And now . . . Small Works introduces a BIG WORD.

That's right, school may be out but it's time to sharpen your pencils, because it's Small Works Vocabulary Day!

One of my favorite garage sale prizes ever is a tan leatherette tome of tremendous heft, "The Complete & Unabridged Little & Ives Webster Dictionary and Home Reference Library," copyright 1957.

I keep it on the bookshelf in my bedroom, mostly because -- with its faux-tooled leather and black and red accents -- it looks really cool there with my western stuff.

But also, of course, because I occasionally think big thoughts and it's handy to be able to look something up in such an authoritative volume when I need to.

Today's word, brought to us by "The Complete & Unabridged Little & Ives Webster Dictionary and Home Reference Library" is:

adj. fr. Gk muthopoi (os) 'myth making',
{muthos, see myth} & {poiein, see poet.}

Creating, tending to produce, myths:
mythopoeic faculty.

(There's also a variation, mythopoetic, but I find that one to be less impressive because it's more readily pronounceable. And what's the point of learning new words if you can't use them to impress your friends and neighbors?)

I stumbled upon this word while I was actually looking up the word

And I came to be looking up that word because I was standing in the kitchen baking my ubiquitous cupcakes, wracking my brain about a prickly embroidery/sewing glitch on a piece while simultaneously playing with some tricky wording for a blog sentence, when I was stuck by a sudden remembrance of my grandmothers.

One of my grandmothers was
a newspaper columnist and an embroiderer.

The other was a quilter and a cook.

And Aunt Lillie (3rd grandmother) was a creative,
slightly eccentric seller of goods.

And there I am in a nutshell.

I had to laugh at my own shock from the blinding flash of the obvious . . . that lightning bolt of connectedness to these figures that loom so large in my past and in my heart.

The gods that created me.

Hannah and I were walking the other day and I was reminiscing randomly about the fact that in the enormous and extraordinary house of my childhood (there have been many previous references but still no post, for which I apologize)
we had rugs made from wig hair.

Rugs which we "groomed" by raking them with long-handled wooden rakes with sharp nails embedded in the ends.

(It sounds too fantastic to be true even as I type it. Here I'll offer, by way of very brief explanation, that my dad was basically the father of the modern synthetic wig. That's how I came to be born in Massachusetts. Think textile mills.)

And Hannah, trying to wrap her mind around the idea of a vast stretch of wig hair spanning the living room of that
mythically-proportioned house, said,
"Weird. Mom, you really need to write a book."

And someone should.

But how would I remember everything?
(I often can't remember the end of the book I read last week.)

And would my memories be true?

And most importantly, would truth matter?

Because in the world of myth and poetry, the creation of the story to explain it all and the beauty of the telling are the art and the truth.

It's not about facts.

And my mythopoeic faculty
is almost certainly well-developed.

In her Introduction to Classical Mythology, Edith Hamilton explains:

"The myths as we have them are the creation of great poets . . . the tales of Greek mythology do not throw any clear light upon what early mankind was like."

But they have enlightened and informed so much that has come since, artistically and philosophically.

With the coming of Greek myth, the world became humanized,
the universe rational.

And so in that funny, small kitchen moment I organized (and understood) my own world a little better --

I had an uncertain childhood, in many ways. A mother who was often ill, during a time when little explanation of such things was offered to children.

One recent evening (while I was half-listening to the TV) Dr. House snarked, "Only a mother could do that much damage."

And I stopped to write it down, partly out of fear (because I am one) and partly out of understanding
(because of the years I didn't have one).

But my grandmothers were omnipresent.

And although they're gone, they are never far away -- inextricably woven into my thoughts, actions, beliefs and emotions.

Who created them?
Or have I?

So I stitch. And I write. And I bake.

Every day constructing the poetry to explain it all,
always searching for just the right words.

William Butler Yeats wrote:

I made my song a coat
Covered with embroideries
Out of old mythologies
From heel to throat . . .

I believe I'm working on a similar coat.


Allie said...

Susan. This post has moved me so much. I don't even have words to tell you. I'm so glad you write.

Daryl said...

Susan, what an outstanding post. It is all about the story, not the facts, and how we interpret the story. I for one am waiting for the book, the facts are unnecessary.

luanne said...

my brother is a great, very funny storyteller. once, he advised my sons: "when you're telling a story, if it's not working, change it! because people don't care about what really happened as much as they want to enjoy a good story."

looking at it from a slightly different angle, my husband tells of a college writing professor who was mercilessly criticizing a fellow student's story one day. the kid tried to defend himself: "but it's a true story!" and the professor responded: "just because it really happened doesn't mean anyone wants to hear about it."

seems like the story beats the facts for most people! so go for it.

Lisa Cannon said...

I want to see the book too and then I want to write one myself and compare them because I think that would be the most interesting "truth" of all, don't you?

And, why didn't you tell me about Etsy? Have you had any sales yet? I bet once people discover you, it will be hard to keep up. I love you and your stuff and you writing!

VO said...

I believe your coat is beautifully stitched and decorated.

Your words embroider your stories into sweet motifs and it makes me glad to read them.

And I'm reeling over rugs of hair.

susan m hinckley said...

Glad someone noticed the hair rugs -- a little creepy, right?

And as always, thanks so much for all your kind words, friends. I think this was my favorite post I've written so far (not sure why) so I'm very pleased it resonated with somebody out there.

Jake and Chelsea said...

this is probably my most favorite.

VO said...

Hair rugs, synthetic or now is a little peculiar. And grooming them is also a little odd.

I must say I'm a little curious, what color were the rugs?

susan m hinckley said...

The enormous one (in the living room, which was 2000 sq. feet!) was kind of an off-white -- there was a smaller one in the library, which was sort of a salt and pepper. The hair was probably about 3 inches long. They were actually quite attractive, but you couldn't vacuum them and therefore you raked them -- yeah, it was weird.

VO said...

2,000 sq feet of living room! Covered in 2,00 sq ft of hair! I love, love, love that image.

I know I would have raked patterns in the hair. Fun with design and texture!


susan m hinckley said...

VO, your comments are often better than my posts.

VO said...

bwhahahaha, no, I don't think so.

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