by Elizabeth deGraw Renna
I love words. I am fascinated and intrigued by words and I love to play with them. As some of my co-workers know, I also love my dictionary. I travel for work occasionally to a variety of places but it seems that I go to Chicago for work-related meetings most regularly; the hotel that I usually stay in has become my favorite. The main reason I like this hotel is because of the books they have in every room: instead of a Gideon Bible tucked away in a discreet drawer, right there on a small shelf above the business person’s desk with Internet access are three books. There is a book about Chicago – appropriate for travelers. There is also a copy of Steven Covey’s First Things First, as if the hotel is trying to help their guests become their most successful selves. And the third book? A pocket sized dictionary, filled with words and their definitions. It can’t get any better than that for me, for someone who writes every morning with a cup of warm tea. And for someone who loves words like I do.
I have discovered that I am very curious about words and their meanings. I love to look up definitions in my pocket dictionary, which is always close by when I’m writing in my Journal. Sometimes when my curiosity about a word has prompted me to read the definition and then write it down, other words pop up in the actual definition that I also look up for their definitions. One word often leads to an exploration of two or three other words, with my reflections sprinkled in, until what I’m writing about has taken me down a path I never expected to go. I follow the trail, each word like a stepping stone in a garden with new views and ideas hidden around the next bend in the path. Sometimes when I pause in my writing, at the end of a trail of words that are somehow connected to each other, I’m surprised by how much time has passed.
In January of this year, I wrote in my Journal about attending a meeting that involved great discussion:
“My imagination was captured by a word, its multiple possible meanings, or definitions, and also by its meaning, as in its meaningfulness to me.
“Maybe that’s the essence of my love of words and of collecting words. I enjoy dissecting a word, in a way, and I enjoy considering the various definitions a word has, the different meanings of a word. I realize that I become aware of a certain feeling of disappointment when the definition for a word in my hand-held dictionary is short, just one sentence or a few words. ‘That’s it? There seems to be so much more to that word than this definition encompasses.’ So, then what I love to do, of course, is ponder the deeper meaning, the meaningfulness of a word. It’s a very subjective undertaking – it’s all about me and my perspective and how I, personally, perceive the word to be meaningful.
“One definition of creativity is ‘making unusual connections between things’ like ideas or materials. Really, it’s ideas that a creative person takes and represents through a variety of media – written words, paint, drawing, sculpture, music, dance, photographs, fabric art, food, etc.”
I’ve thought a lot about the phrase “defining moments”, which was going to be the initial name of this Blog. The phrase “defining moments” can be used to describe those momentous times in our lives when the experiences we’re having are life-changing in one way or another. The impact of a defining moment could be on our identity, a changed perspective of who we are, deep in our core. Or a defining moment might include a feeling of greater understanding or clarity.
I sometimes experience those types of defining moments. But what I’d like to write about here, what I’d like to “talk about out loud” with the written word, on paper – or on the computer screen – may be about much simpler “defining moments”. How can words and their definitions guide me to continue to process my experiences, to learn from them, and to grow in my self-understanding? Will my exploration of words and the connections between words be of interest to others? Of course I hope so!