Once I wrote this e-mail to a friend:
There is chainmail and then there is trainmail. This here is trainmail.
Out the window of my train, I see a freight train, enormously long, car after car marked “CornProducts”. One car marked “cationic corn starch”. I don’t even know what that means but I like how it looks and how it sounds in my head.
The mystery of that.
Why do I like it? The phrase is divorced from its meaning but I like it anyway but how can that be? Words are meaning. How can I like a word if I don’t know what it means?
One time I was on the train and the man in front of me was a scientist who spoke very passionately about heavy water to his companion and sent me into paroxysms of joy over deterium even tho’ I only had the most rudimentary understanding of what he was actually saying.
Another time a rabbi explained cantillation to his seatmate and I thought I would have to kiss him up fiercely to thank him for giving me such goodness to overhear.
The train is the best place that isn’t the woods or the bay of waterlilies or Nina’s house on Abelvær. It gives me delicious headswirl.
And it makes me write, a lot, things in my blank book and loopy e-mails. I liked writing this loopy e-mail. I hope you will like reading it.
It was mulling moment #5,000,000,000,092 on why words shiver me up so madly. Why do they, I wonder? Words, books, typography, writing systems, printing presses, libraries, book stores, spelling bees, alphabetica, John Cage reciting haiku from Bashō
in the clunkiest Japanese ever … all of it leaves me breathless. (The John Cage thing is funny but also heart-melting because he really does sound ridiculous speaking Japanese [I say this as a non-speaker of the language myself, of course, so it's entirely possible that I'm talking outta my ass here] but I love him so much for making the attempt. Leaping into the vast ocean of a foreign language takes some courage, for real and for true.])
Words. The mystery of them. The mystery of their power. The weird synæsthetic experience I have of some of them because: I feel certain words in my body: the good words feel like love; the bad ones feel like food poisoning. Sometimes I can’t sleep for trying to pull a certain word apart, anagram it, reimagine it, shape it, hold it, fold it, etymologise it, understand it, seduce it, own it. If I were a biologist, I would find my sharpest scalpel and tenderly eviscerate the words I cannot get over, the words I cannot possess, so that I could find what is at the heart of them.
There is no explanation for this. It’s just the way I’m wired. But I have never been one not
to ask “why” so I continue to ask that and to wonder that and to lie awake too late at night competing in my endless spelling bee of one, and, of course, to write loopy e-mails to people that I sometimes end up posting on the interwebs.