Sunday, November 23, 2008


Dictionaries and Bibles – my home here in New Iberia has more of these books on my shelves than any other title. So, when given the opportunity to frequent a Barnes and Noble on a Saturday afternoon, what catches my eye? A stand holding copies of a new compact Oxford Dictionary and accompanying compact Oxford Thesaurus. I circled the store about six times during the hour spent there, and several clerks eyed me as if I was going to tuck a few volumes into my big black purse. I always ended up standing in front of the display of dictionary and thesaurus and finally picked up the COMPACT OXFORD THESAURUS, held it conspicuously in open palm, and walked away with more than 140,000 synonyms in hand.

“Look at the words printed in bright blue,” I explained to two friends who accompanied me to the B&N. “Feel the soft cover, and look at the spelling tips and punctuation rules in the back.” I don’t need to describe my friends’ enthusiasm – one of them was searching titles of poetry books; another was in the computer programming section during most of the time we spent there. Their faces didn’t hold the same credulous delight as my own, and I knew they didn’t understand my joy at finding help for this “WordsWorth” blog. Then, again, perhaps they did, since both of them often hear me creating strange, new words to amuse myself while riding in a car long distances on some of our trips to find serendipity.

While circling the dictionary display, I veered off once into the poetry section. I found a copy of Mary Oliver’s AMERICAN PRIMITIVE, and the book fell open to the page, “The Snakes,” the subject of my last two blogs. “That’s it,” I announced to no one, “my enneagram is right, a #5 sees everything as related.” What a strange soil of perception, you have, my inner critic said. However, I marked an “x” (mentally) in the “related” column. I find it difficult to give up the idea of connectedness in a universe that often doesn’t make sense – you know, the “why am I here” line of thought that comes to you when you are listening to midnight train whistles.

When I arrived at church this morning, who should be on the altar but Miss Belle of the Bayou, Mary Himel, the woman who stared down a snake! She was behaving very properly, serving as a good chalice bearer, and I wanted to say something about her nighttime baptism as I lifted the cup at Communion, but restrained myself until she filed out after church. I told her to read my blog as she had recently appeared in a scene with a snake, followed by one of her poems. She told me that just last week, five years after the publication of WHEN THE LEVEE WAS A SNOW BANK, she went into a store in St. Martinville, and the manager gave her $7 for a copy of her book of poetry that he had sold recently. You do see the point about this relatedness business, don’t you? One mention of the book thrown to the universe of the Internet and cash registers begin to cha-ching.

And what about the snakes? Only two mentions have occurred so far, but Janet did see something similar to a snake that appeared recently, and it turned out to be a gecko that hid in the bushes bordering our property here in New Iberia while we were in Tennessee. She said he hides in the irises, also, and makes the grass rustle just like a snake. (Geckos also make a chirping noise, eat roaches, and some of them are parthenogenetic, which means the female can have babies without engaging in copulation). Somehow, I don’t think I’ll be opening books in the B&N that fall open to poetry about geckos…yet, there are these connections…? They do go on.
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