Wednesday, May 11, 2011


Although I prefer to write about the sublime subject of a flower garden of lilac, pink, and yellow blooms we planted yesterday afternoon, this morning, I find that I can’t disappear the subject of “sniping” words from my mind.  Lately, I’ve stood at the edge of a battle going on within a social structure and had the dubious privilege of observing how mean-spirited people can be when things don’t go their way.  The result has been the expression and enactment of words that have prefixes of “sn;” e.g., “sniding” (making snide remarks), sneering, sniggering, sniping (a sly critical attack), snipping, snapping, snorting (expressing defiance by a noise in the nose), snarling, sneaking – the cruel qualities of “sn” words is overwhelming.

I think of Lewis Thomas’s essay in which he exhorted the use of interoffice messages within corporations, rather than meetings because in meetings people’s egos rise like balloons, and I can visualize this scene, readily seeing that no positive results can be achieved in a room filled with those hot air balloons.  When I worked as an executive director for Girl Scouting, after we had been trained in corporate management that involved democratic management where each executive was acknowledged and respected for her area of expertise, we often used interoffice memos to deter such hot air collisions.  The process worked well, provided we intentionally focused on mission and goals and didn’t become preoccupied with the use of “sn” words to demean other staff members’ ideas.

Anyway, from the hill of 76, I feel grateful for those years of shared corporate management with 13 diverse staff members, representing pluralism in action, who were focused on the mission of “inspiring girls with the highest ideals of character, conduct, patriotism, and service that they may become happy and resourceful citizens.”  Through the years, I’ve observed that the result of any toxic verbal battle fueled by hot air egos, in which the intent and meaning of “sn” words are carried out, is the game of “gotcha,” a game which usually culminates in unnecessary human pain that takes a long time to heal and chips away at the mission of any group. 

Regarding ego, I’m reminded of a story I once included in a sermon, in which a saint is dying and when asked if she had some wisdom to impart before dying, she spoke of humility, saying: “Make yourselves small…very small.”  On my spiritual journey, I’ve become more and more aware that we were wired for “cooperation, not competition,” and this idea is sourced by effective, caring leadership, the master leader being “The One Whom None Can Hinder” (Christ) as my great-grandmother once wrote. 

Reflection about the “sn” subject prompted the writing of the two poems below:

How like rats they are,
these canny creatures lurking in shadows,
knowing the exact location for a strike,
having reconnoitered the territory
under cover of darkness,
waiting to steal the crumbs
from a steward’s pantry,
boring holes in a tomato
ripened by a kindly sun,
tearing up sofa cushions,
destroying the soft cotton
with bared teeth, gleeful squeals,
happy with their affronts,
flipping their tails
and scattering waste pills behind.

The leaf lay on the stone table
as if someone had deposited it
dead center, for us to contemplate,
filigrees faintly tinted green
when held to the morning light,
laced veins showing a jagged hole,
victim of a beetle, a leaf borer?
The hole is shaped like the mark of teeth
or some jagged object,
reminding us of a quarrel
in which harsh ripostes passed,
of how the human psyche, so fragile,
like the leaf, is still flexible
and will find its place,
moving into its center,
becoming stiff with endurance again.
It will recover although the hole remains,
a small death that fluttered to our table, saying
scars remain, imperfections, now known…
but the lightest shade of green persists.


Gaye said...

Nicely done! I assume not only the essay but also the poems are yours? They are lovely. It was by no accident, I think, that Faulkner gave the name "Snopes" to one of his fictional families. I have heard it suggested that the "sn" sound reminds us of the sound of snakes.

Janet Faulk said...


Rose Anne said...

I love this post, Diane.