The beauty of words

I love words. I always have … or at least I have for as long as I can remember. My mom says that from the time I was old enough to sit up by myself, she could keep me occupied just by giving me a page of the newspaper. Apparently I would stare at the words in rapt fascination for long stretches of time that would allow her to fix meals or get other things done around the house. I still love the sight of printed words—in any language. It’s still a marvel to me that we can capture thoughts from our minds with scribbles on a page. I suppose it’s no surprise, therefore, that I grew up loving to read and to write.

I also love the sound of words. Sometimes the sound of a certain word will capture my attention, and I find myself marveling over the sound of each letter and each syllable, how those sounds fit together, and how the word feels in my mouth. This happens with new words (to me) and to words that I use all of the time. In those moments, it’s as if they are suddenly highlighted by a spotlight in my mind that makes them exotic all over again.

When I was a pre-teen, I remember taking a long cross-country road trip one summer with my family. As we drove, I filled a small notebook with new words that I created out of thin air. I was attempting to make up my own language so that I could be assured of being able to write with complete privacy. It was actually kind of boring, as languages go, since I simply substituted my made up words for English words—no new syntax or new grammatical constructions at all. Plurals in my language were still formed by adding “s,” past tense was still indicated by adding an “ed,” and so on. But I still remember how delightful it was to play with sounds and create all of my own words from scratch. I wish I still had that notebook!

The biggest fascination of all are the meaning of words, the shades of nuance between this word and that word, the words that exist and those that don’t, the peculiar construction of figures of speech, the subtle beauty of metaphors and similes, words that are commonly misused and words that are obscure and underused. All of these things make me happy just to ponder. (Yes, I know this isn’t “normal,” but I gave up on normal some time ago, so that’s quite alright by me.)

There are many words that I particularly like because I like what they represent: ice cream, laughter, muse, gratitude, transformation, piano, fascination, beauty, trees,  love, ponder, nature, friendship, happiness, passion, light, books … the list goes on and on. But I have been noticing for the last week or so that there are some words that jump out at me with unusual power. These are words that capture my attention whenever I see them.

So I’ve been starting to make a list of these words as I notice them. So far, my list includes (in no particular order):

  • Story
  • Joy
  • Creativity
  • Silence
  • Compassion
  • Blessing
  • Empathy
  • Journey
  • Curiosity

I’m sure there are more, and I am now on the look out for words that strike a similar chord as these. I am still feeling my way along in distinguishing between words that I really like and ones that attract me like a moth to a flame—some have been added to the list and later dropped, others have stayed constant. I am also still trying to discern what it means that I react to these words as I do. Is there a lesson for me in these words? Does the list stay constant or does it shift as my journey continues?

I don’t have any answers yet, but I am curious, and I am paying attention. Just taking the time to pay attention in this way to words again and to the many things and ideas that I love in the process of evaluating these words is reminding me of the magnificent beauty of words and the magnificence of the world that I live in. What a joy it is to be a writer using words as my creative medium! I am so blessed.

A Note on Comments: A chrysalis is by nature a fragile and vulnerable place to be, so I am committed to keeping this a safe place for me and for my readers. Comments sharing your own journey, even if your experience is different from mine, are always welcome and encouraged. Expressions of support or encouragement are also welcome. Comments that criticize, disparage, correct, or in any way attempt to undermine the validity of another person’s experience or personal insight are not welcome here and will be deleted.