And now . . . Small Works (re)introduces a BIG WORD. . . . Because it's summer re-runs, remember?

It's Monday, so it must be time to hit the books, or the work table, or whatever Monday means for you. For me, it means laundry and groceries as well as kicking off a new week at Small Works . . . and . . . ahem . . . of course work.  So in the interest of fitting it all in, here's a re-run from a year or so ago that is one of my favorites:

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.


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