Celebrating Words

I believe that I am now on #35 of my Celebrating 45 list. Peppered throughout the list you will see my love of reading/writing/and language of all sorts.

Today, I want to celebrate the importance of words in my life. It has taken me a long time to admit this. I still blush or stumble when I try to claim it in person, but here goes . . .

I am a writer!!!

My love of words goes beyond written language. I love hearing and seeing language used with power and flexibility. I am addicted to Podcasts and TED talks, where master’s of the arts of writing and speaking fascinate their audiences with perfect phrasing, eloquent language, and an ability to manipulate language for sound and meaning A memorable phrase that lives beyond the moment of reading or hearing it, gives me chills. I thrill in those rare and wonderful moments when my own words–through some source outside myself–come together to create that indescribable perfection of consonants, vowels, and phrasing.

I just finished reading Don’t Let Me Go  by Catherine Ryan Hyde (excellent book with wonderful characters and plot that makes you want to know more).  Two sentences of hers made me yell (in my mind) “That’s it!!!”:

“Hard work can sometimes substitute for natural ability, but natural ability almost never makes up for not being willing to do the work.” (pg. 149)

“Sorry doesn’t mean shit. Not if you don’t plan to stop doing the thing you’re so sorry about. There has to be more to amends than just a word.” (pg. 406)

However, this post isn’t about celebrating other people’s words, as fabulous as they may be.

This is about celebrating words in my own life.

In 1978, when I was 10 years old,  I sat mesmerized and terrified by the television mini-series The Holocaust. 

This was in the midst of my own Hebrew School years, and the crucial years leading up to my Bat Mitzvah. Although I have since lost some of the religious beliefs, being a Jew was (and to some extent still is) an important aspect of my life at that time.

At a Hebrew School meeting after the series aired, the Rabbi met with all the classes to discuss what we had seen. I raised my hand and said, “It made me scared to be a Jew, but prouder than ever to be a Jew.”

On Saturday morning (I’m told–I would have been at the children’s service if I was there) the Rabbi used my words as part of his reflection during the service. This was the moment that I became aware that the right choice of words–even when you don’t know that they are the right words–can be magical, powerful and reach beyond the pages or the circumstances where they’ve been created.

My journey through writing started in school, with my first poems written in 1st grade along with a puppet play. My first book was a collection of poems and short stories that I hand-lettered and illustrated as a project in sixth grade, for another fabulous teacher who influenced my life named Mrs. Jorgensen. My first published work was a poem written bout a piece of art in a museum, that then got placed into some kind of literary magazine someone put out.

I have numerous starts and starts of stories, novels, poems etc. scattered throughout journals and gathered in three-ring binders. Throughout my life I’ve found solace and friendship in words, probably more than anyone even knew. Because of this it makes sense to me that when life began to fall apart around me (for reasons I won’t go into here) I turned to words–writing my first real book, joining a book club, and creating  a small writing group. The two women from that writing group convinced me to take the step into a then unknown world, the one of blogging. Over 756 posts (spread across several blogs) and thousands if not millions of words later, my life is filled with words. Some of them sing with the beauty I yearn for, but most of them are mundane and some are even cliché. However, words fill my life and sustain me, so a celebration of my life would not be complete without celebrating the words that fill it.

What are some of your favorite words? What quotes live on in your memory?

 

Do You Believe in Ghosts?

It’s that time of year again, when thoughts turn to jack o’ lanterns and spookiness, ghosts and goblins and all things that go bump in the night.

And, of course, candy. Don’t forget the candy.

For me this time of year is really just an excuse to delve more deeply into something that has always fascinated me . . . questions about ghosts and the paranormal.

Do you believe in ghosts? It’s a complicated question in this somewhat pessimistic era, where people demand proof of everything before they will believe (except, of course, those who are able to devoutly believe in religion without questioning–something I am not really able to do).

