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WORDS FROM FRIENDS

FORM

FORM


A Guest Post
By
Wayne Dale Matthysse


 
I have been faced with death more than most people have… although I suppose numbers really don't matter. When someone you have loved is taken from you, there is an emptiness that is not easily filled and then there's that back-burner reminder that one day, you too must pass through that Veil of uncertainty.
 
I was always comforted by the fact that, as a Christian, I would eventually be resurrected when Jesus returned and be given a new body just like he was given… except I was a little concerned, because his new body still carried the scars of his crucifixion and, well… I had lost a finger at the age of ten, the vision in one eye from shrapnel at the age of 20, and at the age of 30 had my gallbladder removed. Plus, I have some scars from other minor surgeries and wounds that make me less than attractive, and I wondered if I would be happy throughout eternity living in the same body as I had here. The excess weight I have always tried to lose would also be a burden in Heaven, although without a Coca-Cola vending machine, perhaps I could lose some of it. Another question would also come to mind at times; of what age would my new body be and would I have a choice in deciding or would I just have to accept the body given to me?
 
These questions seem so childish now and the thought of having a resurrected body seems so utterly absurd to me. You see… I have now come to realize that death is not the end of Life, it is only the end of form. Life is formless and is Eternal and therefore cannot be destroyed. This now is my source of comfort… and knowing that there will be no period of waiting for eternity to start but rather just an awakening on the other side of the Veil, is something I can actually look forward to. The Essence of who I am, will not change… but the form I have been attached to will no longer be a burden.
 
The word FORM and the reflection on it has been brought to you by Wayne Dale Matthysse, a friend I've known longer than most. Wayne has been intimately acquainted with death as a medic in Vietnam and as the co-founder of an AIDS Hospice, now Wat Opot Children's Community in Takeo Province, Cambodia.
 

 

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HEAT

HEAT

 

Heat in the heart, and we call it love
Sometimes passion
Heat in the heart, and we call it rage
Sometimes indigestion
 
Heat scorches
Burns
Warms the cockles
 
Heat above the road
Shimmers like the color of water
Mysterious as mist
Transporting us
To a distant time and place

 

 

 

 

The word heat was brought to you by my friend Linden who challenged me to interpret her word more metaphorically, less concretely––all to the better.

 

 

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BOOKS

BOOKS


 
Books. There could hardly be a more wonderful word. Yet, what can I possibly say about books that hasn't already been said by people far more eloquent than I?
 
I give you a story about a book, a bunch of teenagers who hated to read and barely could, and a teacher who plays a small role.
 
The class was a reading class, so the going was always going to be uphill. These kids had not known success with books. They did want to graduate from high school. More or less. This was a night class, the last class of the day at 7 p.m. The students came to school from working machines in the Rose Toiletpaper Factory, from babysitting siblings, from packaging tortillas in the Sanitary Tortilla Factory, from pruning trees, and from tar-and-gravel roofing. They were tired and crabby and acted like hungry ten-year-olds, not near grown-ups. To help them get through that last hour, the teacher stocked a drawer in her desk with Slim Jims, cheese crackers with peanut butter, packages of nuts, granola bars. She did whatever she could to tame the dragons.
 
The first part of the hour the pupils read short, high-interest material, one step above their tested oral fluency level. Fluency matters to comprehension. That was the hard work of the hour.
 
At the halfway mark, the teacher arranged chairs at the front of the room, while the students put away their folders, got out their copies of Buried Onions, and came up to sit in a reading circle. It was story time, the cozy time left over from early elementary days when reading was still done in community. The teacher had marked a few words on the whiteboard behind her, words she'd identified as need-to-know for that evening's passage. Before the students opened their books, they talked over the words together. Then she asked "Will someone do a recap from last night for the ones who missed class?" It was a trick, of course, to develop their summarizing skills.
 
Buried Onions. Written by Gary Soto who grew up in a Fresno barrio and sprinkles words like chola, mi primo, carnal naturally, essentially, throughout the story of Eddie, who's trying not to end up dead like his cousin and uncles by attending community college. Eddie, who makes ends meet by painting stenciled house numbers on curbs. Eddie, whose employer's pickup gets stolen while Eddie's in charge of it. Eddie whose people are named Lupe, Juanito, Jesús. Relatable? Oh, yeah.
 
The teacher tells them the seven skills of good readers, reminding them as they go which skill they're using. This is meta learning––learning about learning. Visualizing is one of the important ones. "Now let's visualize this for a moment," she interrupts the story. "Eddie's abuela just came out onto the porch. What do you see?"
 
"She looks like my grandma. Flowered dress, a big old apron, curly gray hair, big nineties glasses." A couple of kids giggle.
 
"Anyone else?"
 
"She looks like my grandma. Long gathered skirt, white blouse, squash blossom necklace, turquoise and silver bracelets, rings. High-top Converse," a Navajo student says.
 
No one mentions that Eddie is Hispanic and she's just described a Native woman. They know it's what she saw when Eddie's grandma stepped onto the porch. They're good with that.
 
