Friday, January 07, 2011

To Call Each Thing By Its Right Name

When I was in college (oh so many years ago), I had a friend who lived about 2 hours away. Sophomore year, we began trading care packages. About once a month, we would send each other small boxes, full of gag gifts from the dollar store, handmade items, silly notes with doodles on them, and the like. Usually we had some confetti lying around (as you do) and we'd fill up the empty space in the box to make it extra festive. These packages made my week, every time.

On one such time, it came in an old Tiffany box, with that lovely, trademark teal blue color. I thought it was just so pretty. A blank canvas! What could I do with it?

So I picked up some magazines I had lying around. I started flipping through the pages and cutting out words and phrases, in varying sizes, fonts, and colors. Everything to do with friendship, fun times, something I thought might make her laugh, a value we shared - whatever reminded me of her and of our friendship - it all got glue-sticked on there. We exchanged that box for quite some time. I don't know where it is anymore. I wonder, if I saw it now, would it surprise me? Make me cringe? Would it give me some insight into who I was back then, based on my choice of words?

FAST FORWARD: 10 years (Aaaahhhh!!!)

Well, it happened again. That magazine collage thing. I wanted a place where I could collect words of inspiration to me: song lyrics, poems, quotes, mantras, or words of my own invention. I could add to it as they occurred to me, and refer to the book whenever I needed a little something to pull me back in, to remind me of what beauty there is in life.

I love words.

Finding the right words, giving a name to something - it clarifies the world for me in a way that nothing else does. I say to myself, ahh, so that's what that is. There is so much richness and depth in language, so much material for us to use to define what we see, do, feel.

And so it began that I searched far and wide (if far and wide means Barnes & Noble, Borders, and Paper Source) for just the right book for the job - just the right size, blank pages, and a beautiful design on the outside cover. Well, all I have to tell you is this: all the cool journals have lines. I didn't want lines! I wanted to write as big or as small as I pleased, and maybe draw on those pages. All you diary writers get the pretty ones. In a moment of clarity, I remembered that little blue box from years ago, and it's flurry of letters. Ahah! This could work.

So I bought a blank sketchbook...

Aah, the possibilities...
At least the end papers are fun.

and turned it into this...

The front.

The back.

Here's how the process looked:

Apparently I was also collecting leaves that day?

I tried to keep things tidy.

Verdict: there were way too many words! Winnowing them down was part of the unexpected joy of this project. Yea, that word is nice, but this other word really speaks to me, it's going on instead. I also did not expect to discover this: you see different words in different types of magazines. You won't find the same patterns of language coming up in Time as you will in Smithsonian, and certainly not in Cosmo. Of course, I had a lens. I was looking for warm, positive words, ones that would hold me, energize me, make me smile.

(I'm just saying, I passed by the word "perfect" in those women's magazines sooo much. Take that to your women's studies class, do with it what you will.)

Desiderata is in there, of course.

So is this.

Here's a crowd pleaser.

Words inside, words outside. And much more to come.

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