Day 32

"The Sweetness among the Pieces," by Felicia Chernesky

“The Sweetness among the Pieces,” by Felicia Chernesky

This photo, take during late-night hours in the surgical family waiting room at an all too familiar hospital started out as two perfect clementines pulled from an emergency bag of snacks my sister packed.

With a respect for privacy in mind, I’ll say that slowly pulling off the peels helped keep waiting hands busy. Fooling with them like puzzle pieces relieved the tension a bit. They were so fragrant I kept inhaling that citrus perfume until my mother said, “Enough already!” half in laughter, half in exasperation.

The hours had passed until it had grown dark and there were only five people left in the waiting room. Night rain splattered the windows overheard, and the wind was howling. My husband was snoring open-mouthed on a long low couch before a nattering television, and my sister amused herself (and us) by videotaping him with her smartphone.

We had hours yet to go, and as I fiddled with the vibrant orange peels I was trying to put pieces together in my mind that wouldn’t fit back into a comforting whole.

A few predominant thoughts emerged and crystalized: This is what it is. This is what keeps happening—life. Choices are simple, if you push aside desire, which muddles everything. Just choose and move forward wholeheartedly. If you fail, try harder or choose differently. Strive to be good and forthright and empathetic, because small gestures of kindness have the power and the energy to overcome darkness and despair. Always have mercy.

We had experienced instances of this all evening. The surgeon who held the frightened patient’s hand. The priest who stayed up to reappear so late into the night to offer a smile and another prayer. The nurses, whose patience surely must have been worn threadbare, who remained firm, plain-spoken, and above all that was needed at any given moment, calm.

The next day, as I tried to label this thread of humanity, I ended up calling it “the sweetness among the pieces.” It held us together. It buoyed us when we flagged. And it helped us through to the next step, moment by moment.

Today, we are all still here, and I am grateful. I can also feel the spot, right next to my heart, where the seat of my convictions has slightly shifted. I am hyper-focused on it now because of the intensity of certain circumstances, but for lack of better terminology I’m defining it as “calm immediacy.” Like the sweet orange segment pictured among the peelings, it’s a compact reserve of spirit-filled fortitude upon which to draw when darkness—grief, fear, anger, denial, etc.—threatens to overwhelm.

Like love, compassion is a well with no bottom. And like gazing into a well, we can find our own features in its likeness, when we are thirsty. Drinking in compassion sustains us, but also promotes its own increase, because it shows us how to share our cup in turn. It shouldn’t take a crisis or catastrophe to find and dip into the font, but it so often seems to, doesn’t it? I guess it’s a human failing, this tendency to dry up, but I hope we always find the path to compassion’s wellspring and keep the fragrant juices flowing.

snore, by Stephanic Avallone

p.s. and don’t forget about rest and healing laughter…

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    Today’s Best Word Ever is fenugreek: a leguminous annual Eurasian herb with aromatic seeds; the word also refers to its small, stony seeds, which among other purposes are ground and roasted and used to flavor curry.

    A noun, Middle English fenugrek, from Anglo-French fenugrec, from Latin fenum Graecum, “Greek hay.” First known use: 14th century.

    Grown in India, Morocco, Egypt and England, fenugreek has strong, aromatic, and bittersweet seeds that when roasted or powdered are used to steep fever-reducing teas; help create soothing lip balms, tonics, and healing ointments; sweeten candies as well as flavor spicy curries; and even season cattle food.

    Yum: aloo gobi!

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      It’s been a while since we’ve posted a BWE, so let’s make it tasty…

      Today’s Best Word Ever is éclaircissement: enlightenment.

      A noun, French. First known use, 1667.

      Standing at the pastry shop window Jacques was seized with éclaircissement:
      “Choux à la crème! It’s clear I must have the éclair.”


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        Today’s Best Word Ever is diaskeuast: editor, one who revises.

