A Journey With Words

Margaret - Madison, Wisconsin
Entered on January 12, 2008
Age Group: 65+

I believe in words – the single ones – when a child attempts “Ma-ma” or “Dada”. What a pleasure it brings to hear them. That joy continues through the child’s growing realization of what words do – singly and in combinations, especially the awareness that such joinings reveal far more than they actually say.

Within this progress is the awareness of words’ power: they can control – make others respond and they can express emotions either deliberately or automatically.

In school, perhaps without your realizing it as a fact, words begin to establish who you are, what you know, and how you like to be viewed. Then the near miracle occurs – being able to preserve thoughts, feelings, and even secrets, in written words.

That became the true turning point for me – when I began to put my words on paper: happenings that surprised, pleased, or even angered me; then I felt a different power of words. I found they could become an art.

I began to search for words that mean much more than they seem to say; phrases that might strain someone’s beliefs or make them aware of something not commonly experienced. I grew amazed at how words were put together to create language – something wonderful and new; almost like putting together the ingredients in a cake recipe – individual ingredients not really special, but joined creatively, producing a culinary masterpiece.

As a child, I let imagination direct my words. My father, an English instructor, would smile, encouraging my efforts. Unable to resist the teacher in him, he would suggest that I look for unusual words:

“Try showing your story in a bright, new way!” he advised.

That sent me to the thesaurus, which made me feel an enormous authority! Words and phrases whirled in my head. I could hardly wait to get them written down. Next came the pleasure, especially in a poem, of honing the sentence or line until it fit me like “ a second skin.”

Now, as an adult, I search for treasured words – some from my distant past – some from my reading and everyday activities. Always, I strive to have them reveal more than they seem to say concretely.

Alan Aldds said in his, Happenings While Talking To Myself, “Words are art…The artistic writer must combine them in such ways that they electrify our neurons to arouse feelings rarely (experienced)…” It seems to touch emotions deep in one’s soul, similar to those felt when observing fine art or listening to an opera.

Words have become my heroes. They can be flexible, can expand, yet still stand firm expressing a fact. The language we develop becomes stronger as our awareness of words expands.

What a long dedicated journey, it is – one starting with the child’s “Dada” or “Ma-ma” and leading to the incredible, complicated gifts that only creative use of words can bring.