Friday, November 22, 2013

This representative of yang guards our mailbox.*
I consider myself lucky to be a writer (though as any writer would admit, there are times when a pile of unfolded laundry proves more enticing than wrestling with a balky paragraph).
One of the gifts writing gives me is the chance to indulge my curiosity. Whatever I wonder about I can write about, which means I first get to read and learn about anything under the sun (or over it for that matter).
For example, as I wrote my previous post I realized I didn't know much about yin yang, aside from recognizing the black-and-white symbol you could buy as a patch for your bell-bottom jeans in the 1960s. 
Indulging my curiosity (not to mention my inner editor, who insists on accuracy), I turned to the internet to read up on the ancient Chinese concept, which dates back so much farther than the '60s.
Wading through the web I learned that the dark side of the symbol is the feminine yin, connected with the moon, while the light side is the masculine yang, connected with the sun.
I found more factoids. For example, yin is symbolized by a tiger, and yang by a dragon. (Dang, why do men get to be the dragons?) I didn't end up using any of those details, but the knowledge settled into my brain, like seeds planted. 
Now, let me switch gears, with the promise that all will mesh in the end.
I've been learning Spanish again by listening to Pimsleur language CDs in the car. One concept foreign to my English-speaking brain is the idea of male and female nouns. 
English has just one “the.” Spanish uses at least two: “el,” for masculine nouns, and “la” for feminine. Most masculine nouns end in “o,” and female nouns end in “a.” But not always, which is when I'm likely to misspeak.
I mentioned this to my English major husband, who offered this idea: the older the language, the greater the structure, the more rules. 
Spanish has roots in Latin, which definitely counts as an older language. Hmm. More seeds planted.
A few days later I was working with a teenager who studies French. 
We commiserated about the tricky male/female noun business.
I mentioned “el dia,” day (masculine, even though it ends in “a”) and “la noche,” night (feminine, though it ends in “e.”)
“Why?” I asked. “Who decided that the day is male and the night is female?”
I barely finished that sentence before the linguistic lightbulb blinked on.
    Ahhh. It's yin and yang, moon goddess and sun god. Ancient ideas, ancient languages live on in words we use every day (especially when we speak Spanish).
Those seeds planted had sprouted. And a little piece of the universe made just a little more sense.
   Just one more reason I feel lucky to be a writer.
*My dragon sentry is a candle I found on a memorable thrift shop outing with a dear friend (a more than momentary joy). He started out as a Halloween decoration, but I'm letting him enjoy the porch awhile longer.