Kate Flora: Oops! There I was, settling in to watch Episode Two of the new True Detective when suddenly my iPad went “ding!” and there was the reminder. Blog for MCW tomorrow. Thought I’d done that. It was definitely on the list. The list that’s here somewhere, buried under a million other tiny pieces of paper. “Gotta go write a blog post” I tell my husband. “You know what you’re going to write?” he asks. “Absolutely no idea.”
Things don’t get better when I’m at my desk, staring at the blank white page. Nor when I rustle around the room, looking for a handful of reference books.
Well, heck, I think, maybe I can recycle some old thing. But when I find that old thing, it only reminds me that it isn’t suitable. So I dig out my trusty Rodale’s Synonym Finder (a book no writer can be without) and begin to read.
I am looking for the word “Winter.” It isn’t here. Happily, I find “Wintry.” It leads me to delicious choices like hibernal. Hiemal. Brumal. Cold. Frigid. Freezing. Ice-cold. Shiveringly cold. Icy. Frosty, snowy, arctic, glacial or hyperboreal. Then on to Siberian, inclement, stormy, blizzardly, windy, bitter, nippy, sharp, piercing, biting, cutting, brisk, severe, rigorous, hard, and cruel.
Does this make you want to pick up your pen? Are you a writer like me, who loves lists of words? Who thinks it would be fun to create a character who actually uses the word “hyperboreal?”
If I read on, the book offers me some lovely dark words for a crime writer, particularly one who is writing during the dark months in a cold New England landscape. Here are some tasty words to sample over your morning coffee: bleak, desolate, stark, cheerless, gloomy, dismal, dreary, depressing, unpromising, somber, melancholy. How about dark, gray, overcast, sullen, or lowering? These words pretty well fit the woods behind my house, which are shades of brown and gray and have been since the leaves fell back in November.
When I go looking for “hibernal,” it isn’t there, but “hibernate” pops up at me, the perfect thing to during the month of January. Hibernate leads to: lie dormant, lie idle, lie fallow, stagnate, vegetate, and estivate. Perhaps more fitting, for those of us who find these winter months perfect for sitting at our desks and listening to the voices in our heads, there are these: withdraw, retire, seclude oneself, go into hiding, lie snug, lie close, hide out, hole up, sit tight.
I am pretty much holed up, lying snug, and secluded. But I love the almost song-like rhythm of:
Which leads me, since playing in dictionaries and Thesauruses is part of a writer’s fun, to the far more positive word: snug. Try these lovely words on for size: cozy, intimate, comfortable, easeful, restful, relaxing, quiet, peaceful, tranquil, serene, informal, casual, warm, friendly, inviting.
I am reminded of the snug in an English bar. Snug also suggests secret, private, covert, secluded, well-hidden, screened off.
So while you are reading this, I am secluded, screened off, and well-hidden at my desk, a space which is cozy, warm, and inviting. And once the screen is up and the manuscript is open, I shall turn my back on the hibernal, bleak, stark, cheerless landscape outside.
And probably proceed to kill someone, or at least put them in serious jeopardy.
What are you doing on this dark and somber day?
p.s. Evidence of my long-time fascination with words are these three sheets of paper, found while cleaning out a drawer this morning. They were efforts to expand the boys’ vocabularies.
Two thoughts. First, remember playing Dictionary at Thanksgiving years ago? Second. Piper gave me the perfect line for an opening to a short story last year. She was looking out their dining room window when she said “I am the daughter who likes winter…Dark winter.” Pretty classy for a four tear old.
She’s a pretty class 4-y-o.
Staying snug . . . seeing the snow from indoors. 😉
wrapped in a blanket. Love these kinds of posts.
Thanks, Dru…you have ended my sulk!
I love words and I wrapped myself in yours. Thanks for the link. I never think to go to a blog unless I see the link in a newsletter or on FB.
Late to the game – but, Oh this is a post to love, Kate – a good reminder of the rich universe of words available to us. I gave copies of Mark Sewell’s A Charm of Finches (and Other Wild Gatherings) to friends last year. Collective nouns of the animal kingdom. Fun. Thanks for this.
You need (if you don’t already have HOME GROUND: Language for an American Landscape. It provides words for geographical places/settings I never knew .. until now.
So where are all the words for a lovely wintry day? The bright sunny winter days where everything glitters like cut glass and the air is so cold you swear the bright blue sky could shatter into tiny pieces. Or when every tree, bush and surface is covered with a furry frost, that later falls as pseudo-snow to cover the ground with shaved coconut glass. Or those bright moonlit nights when you don’t need a light because just the reflection of the moon and stars lights your path through the woods. I must keep these times in mind because this winter has been so cloudy and gray, even though we have had little precipitation. The weather service seems to think that will change this weekend.