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Yearning

What feelings does this word evoke? What sorts of memories does it recall? Which of your senses start to tingle? How would you represent what this word means to you?

'Tell me, child,' says the poet Bunthorne to the milkmaid Patience, 'do you ever yearn?'

'I earn my living,' she replies.

Which makes me think about my earning and my yearning. I work for an organisation with high ideals, an organisation that's trying to change the world, yearning, if you like, for change. My daily duties, however, are pretty prosaic. I don't think I ever expected anything else: I'd already got my head around the idea that a servant with this clause/makes drudgery divine, that if a job's worth doing it doesn't matter if it's frontline or backroom. Even when it's stuffing a thousand envelopes, there's something at the back of it that's about yearning.

It is tempting to say that earning is yearning in action, but I know well enough that I'm in a privileged position, to be able to think so.

And then yearning does not have to be about action. A wish is an act in itself, even if one then doesn't follow it up with an obvious action. We must be the change we want to see; fine, but we begin not by changing, nor by being, but by wanting. I remember last May, when I was burned out with all my causes, feeling corroded and unappreciated, going to a lecture by Leslie Griffiths, Baron Griffiths of Burry Port, a prominent Methodist. He was angry. He was angry about a whole lot of things, most of which I was angry about too, but which I was just too damn tired to do anything useful about.

I cannot remember what exactly he said, but the effect was to give me space, to let me be angry, to let me want change - yes, to let me yearn - to remove the expectation that I would immediately go out and fix it. I could breathe again.

I've been trying to let myself just want things. To desire a change, an outcome, a quality, and not to be ashamed of desiring it. Not to be afraid that I might not get it. To yearn.
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Wild

What feelings does this word evoke? What sorts of memories does it recall? Which of your senses start to tingle? How would you represent what this word means to you?

I have had Born Free stuck in my head most of today. That, I think, has a lot to do with it. Wild is the opposite of tame is not being in a cage is being free. Freedom is something that I have been thinking about, on and off, this year, but it has been more about being free from the constraints that I place upon myself. (Oh. Man is born free, but everywhere he is in chains. Except I don't quite believe that, because being born into chains - literal or metaphorical - is a long way from being born free.)

Wild is somewhere that I'm not ready to go, just yet.

Wild beasts. Les Fauves. Tiger, tiger, burning bright.

We were talking, my housemate, his mother, and I, this morning, about cats we have known; specifically, the cats that came into our families having been neglected in kittenhood, and how they have been alternately affectionate and vicious, as ready to scratch your face as to sit on your knee. That is a difficult place to be, between wildness and tameness, never quite trusting anyone else to look after oneself, and never quite trusting oneself to manage alone.

But then there are wild flowers and wild strawberries. I know a bank whereon the wild thyme grows - actually, it's more of a cliff. And there is something there about going where one pleases, and doing what one pleases.

Wilderness.

I don't know. Lots of stuff here, and it doesn't want to sit down and curl up neatly. Which, I suppose, is not all that surprising.
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Texture

What feelings does this word evoke? What sorts of memories does it recall? Which of your senses start to tingle? How would you represent what this word means to you?

This is a good word. I'm not particularly taken with it as a word - it feels a bit impersonal and clinical, much like text and textile - but what it means is all sorts of loveliness.

Dimensions. Heights and depths so close together that you can feel the difference through your fingertips. Differences absorbed at the same time. Shiny smoothness; softness; scratchiness. New-painted nails against my bottom lip (it has always been a good way to feel things: try it). Rough skin on the backs of my knuckles; close Guernsey wool; soft-ridged corduroy; draggy leather; smooth-polished wood; flawless glass, whose texture is almost a sound.

I have just realised the connection with tessitura - the weave of a piece of music, which is similar to the range, but a more helpful thing to know. The range tells you the top and the bottom, but the tessitura is more like the mode than the mean; it tells you what most of the music is like. (There is not a note in Hark the herald-angels, for example, that I cannot sing, but the tessitura is high, and it is exhausting.) Music is similar to objects, I suppose, and the texture of music is a similar all-at-onceness, except it isn't; it's a series of all-at-onces that run together. It happens in time, while conventional texture happens in space.

Dimensions.

Sometimes you absolutely have to look with your fingers.
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Nuance

What feelings does this word evoke? What sorts of memories does it recall? Which of your senses start to tingle? How would you represent what this word means to you?

Nuance feels like hard work. Tonight I look at the word nuance and think, oh, dear, I haven't got enough of those.

Perhaps it is just having finished what I have finished today, and immediately gone back to the beginning and started to read back through it, and found how lacking in nuance it is. It is good, but already I can see that things are missing, and that things are in there that do not need to be. It feels heavy-handed, slapdash. I can see where I have been lazy, and I can see where I have been clumsy.