        A “revisionary” noun, from Greek diaskeuastēs, from diaskeuazein, “to make ready, revise, edit.”

        A superlative diaskeuast is a dichotomy of detachment and devotion:
        impervious to deadline pressures but passionate—punctilious—about producing
        vivid, concise, and accurate prose down to the smallest publishing detail.

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          Today’s Best Word Ever is curiologics: writing that employs representative pictures rather than symbols, for example, hieroglyphic writing.

          A plural noun that is singular in construction, from curiologic, Greek kyriologikos, “in an obvious sense,” from kyriologia, “obvious language” (kyrios ”ruling, literal,” from kyros, “power, might” + -logia, -logy) + -ikos, -ic.

          Scratching his bald pate, renowned archeologist Gimball Kimball readjusted his spectacles and peered closer at the etchings carved into the cave wall: “What curious curiologics!” 

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            Today’s Best Word Ever is butyraceous: like butter.

            A buttery adjective, from Latin, butyrum, “butter” + E -aceous, a suffix  meaning “belonging to, of the nature of,” from Latin, -aceus.

            While he and Bambi grazed in the field, Buck looked up just

            long enough to enthuse, “These buttercups are butyraceous!”

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              Today’s Best Word Ever is ataraxia: calmness untouched by mental or emotional disquiet.

              Circa 1600 noun—also Anglicized as ataraxy—from Modern Latin, from Greek ataraxia, “impassiveness,” from a- + tarassein “to disturb, confuse.” 


              The first day of summer vacation the kids rose with a roar at 5:30 
              and Mom was already reaching deep within to achieve ataraxia.


              Thumbnail for version as of 10:55, 30 August 2011
              I musk be calm! I musk be calm!

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                And so we reach the end of the alphabet once again! Today’s Best Word Ever is zwitterion: a dipolar ion, i.e., an ion that carries both a positive and a negative charge in different parts of a molecule, as with certain amino acids and protein molecules.

                A German noun, from Zwitter, “hermaphrodite,” from Old High German zwitaran, from zwi- ”between” + Ion, “ion.” First known use: 1906.

                Thumbnail for version as of 09:05, 14 June 2011

                Speculation about the new zwitterion buzzed through the Twitterverse as chemists contested and defended each and every zwitterionic criterion.

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                  Today’s Best Word Ever is yogibogeybox: the materials employed by a spiritualist.

                  A rhyming, alliterative nonce word—a word created for a particular occasion, sometimes independently by different writers or speakers, but not adopted into general usage—coined by Irish author James Joyce (1881–1941) in his novel Ulysses (1922).

                  Yogibogeybox in Dawson chambers. Isis Unveiled. Their Pali book we tried to pawn. Crosslegged under an umbrel umbershoot he thrones an Aztec logos, functioning on astral levels, their oversoul, mahamahatma. The faithful hermetists await the light, ripe for chelaship, ringround-about him. Louis H. Victory. T. Caulfield Irwin. Lotus ladies tend them i’the eyes, their pineal glands aglow. Filled with his god he thrones, Buddh under plantain. Gulfer of souls, engulfer. Hesouls, shesouls, shoals of souls. Engulfed with wailing creecries, whirled, whirling, they bewail.

                  James Joyce, “Scylla and Charybdis,” Ulysses

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                    Today’s Best Word Ever is xanthippe: an ill-tempered woman.

                    A nagging noun, from Greek Xanthippē, Socrates’s shrewish wife (5th century BCE) and the mother of Lamprocles, Sophroniscus, and Menexenus, their three sons. The name Xanthippē is related to the masculine proper name Xanthippos, a compound of xanthos, “yellow” + hippos, “horse.”  First known use: 1691.

                    Bobby and Bradley sat at the bar grumbling about Bonnie and Brenda:
                    “Man, you always begin married life with a wife who’s as free-spirited as a hippie—but before you know it you’re debating Xanthippe. Another brewski, bro?”

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