...or lack thereof.) They'll nest most anywhere, even if it's somewhere people are all. the. time. and they have to fly away 200 times a day, then come right back.

Every day I would walk under her on my way out to the carport, then again on my way back, each time looking up to see if she was there. She always was. I got into the habit of saying, "Hi, Mama," each time, even though I knew it was silly and she was probably more afraid than comforted by my attention. I left for New York, anticipating that the eggs might be hatched by the time I got back and looking forward to hearing the persistent little chirps of hungry baby birds each day.

When I got back from the trip, it was very late and very dark, so I wasn't able to see anything as I trudged on by with my luggage. The next day I didn't even think about it, as I rushed out to go see my mom after being gone; I'd fallen out of my habit.

But coming home later that day, I remembered to look up as I got close. And stopped short again. Mama Bird was gone. There were no little bird heads, no little hungry bird chirps. Nothing but a nest that looked sadly empty.

Crestfallen, I looked down, looking for the tell-tale signs of little eggs that had fallen out of nest or, worse, little birds that had. Nothing but four, smallish, odd-shaped drops of something black, which could have been droppings or something more heartbreaking. There was no way to tell. I looked around me as through there were going to be someone there to tell me what had happened. Looked up again. Looked down some more. Still nothing.

I live in a complex with mostly senior citizens. It's possible that I was the only one who ever saw the nest, as the average eyesight of my neighbors is probably closer to "legally blind" than "20/20." There simply wasn't anybody to ask about what happened. The bird certainly wasn't going to come back and tell me anything. There's no way they could have hatched and fledged in the short time I was gone. The location was such that I really don't believe a cat could have wreaked havoc and hurt Mama or the babies. I just couldn't puzzle out why the nest was now empty. I felt a little hollow.

Day after day, I've kept looking up to see if Mama is back, hoping against hope. She isn't, of course. I still stop each time and look up, look down, look around, looking for answers that aren't there. If anyone actually saw me, they'd probably think I was missing a few screws in the noggin...or that I fit in around here a bit more than they realized. But there is never anybody about to see anything. 

Today, I finally realized that this is the unknowable story. It's a small, insignificant mystery that will never be solved. The final pages of a book that don't get written. Lacking closure, as the vernacular would have it.

I never thought I would be sad that a Mourning Dove had left my life unexpectedly. Dumb bird.

I miss you.

August 10, 2010

BlogHer '10 - A Moment-ous Occasion

This year's BlogHer conference was this past weekend in New York.

New York. In August.

I keep saying those four words just like that because, a year after I first learned that's where it would be, I still can't wrap my mind around voluntarily going to Manhattan in the dead of summer. I'm a native New Yorker, I know what it's like there in August. But my need to be with a group of people who totally get me and who buoy me the other 361 days of the year outweighed my (extreme) dislike of heat and humidity.

There were so many incredible and wonderful moments I experienced at this year's conference. There were many at last year's in Chicago, as well, but there were also some bad ones that left bad feelings. The beautiful thing is that the bad moments and feelings from last year created the very opportunities for the absolute best ones this year. That's a lesson that is not lost on me.

Because of the best of those moments this time, I saw the snake in my woodpile clearly and fully for the first time. But instead of seeking a mongoose to take it out, I merely jostled the woodpile so that it had no choice but to slither out and expose itself, chasing it from my personal space. It's a far more satisfying feeling.

Once that was taken care of, there was nothing to do but throw myself into the vortex of BlogHer and enjoy every minute, taking mental pictures left and right because I didn't want to waste time dragging out my camera to capture them tangibly. There was such a sense of sharing that swirled around every corridor, room and elevator of the hotel. Little things and big things, silly and serious, in earnest or in jest. People shared and people absorbed. People cried and people laughed, and laughed well. I came away feeling infused with ideas and thoughts and smiles that overwhelmed any of the negativity, which was blessedly in short supply. I left feeling refreshed and energized even though I stayed up every single night far, far later than I perhaps should have. I learned so much, met and re-met so many fantastic people, more than I could possibly all mention here, packed into four short days.

I discovered that three of my favorite people, Duchess Mama, Walk The Rope and Domestic Extraordinaire, all have the most amazingly silky arms and were willing to let me, um..."reacquaint" myself with this fact on an embarrassingly regular basis. I have set a goal for myself to pamper my limbs between now and next year's conference so that I can be just as silky.

I learned that Tom the Girl gives hugs that you never want to end and kisses that are full of love. I kind of figured that those were true, anyway, but it was so lovely to find out first-hand that I was right.

I got wise to the fact that I really don't need a few drinks before hitting the dance floor because, dammit, that's where all the fun is and so what if I've got more to shake than some of my fellow bloggers and have a dearth of actual moves? That I caught on to this after enough drinks to propel me out there at the very last party is inconsequential. (Someone may need to remind me I said this next year when we're in San Diego, however.)

I learned that a cab ride that could have been from hell was instead a near dream by connecting with Sara and Kikarose and forming a bond that this shiksa will treasure forever.

I found out that Vodkamom is practically my twin sister and, surprise! I have two really cool nieces, which is great because I also moved from being a Not-A-Mom Blogger to being an Auntie Blogger, thanks to Sara.

Most significantly, I realized that what I expressed in my post about The People I Know was as true as I felt it to be. Geography means little when it comes to friendship; it's only important when it allows you to be in the same room with those friends from time to time, to reinforce in your mind what your heart already knew.

No one's post about BlogHer can really capture the feeling or, dare I say it, the zeitgeist of the whole event. Because, to me, it's not about the parties or sessions we went to, the "checklist" of people we wanted to meet and did meet, the swag or prizes (though there were plenty of all of the above); it's nothing you can quantify with a "...then I did this" kind of re-telling. It's the collection of small moments, planned and unplanned, you take with you that make it so memorable.

You can almost re-hear the brief but meaningful chat you had with someone you unexpectedly connected with while sitting on a floor in the lobby, and you get that warm feeling all over again. You look at one of the pictures and think back to the moment it was taken and remember how right it felt to have that person's arm wrapped around you while you both grinned like idiots at the camera. You chuckle when you remember someone reading aloud their Twitter conversation with someone you love who couldn't be there, yet who was a part of it through Twitter and text. You recall that moment of delighted surprise when you realize the person you've been talking to and really liking is someone you've talked to on Twitter for ages. You can feel the strength of that first hug you got from a true friend that you're getting to see for the first time. You almost taste the bites of street food you swiped off someone's plate, sitting on the streets of Manhattan at two in the morning, wondering how you can bear to not have this right-here-right-now camaraderie for another year. You find yourself taking these moments out to look at, again and again, and they get burnished with wonderfulness the more you do it.

Those things mean little to anyone except the people who were right there with you, so how can you ever convey them to anyone else? We'll try, most of us. We'll try because we're writers and bloggers and tweeters who need a way to let those people we were with know how much it meant to us to share those moments; that time, that experience, that laughter, and those photos.

Me (L) and Duchess Mama (R)