Nuance is subtlety, delicacy, lightness, deftness; and I, having completed the biggest and most complex creation of my life, feel flat and heavy. I am pleased with it, but it is done and also not done. Nuance. There may be some more of that tomorrow.
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Focus

What feelings does this word evoke? What sorts of memories does it recall? Which of your senses start to tingle? How would you represent what this word means to you?

I got my camera out on Saturday, the first time in months. I'd made a necklace as a present for somebody, and wanted to take a picture for my portfolio. With the necklace suspended from the window catch, the idea was that the green and pink of the trees outside would blur into a pleasing background for the green and pink beads of the necklace.

It took me several tries to achieve that. The first few, of course, had beautiful sharp leaves and blossoms, with a vague green and pink blur in front.

Yesterday I was pleased that I had my camera to hand. The heavy rain brought a toad out onto the path in the back garden, and I wanted a photo of him. I had to shoot through the french window, and so I have several photos of a toad, overlaid with milky white raindrops.

Focus is a choice. I will concentrate on this thing, and not that. Last week, unexpectedly, I ended up at the pub with some colleagues. One of them said something about multi-tasking. 'Oh,' I said, 'I can't multi-task. I think it's a myth.'

She smiled and admitted that she can't, either, and proved the point a few minutes later: she was looking at something on her phone when somebody spoke to her. She only heard the third time.

When I talked about that necklace I made, I didn't say that I was trying to do it in front of the telly, watching the qualifying for the Chinese grand prix. Hopeless. I made a fantastic necklace, but the finer points of the F1 passed me by completely. I should have known.

One thing at a time. And yet. It is rare for me to do one thing at a time, at least for long. I can focus, but my focus gets tired. However, I can do a succession of things, flitting from one to another, and find after about three hours that I have made significant progress on a lot of them. A kind of roving focus, I suppose. After all, I'm not a camera. It's a lot easier for me to choose. A, and not B. Or, A and then B, and then C, and then D, until they're all done.
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Sacred

What feelings does this word evoke? What sorts of memories does it recall? Which of your senses start to tingle? How would you represent what this word means to you?

Oh, this is a lovely word. This has layers upon layers.

A hymnbook - of which we must have had more than one copy, since I remember it being both small and red and large and black, and being both in the revolving bookcase and on top of the piano - with gold lettering on the spine. Sacred Songs and Solos. Greeting it like an old friend when it showed up in Huntingtower.

A pious-eyed Victorian woman with abundant auburn curls and hands clasped across her prayer-book (I have a specific picture in mind; it is entitled "Our Father").

Noticing how it is an anagram of scared.

Remembering how Havi had a whole sequence of Wishes that included I see the secret holiness of everything. Enjoying the consonance: secret sacred secret sacred secret sacred

Reading On the Road, and discovering that, while it is very much the Urgent Thrusting Phallic Man Book that I feared it would be, it is also about the secret holiness of everything. Then I got on to Ginsberg, and particularly Footnote to Howl. And went back to St John of the Cross, and walking alongside the park at sunrise, and suddenly everything was trembling with the sacred.

(Those deep pink blossoms I noticed this morning, when I was pretending it was day 3: the sunset light has caught two or three branches, and they glow around the edge. There. That's what I mean.)

And this:

"Holiness comes wrapped in the ordinary. There are burning bushes all around you. Every tree is full of angels. Hidden beauty is waiting in every crumb." - A Tree Full of Angels, Macrina Wiederkehr, O.S.B.

Walking my head around the wonders I already knew: Maundy Thursday seven years ago, sharing pasta and sardines with my best friend, in a narrow little hostel in La Rioja, and suddenly understanding the point of the Incarnation: that God has become part of creation, which is sufficient for redemption alone. God said that it was good, and became part of it to prove it. The rest of it need not have happened, but was always going to, because that is the way the world works.

And, understanding further, a different walk and on my own this time, west through a pine wood towards Yarmouth, that what was sacred because God made it is sacred beyond all imagining now that God has become part of it, and that every atom of this universe and every other one is suffused with the divine, and that there is holiness in all of us and in all of creation, if only we can see it.

The sacred is secret, but it does not always stay that way.
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Home

What feelings does this word evoke? What sorts of memories does it recall? Which of your senses start to tingle? How would you represent what this word means to you?

I sit at the dining room table in this house that isn't mine, and watch a woman walk by with two greyhounds, and a tree, foaming with pink blossom, swaying in the April wind, and I think about home.

(Where is it?)

Home, they say, is where the heart is.
(Where is it?)
I have left my heart all over the place.
Careless, but better than the alternative.
(Pack it up, put it in a cardboard box and take it to the next house. Remember to take it out again. Otherwise, in ten years I might find it in a still-sealed box, labelled in marker pen: Kathleen's heart & other last-minute things from Guildford. This has happened before.)
Actually, I think it may have gone on ahead of me.
Wait for me, heart. Wait for me, home.

