The other night I was fixing dinner while my seven-year-old daughter was in the family room working on her very first short story. “Momma, how do you spell persevere?” she asked. As I replied, I took in the really sweet scene and thought to myself “there’s another leaf that’s going to stick on my word associations tree.”
Because that’s how my brain likes to work — by creating associations to words. Like with smells or sights, words themselves conjure memories and the older I get, the more associations I have – or in my mental image, leaves on my word tree.
For example, enthusiasm – from en-Theos or with God – reminds me of my beloved father who was a Presbyterian pastor. There isn’t a word that describes his remarkable energy better and I can’t hear it without thinking of him.
Or plethora which is my best friend’s favorite word. And since we’ve been friends since we were seven-years-old, there are a plethora of memories that come to mind when I hear that word, especially of high school when life was abundant in opportunity, boys, and screw ups to learn from.
Then there’s the phrase “pit stop” that with the hard “t” and “p” sounds reminds me of my sister. She used the phrase in a letter she sent to the whole family when we were in 20’s when she was mad at my brother for not breaking off a relationship with one of her friends properly. In trying to smear him for using others as a “pit stop from himself,” she instead attached that phrase in my mind to my image of her, along with “misdirection” for her ability to distract from the work she needs to do.
Plenitude is a recent favorite that comes in accordance with meditation which almost always leaves me with the reminder that at that moment I have enough.
When I first started going to meditation class ten years ago as I was healing from my divorce, there was a bowl of inspirational words on a table to pick from. I kept getting “transformation” and I was so completely tired of it I just want to scream, “Haven’t I changed enough for a life time? Leave me the f*@! alone.” And fortunately when I vented that thought, I was usually down on my knees in prayer pose and from there could bend to accept more renewal.
Because renewal has a friendly association for me. That means my cup is being refilled and hopefully my energy too. I’m friends with renewal in a way that I will never be with transformation.
“Calibrating sentences” is one of my recent favorites that comes from Jack Canfora on a podcast that he did with Troy about the creative process. Isn’t that a beautiful way to measure the weight and balance the best utterances come with? And given that it comes from such a gifted writer, it gives me hope that if I work at it too, I might be able to calibrate a few great sentences in my lifetime.
Fledgling gained new attachment for me when I had kids. Never before had I been able to appreciate the delicate nature of holding newness in my arms combined with the potent desire to provide a platform strong enough to see them take flight.
Bivouac reminds me of my climbing friend, Phil, who is always joking that it’s French for mistake. It’s not, it means a temporary camp without cover according to Oxford languages, but since Phil bivouacked high on Mt. Everest during the climb when he became the first American to climb the North Side of Everest, it’s a well-earned attachment.
Say the word “authentic” and I think of my meditation teacher and friend, Deirdre. It’s the attribute that makes it so she can somehow manage to lead a yoga class and yell, without missing a beat, “Move on, Motherf*$)#^!” out the door at someone she thinks is casing her car.
The word I associate with me three-year-old son is observer. The other day I turned on some kitchen lights I don’t usually use for a house guest. When my son saw them, he took me by hand to show me where other lights of that same type were in the house. He sees the quarter moon and says, “The moon is missing a piece.” And most recently, in one of his most profound observations, we were watching a storm out the window and he said to his sister, “Sshh, I can’t see.”
There’s “constellation” and it reminds me of my brother and one of his favorite songs by the same name by Jack Johnson and Eddie Vedder. It also is attached because my brother is always seeing the patterns in things.
Love has so many associations that it has become cluttered. But dedication, commitment, intimacy, fun, play, expansiveness, laughter, loyalty, selflessness and desire each conjure a particular person or memory in my life so that all together, they jumble into a delicious mix of how love feels to me.
I can’t hear the word “condensation” without thinking of my very verbal daughter. As a four-year-old, someone was telling her he had water forming on the inside of his camper van on cold nights and she responded, “You mean condensation?”
My love of words has infected me so much that for almost any person in my life, I have a word association for them. It makes me wonder that if, by the time I’m really old, if I’m lucky enough that my body perseveres that long, every time I construct a sentence, there will be a memory and person hanging off of it.
Maybe that will be my tree of life and I’ll be able to enjoy each delightful word with the memory that comes with it.
I’d love for you to check out and follow my latest project – The Heart of the Matter. It’s a blog of fantastic writers and thinkers delving into what matters in life (and also what doesn’t). You can find it at https://sharingtheheartofthematter.com
For most posts like this – a little story-telling mixed with philosophy, please visit my personal blog at https://wynneleon.wordpress.com
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(featured photo from Pexels)