They move on. At an anticipatory point, the teacher stops them again. "Good readers make inferences. Eddie is standing there, watching his boss's truck disappear. We know something about what kind of kid Eddie is. What inferences can you draw about what he feels as he sees those taillights disappear? How would you feel? What do you think Eddie's going to do?"
 
Just before the bell rings, the teacher reminds them, "Good readers ask questions. Write me three questions about what we read tonight or something you're wondering about. We'll talk about your questions tomorrow."
 
These are the things people who love books do without thinking. Conversely, learning to do these things can grow into a love for books. Teachers plant seeds and hope.
 
The class holds a little celebration when they finish the book—cookies and punch. "We should've had onion rings, Miss," one of the girls jokes, and everyone laughs. Good feelings all around. They did it. They read this book about a guy like them––a guy like them who goes to college.
 
Then one of the boys––the one who tears down tar and gravel roofs all day, who comes to class with black dust covering his face except around his eyes––asks, "Miss, do you think I could borrow one of the books? I want my dad to read it."
 
This. This first love of a book, wanting to share it with a person you love. Thinking someone you know will enjoy what you enjoyed. Trying to sound casual and get past a lump in her throat, the teacher says, "That's great, Marcos. I think we can make that happen. Let me know how your dad likes it."
 
"I will." He grins.


 
The word BOOKS was brought to you by a friend who goes nameless here, a friend who was a member of a book group I once belonged to.
 
Comments are always appreciated! If you'd like to see YOUR WORD become a story, poem or reflection, send me one in the comments. Or send it privately, using the "Contact" tab. If you like what you see here, please consider subscribing at http://www.annaredsand.com/newsletter.htm 


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TITTYNOPES

TITTYNOPES


The friend who offered this word is a gay man, and he accompanied tittynopes with, "Not a phrase a gay man would use." My mind's ear heard his naughty giggle. It's not a phrase I would use, either; in fact, I had to look it up, which I know was part of my friend's intent. I mis-typed it into the online dictionary. My fingers, and no doubt my brain, kept wanting it to be tippynopes. Somehow, that seems a non-word that is so much less offensive than tittynopes, which, however, is a word, and its meaning is not even offensive.
 
As it happened, the evening I received the word, I was at a hot dog roast. Baked beans and a tomato salad accompanied the hot dogs, and there were marshmallows for dessert. There were tittynopes at the end, and we discussed at some length how those tittynopes would be used the next day for our host's lunch. We did not, however, use the word tittynopes. We watched her combine some of the tittynopes into a storage container. Soon after that, we took our leave, admiring the fanciful begonia on her porch, not knowing she would gift us with cuttings from it the next day.
 
No doubt you've figured out from the above little tale what tittynopes means. But if you remain in doubt, a tittynope is defined as "a small quantity of anything left over, whether a few beans on a dinner plate or the dregs at the bottom of a cup." The word was in use in 18th century England when it meant "a small quantity of a tasty treat." It came from the word tittle, which, if you're familiar with the King James version of the Bible, you will recognize from Jesus' words, "Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law," etc. Tittle referred to the miniscule, to minutiae.
 
One day, as I worked in the archives of the Museum of Danish America, Cheyenne (my supervisor in my volunteer capacity) mentioned how much she enjoys reading the menus of various Danish American functions as she catalogs their programs. She proceeded to read one aloud, and I commented that it's almost always a delight to read about food, think about food, eat food. Food is good, and reading about it can sometimes be as satisfying as consuming it. Think about literary cookbooks, a favorite genre of mine.
 
But how often are we satisfied with a tittynope of a delicacy? Can we savor and be content with a single designer chocolate? Will the thinnest slice of key lime pie suffice? Ten bites of comfortable mac and cheese? In French Women Don't Get Fat, Mireille Guiliano, reminds us that it's the first few mouthfuls of something delicious that taste truly spectacular. And yet, because it's so good I, for one, want, of course…more. And more. If you haven't already, pay attention to that fact and perhaps delight yourself with just a tittynope, by the 18th century definition.
 
As for the current meaning, I find that tittynopes often inspire creativity. After the hotdog roast, our host's beans were sparked up by the smokey flavor of sliced frankfurter. Add the last tablespoon of chopped green chiles to a mashed avocado when you weren't planning on it, spoon the last of the pintos onto chips under melted cheese, and voilà, you have an unexpected taste treat. Fold the stir fry from two nights ago into a couple of beaten eggs––you get the idea. A lot of the delight in present day tittynopes comes to us in the form of surprise, the marriage of the unusual and the spontaneous. Tittynopes it is!
 

 

The word tittynopes was brought to you by Paolo Renigar, a gay man, sociolinguistic researcher, educator, and obviously, sometimes a tease.

 

 

Comments are always appreciated! If you'd like to see YOUR WORD become a story, poem or reflection, send me one in the comments. Or send it privately, using the "Contact" tab. If you like what you see here, please consider subscribing at http://www.annaredsand.com/newsletter.htm 

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