I know a man who has designed a board game that follows the twisting twining journey through life and based on your responses to various dilemmas will work out what home means for you. It gives a different answer every time. I played it once. We laughed a lot, though I'm still not sure about home.

An Englishwoman's home is her castle. I must get someone to see to the drawbridge.
I remember when home was huge and full of secrets, standing on the lowest rung of the fence, or kneeling up on the just-made spare bed, watching the road as far as the bend in the corner beyond which was not home, waiting for the next guest. Home was never so much home as when someone was staying.

Home is the place where the people come.
Home is the place where the parties are.
Home is the place where you can find a place where no one will disturb you, unless you want them to.
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Lent always leaves me feeling like a wrung-out rag, worn very thin. I have a post somewhere about how this may well be deliberate; today, however, it's an excuse for lateness.


Juicy

What feelings does this word evoke? What sorts of memories does it recall? Which of your senses start to tingle? How would you represent what this word means to you?

This feels like a particularly un-Lenten word. In fact, I am led back to Shrove Tuesday, squeezing tangerines to make crêpes suzettes. Tangerine juice is a lovely vivid orange colour, the way plain orange juice isn't, and very sweet and very sharp all at the same time.

Which reminds me in turn: my uncle gave me the most fantastic lemon squeezer for Christmas: pottery, with a cup underneath to catch the juice, and painted in a bold pattern of black and orange and blue. It has, though I'm not sure why, something of a sombrero feel to it. I love it. It makes me smile every time I look at it. I would like to have more kitchen utensils like that.

What else is juicy? A juicy steak, juicy gossip. I have gone vegetarian for Lent. (Oh, but I could tell you about the bacon sandwich I am going to have on Easter morning: it will have thick bacon, lots of it, with a rind to it; white crusty bread cut like doorsteps; butter; and brown sauce.) Juicy gossip: well, one always wants to know. It's a horrible feeling, being out of the loop. But not always good for one. Actually, I'd like to do away with the word gossip; it's one of those weaselly irregular nouns. I take an interest in my peers' lives. You want to know what's going on. She gossips.

The alarming concoctions one of my colleagues makes; the last one she brought in was bright Kermit green and contained (so far as I can remember) kale, kiwi, apple juice and grapes.

We never had much fruit juice when I was little; it was mostly squash. Pa got tomato juice sometimes, though, and I liked that, with a slug of Lea & Perrins. I remember him seeing if he could make it by putting tinned tomatoes through the blender, and it wasn't the same. I think there can't have been enough salt in it.

We did have fruit, though, apples and raspberries, and, at Christmas, little citrus fruit. I still do this sometimes: removing the membrane from a clementine segment, very carefully, to leave all those tiny glistening cells holding together and, working from one end, nibbling them off and eating them one at a time. I get bored after about a centimetre, of course, and put the rest in in one go, but it's very satisfying up to that point.

Juicy: it feels extravagant. Luxurious. Decadent. Not for the likes of us. Except for when I feel like it.
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The magnificent Kat McNally has come up with another prompt project. Since I realised a few days ago that the fact that my Lent is not being as satisfying as my Advent is at least partly due to the lack of reflection (also, I think, it's meant to make you feel a bit scratchy and inadequate), I'm in.

Courage

What feelings does this word evoke? What sorts of memories does it recall? Which of your senses start to tingle? How would you represent what this word means to you?

I started off feeling somewhat ambivalent about courage. It is, I would have said, associated for me with a bottled-up, high Victorian, stiff-upper-lip, no-honestly-everything's-fine attitude that has served me poorly for half my life at least. I thought of the Cowardly Lion; but I am more interested in mermaids at the moment.

Then I remembered how it was almost my word for this year, and thought back, and brought to mind: a painting entitled Go Bravely On; a pub that can be seen from the train from Leighton Buzzard to London (Euston), which has TAKE COURAGE written in huge letters on the side; how being brave enough to admit to wanting something has, more often than not, resulted in my getting that thing.

And, thinking now, that over the past few months courage has not been about keeping quiet and carrying on regardless; it has been about admitting to my weak spots, and my fear-locked secrets; about asking for help when I needed it; about not being perfect; about not trying to be perfect. It has been about trusting that people will accept me when they see who I am. Even when I'm [fill in the blanks as appropriate for today]

Very soon indeed, now, it is going to be about brushing my long-cherished project's hair, and sending it down the road to the shops all by itself; and since this feels more or less sending my soul out to burn, it is going to need a very great deal of courage.

Here is a very early memory - my father, quoting The Tempest: "Coraggio, bullymonster!"

Courage, please, for me and my bullymonsters.

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Kathleen Jowitt

April 2015

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