Thursday, July 11, 2019

Celebrating the magpie

So, here are a few relevant bits of information about me.

1. I like to write.  I miss writing.  I often feel compelled to write, but don't seem to be able to get moving (see #2).  I admire people who make a decision to spend a year writing each day - about something that makes them happy, or a children's story, for example - but,
2. I tend to feel like I have nothing to write about, by which I mean nothing important, or big.  Nothing that is leading to something.  Nothing that is "worth" writing about for 365 days in a row.  Also,
3. I am a very undisciplined person.  I do not find myself comfortable setting a routine on the basis of some kind of invariant rule, of the "I will always write for 20 minutes a day, no matter what" sort.  In fact, any rule that starts with "I will always", or "I will never", almost inevitably leads, not to me actually getting the thing done, but rather, to all kinds of questions, like "why?", and "what if...?", and "does that really make sense?"  There is an element of laziness, and a tendency to avoid doing things I don't particularly want to do.  But I think I am also a questioner by nature.  Any idea I have (or anyone else has - fair warning) is worth questioning, examining, reexamining.  Not for nothing have I always resonated with Emerson's "A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds."  Furthermore,
4. This inconsistency exacerbates the problem of wondering what I could possibly write about that's big enough. Or what I could find that I'm willing to commit to for 365 days.  Because in all honesty?
5.  I am a magpie.  I am both easily distracted by shiny objects (like books about how octopodes* think, or about how trees talk to each other, or about mindfulness and race, or about trauma, or...  you should see my bookshelves; and my art supplies; and my yarn stash; and my cookbook shelves; and...), and I like to take these shiny idea objects home to my nest and turn them over and about and think about them.  I like to put them next to each other and see how they interact.  Sometimes I write haikus about them in my head.  Sometimes I violently disagree with them.  It's all part of the fun.  With all of that said, I am judgmental of my inner magpie.  Or I trivialize it.  One's inner magpie, I tend to think, doesn't produce something meaningful and worthwhile.  (This begs the question - does it need to?  What about joy?  Curiosity?  The thrill of discovery?  Are these not, in themselves, worthwhile?)

I sat this morning with the idea of writing every day for a year.  And, as usual, my first response was an anguished sort of sense of:  there really isn't any one thing I feel compelled or qualified to commit to for an entire year.  All kinds of ideas arose in my mind - a haiku about aging, the endless questions I have about how the world works, my inner naturalist, mindfulness, knitting, spinning, parenting adult children.  So many things.

And then, the image of the magpie.  Fascinated by everything.  Endlessly willing to explore.  A little loud and obnoxious.  And in that moment, I decided to embrace my magpie.  I could write something every day, I think, if a question counts.  Or an etymology.  Or a description of the spider who insists upon building her web right where I walk each morning to feed the cat.  What if I commit to my magpie?

So that's the plan.  To write something each day, without determining in advance what that something will be.  Except to say that it has to be something that comes from or feeds my magpie.  I don't know who is still reading here** (although I do see a hit count when I post, so it seems that some kind people are still around - hi!).  So I don't know how anyone who is reading will feel about this new plan.  I don't even know if this is the right place to enact it.  But this blog is here, and, as I have said before, I have a real fondness for it.  I miss it.  So, the Knitting Linguist is embracing her inner magpie - welcome along for the ride.

Here we go!

* Here's a cool thing.  Years ago, when I took a fifteen-week Ancient Greek intensive summer school course (as one does), I realized that "octopus" is Greek, not Latin.  The -i plural nominal ending is Latin, not Greek.  So I did some playing and poking, and realized that the plural of "octopus" ought to be "octopodes".  I felt very pleased with myself, but also kept it kind of quiet, until one day it occurred to me to see what the Oxford English Dictionary thought about the whole thing.  And I'll be darned - it actually lists "octopodes" (stress on the antepenultimate syllable, pronounced like "antipodes") as the plural for "octopus" (alongside the later-come "octopi", and "octopuses", which has apparently been around since the beginning).  I find "octopodes" much more fun to say than the others, so "octopodes" it is. 

**  Actually, if folks are willing to do a sort of roll call, by leaving a comment to say hi, I'd love to know who's still here (and if you, too, post online, please let me know where)!  I should also say that I love to respond to comments - if your comment-leaver doesn't have a way for me to respond to you (not everyone has their email attached), but you want me to respond (or are willing), you can also email me at knittinglinguistATgmailDOTcom (replacing the capitalized words with their symbols, natch).


Wanderingcatstudio said...

I shall forever call them octopodes from now on! I love it! Thanks for teaching me something new!

Laurie said...

Long time reader, former blogger, and fellow magpie here. I’ve thought about restarting my old blog which died years ago along with the death of my beloved old dog, but like you, have either too much, not enough, or too random things to write about. Cheers!

Lindsay Jean said...

Present and accounted for! I’m excited to read the fruits of this year’s endeavor! Good luck!

Elizabeth said...

hi! it's so nice to see you back! i don't blog, but i'm an avid reader of blogs, of which there are fewer and fewer...

i completely relate to your wanting to write and having "nothing" (or rather, no one thing) to write about. i'm looking forward to your magpie posts!

Carol M said...

Hello 'Magpie'
I'm still here! Happy to see you writing again.

twinsetellen said...

I swear, I clicked on your blog to see if there was anything new just a few days before you posted this. What a delight to look forward to a year of magpie ponderings!

Unknown said...

I am not sure if show up on your stats as I use Feedly to keep up with the blogs I read...regardless, happy to read what the magpie finds!

No blog as yet (maybe someday), just a voracious reader...blogs, books, a rather higgledy-piggledy fashion.

--Jean Marie

Allison said...

Hooray, you're posting again! I have always enjoyed your blogs.
I came across the octopodes plural several years ago and promptly adopted it. It sounds way more awesome than the other plural options.

TK said...

Octopodes is the best! It's entering my vocabulary for sure.

The numbered section of your post could have been written about me. I love the idea of embracing the inner magpie and will look forward to reading your questions and thoughts and descriptions each day. Thank you for sharing them with us!

Portia said...

Hi! welcome back

Erica Gunn said...

(As you know) I am a magpie as well. I think most writers/thinkers are. And I also have that fear of dilletantism, internalized after many years in academia where one must be single-minded at all times. (My "lack of commitment" even extends to careers...the horror!) Sometimes I wonder about that judgment, and the privilege it assumes. Is the "ideal" really to focus single-mindedly on one pursuit for your whole life, with no other interests or concerns in the outside world? It seems to me that the world where family/friends/hobbies/outside influences are "distractions" from one's own great purpose is a fundamentally selfish (and quite narrow) one, and one that is only open to a certain kind of privilege in the world. Is this really the best/only way to be important/relevant/intelligent? I don't think it is. I have started to question who that model is built for, and what it means to listen when it tells me that my interests are too silly and unimportant to be worth noticing. If you look at the history of science, it was often the polymaths who roved many different subjects that made the connections that no one else could see. They were not called dilletante: they were called genius. It certainly takes far more time to become an expert in a field now than it did then, but I also wonder if we haven't lost something along the way. Perhaps it is the joy of exploration and the new vistas exposed by wandering that gives a person the perspective to see the things that others have missed. So, here's to your inner magpie, and your project!

Anonymous said...

Oh, I am happy you are writing on the blog again! Magpie? Squirrel! I think curiosity and interest are valuable qualities that should be encouraged. Looking forward to reading.