Wednesday, June 19, 2013

The calendar may say it's still spring, but for me, summer officially arrived last week the moment I saw those small yellow beacons in the night:
Lightning bugs are back.
As I walked with our dog a few nights ago, a half-moon shone overhead while just in front of us a tiny airborne light flashed on and off, on and off. I reached out gently, just as I did countless times as a kid, and let my hand act as landing strip.
The firefly rested on my forefinger, bathing it in sunny yellow. Tiny feet tickled feather-light against my skin. 
My small, bright passenger hitched a ride for only a few steps before it took off again, wings a blur in a golden glow.
Beautiful things do come in small packages.
For more firefly musings, click here.
        One of my favorite quotes -- and one I often cite when I teach writing -- happens to mention lightning bugs. It comes from Mark Twain:
“The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter -- it's the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.”

Well said.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Louie, loyal friend ... and visual aid.

I love words, which certainly comes in handy as a writer.
We use words so much, their original meanings can get lost in their familiarity. A word then becomes simply the sound we make to stand for some object, or idea.
Every now and then a word reveals itself in a surprising way, and reminds me just where it came from.
Case in point:
One recent weekend my husband and I took Louie, our resident canine, to the dog park.
While we sat on a bench by the fence, Louie -- and every other dog there -- made the rounds, sniffing noses (along with tail ends … a ritual that always makes me glad I'm not a dog). Their exuberance and joy reminds me of kids let out for recess.
On that day one small white dog in particular attracted our Lou. He pursued, they circled and sniffed, she barked when she had enough. A few minutes later, he pursued again, they sniffed, she barked. Louie returned again and again to his would-be buddy, tail always wagging, ever hopeful.
"Ah," I said to my English-major husband, pointing toward Lou. "Dogged!" 
The meaning of that word was never quite so clear.

Years ago I had a similar epiphany.
In the '70s, one of my best friends occasionally drove an aquamarine Chevy Impala convertible. On this particular night, we were driving in Ocean City, N.J., and I was in the front passenger seat.
Back in those days, buckling up was not mandatory. Feeling young and happy, I grabbed the top of the frame and pulled myself up to standing. The sea wind smacked my face as my long hair shot straight back.
"Ahh! Wind-shield!" I said, laughing as I sat back down, amazed how I had never really thought about the word in that way before.
A lesson in literal-ity.

As I mom, I have to add: If there are any young drivers or passengers reading this, just take my word for it. 
Stay buckled up.