Friday, June 18, 2021

Waited like an anchor

The afternoon chores are sorted.

There's nothing to do until gloaming, closing the hen hatch against varmints, just before the whippoorwill bids adieux to the day. Two bees danced about my head as I walked through the hen yard, convinced I needed pollinating. And then, in the greenhouse, there was a red-spotted purple eastern swallowtail lazing about on one of the panes, supervising me as I watered the beds, reminding me not to forget the apricot tree. I had forgotten the collection basket, so I set the eggs (four again, regular as clockwork) into the fold of my shirt and made my way back across the field, where the cottage waited like and anchor. 

Back inside I found a little piece of treasure, a book on the  shelf of the coffee table. I had mistaken it for a birding book, an understandable assumption given the wealth of nature books and local lore that welcome every nook. But no. 

This book, with its goldfinches and gold letters, The Lost Words, proclaimed itself a book of spells. 

The first two sentences captivated me. "Once upon A time, words begin to vanish from the language of children. They disappeared so quietly that at first almost no one noticed - fading away like water on stone." 

The idea of the language of children, and the disappearance of it "like water on stone" cracked open a whole universe, and I closed the cover to sit with that image for a bit before reading more.
The back cover told me this book of spells was written in response to the then-recent edition of the Oxford Junior Dictionary —I flipped to the title page, which was curiously located in the far back of the book to find the publication year: 2017. The new edition had dropped over forty common words, most of them dealing with nature. In their place, I read, were words related to human-computer interaction, including blog, broadband, bullet-point, and voice-mail. The authors of the spell book were dismayed, and crafted this work to introduce children again to the magical living world.
I sat, thinking about the "insiding" of childhood that has happened in the last quarter century. I thought about the profound shift in our relationship with "outside" that has happened in this past year and a half. I thought about the "virtualizing" that has happened in so many lives, including mine.