In some ways I think it was easier to live in a time when everyone believed in the unexplained, because they had no way of proving anything differently. For example, the roots of Halloween are based on the Celtic belief that

on the night before the new year, [which for them was November 1] the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead became blurred. On the night of October 31 they celebrated Samhain, when it was believed that the ghosts of the dead returned to earth. In addition to causing trouble and damaging crops, Celts thought that the presence of the otherworldly spirits made it easier for the Druids, or Celtic priests, to make predictions about the future. For a people entirely dependent on the volatile natural world, these prophecies were an important source of comfort and direction during the long, dark winter.(http://www.history.com/topics/halloween)

Nobody questioned the existence of spirits them, because spirits helped explain away the challenges they faced throughout the year.

Despite the fact that we tend to be more cynical, it seems like questions about the paranormal still haunt many of us, and provide hours of entertainment. Television shows like Ghost Hunters have inspired the creation of numerous ghost hunting adventures, as well as a variety of other paranormal based television shows and movies. If you do a Google search for videos about ghosts or paranormal or anything related, you’ll find hundreds if not thousands of clips, many completely fake but a few that leave you questioning. I admit, I do this often because of my own fascination.

Do I believe in ghosts? I’m not sure I can answer. When I was younger, I could sense shifts in energy that left eerie feelings inside me. I’ve met many people who still seem to have an intense connection with spirit. In some ways, I recognize that believing in ghosts serves a psychological purpose, but I am just as fascinated by that psychology as the question of whether or not ghosts are real. Why do we want them to be so much?

And of course, I have had  several experiences that leave me open to the possibility:

  • One Wednesday evening when we were children, my sister and I (and maybe my brother, I don’t remember) used the Ouija Board (which I will no longer touch because of this incident) and were supposedly talking to the spirit of my grandmother. When we asked where Grandpa was, the response said, “Out dancing.” Further inquiry led to the name of a specific dance, that I cannot recall. Later, in discussion with our mother, we learned that Grandpa used to go out every Wednesday to do that dance. Now, my sister might have been old enough to remember that, but I certainly wasn’t. You decide.
  • Around the time the mini-series The Holocaust (1978) came on, I immersed myself in reading everything I could find about this horrific event in history. I was in Hebrew School and was immersed in my own Judaism at the time, so that isn’t surprising. I read, and read, and read. That is, until one morning when I lay awake in my bedroom and saw  a pile of skulls and dead bodies lying across the room. Yes, I know it was probably just my mind making visual sense of all the words I read, but it was eerily real and scary enough that I did not pick up another book about the Holocaust for years.
  • There was the night in college when several of us decided to sneak into the theatre building and spend the night on the stage. Every theatre has its ghosts, and this one was no exception. Let’s just say I didn’t sleep well that night, and it had nothing to do with the security guard that surprised us at one point (but let us stay because he knew many of us had keys anyway).

Perhaps these aren’t the most convincing ghost experiences, but the feelings I get sometimes in ancient places are enough to make me unsure of what I believe. My fascination carries over into books I choose to read, not horror fiction but non-fiction that explores the topic from believers to skeptics. I just finished reading The Medium Next Door by Maureen Hancock. She shares her experience as a “Real-Life Ghost Whisperer”, but her book does more than that, it helps explore the reasons behind this need to believe in ghost. It offers an explanation of why ghosts exist. She explains that our souls are here for a designated time and then move on, leaving our physical bodies behind like a “used car.” She offers an understanding of death that can provide comfort to the living, and enables them to understand that death is not an end–without delving into any specific religious doctrine.

Because, after all, isn’t the question about ghosts really a hope to understand the meaning of life an death?

I may never truly know whether or not ghosts exist, or at least not until I am looking from the other side. I may never know if there are creatures from other planets, or magic is real. I may never know, but I’m okay with that, because the mystery adds spice to life. After all,

“There are more things in heaven and earth, . . . Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.” (Shakespeare)

What do you think? Do you believe in ghosts?

For a fabulously creepy and wonderfully written  post that got posted as I wrote this, and supports the existence of ghosts read The Footsteps on the Stairs at She’s a Maineiac.

More stories keep cropping up now, so I will continue to add links to fabulous stories as I go.  Here’s one called “Serendipity, Coincidences or Lifes Small Miracles” by Georgette Sullins.

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