"I'm going to speak my mind because I have nothing to lose."--S.I. Hayakawa

Tuesday, January 12, 2010


My best friends have been missing and mygodican’ttellyouhowmuchihavemisssedthem. I can almost pinpoint the time of their departure, and that gives me some insight into why they disappeared. My best friends, you see, are my words.

For several days while reading The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, I was in awe of his words, how he examined each one for its multiple identities, weighed each one to determine its power, studied the provenance of each one, and wondered, “What if?” Then, he set each on its own journey, a journey that—as Robert Frost wrote—was a road less traveled. Inside the front and back covers, I noted numerous page numbers where lay examples of words put to their finest use:

“He returned to his sleep, and behind her, the girl dragged the same thought up the steps.”

“…Rudy’s voice reached over and handed Liesel the truth. For a while it sat on her shoulder, but a few thoughts later, it made its way to her ear.”

(about painting windows black in wartime Germany) “…he confiscated the window light from enemy eyes.”

“As she crossed the river, a rumor of sunshine stood behind the clouds.”


(about playing the accordion) “His arms worked the bellows, giving the instrument the air it needed to breathe.”

The list goes on and on.

Not until several days after I finished reading did I notice how restless I was, how hollow, how scattered in thought. I recognized the symptoms. A writer without words is pathetic. I searched everywhere. I looked at photographs old and new. I read words old and new. I compared their disappearance to that of a lost love. Mostly, I moped about the house and waited. I was sure my words were hiding, awash in embarrassment, shunning the light of Zusak’s words.

Today a high pressure ridge found a meteorological weakness and came screaming down from the north. On the ice caps surrounding Seward, it caromed through glacial crevasses, skittered around shark-toothed mountain peaks, and tumbled into the valleys, all the while honing its cutting edge. Then, through with playing in the mountains, it swooped down on the defenseless city of Seward as if to scoop up the puny buildings of man and take them out to sea.

With it, though, it brought some of my words. I picked them up along with a few groceries, a library book, a purchased book, and a textbook, as I attended to business in that seaside town. I was glad to find those missing words, cold and wind-blown though they were. After several weeks without their company, I’ll take them in any condition.

Right now they are huddled around the woodstove in the living room, thawing out and considering their next move. Perhaps it would help if I removed The Book Thief from the top of my desk where it has been for weeks. While I wait for all their relatives to return home, I can almost imagine their glee the next time they keep me awake all night. For now, I imagine their apology. But, even here, Zusak said it best:

“When Leisel left that day, she said something with great uneasiness. In translation, the two giant words were struggled with, carried on her shoulder, and dropped as a bungling pair at Ilsa Hermann’s feet. They fell off sideways as the girl veered with them and could no longer sustain their weight. Together, they sat on the floor, large and loud and clumsy.


“I’m Sorry”

No need for apologies, friends. Come back and all will be forgiven. But please, don't ever leave me like this again.


  1. a beautiful example of why you're a writer and I'm not.

  2. Your own words capture and express your thoughts miraculously, but I suppose even you must seek a higher writing level.

    I'm happy that your toybox of words is rumbling anxiously and words are flinging their dormant wrappings and surging upward to burst the box lid open and be obedient to your beck and call.

    I've added Zusak's book to my book list.

  3. That book has been on my list of "books to read" forever, it seems. I think it's time to go to the library!

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  5. I think you should submit this to Canteen - www.canteenmag.com/submit
    I believe it has a home there.