Wednesday, March 16, 2011

A Word for Wednesday: Gentle (A Series of Posts about Words)

When I was a junior in high school one of my classes was a creative writing class focused exclusively on poetry. I had no patience for poetry, I'm afraid to say. I believed that words are best when they are in the good company of many other words, strung together in sentences and contained appropriate punctuation. But after a semester (and then two more) of living in poetry, I learned to cherish words, just words, for their power and joy and unexpected meaning. So I take some time every Wednesday to think about a word with you. Glad you are here.

Word for Today: Gentle

Definition: Gentle means free from harshness, violence or sternness. Gentle is an adjective like soft, or like quiet - it sounds like itself. The consonants roll through the word, into the world, the "t" not too sharp, but still present. The softer "g" - the quiet "l". I love this word because it sounds like what it means. Gentle means kindly, amiable, polite or refined. The words for gentle are words peacefulness and demeanor, words about approaching the world.

Gentle, adj. I remember learning that this word was important when we kept a dutch lop-sided rabbit in our backyard. Her name was Holly, and she was the softest animal my grubby seven year old hands had ever held. But she was skittish, jumping nervously from one end of the cage to another every time she felt your footsteps on the cold wintry ground. "You must be gentle," Mom would say, as we approached Holly with carrot bits or to change the hay in her sleeping area. And sometimes, when my fidgety body would want to race forward and press my nose up against her cage, and reach for her, I would remember that word. "Gentle." You must be gentle. We are so impatient that most of the time we are rough. We tumble in our grass stained sundresses or our soccer shorts and we clatter loudly down the hallways, and we aren't gentle with the world. We smash into things, into others, collide violently as we make ourselves known, our own presence felt. We must be gentle.

Gentle, adj. The word for the piano music I love. It is gentle. The notes harmonize and wander through the big house, cheerful in their presence and their silence. I love the piano because it is a gentle instrument, and because even when the notes are striking, dramatic - even when you play it fiercely and harshly, and strike a discord at every turn, you can still hear its gentleness. The black and white keys hold my quiet rendition of "Lo, How a Rose E'er Blooming" the Sunday after Christmas, and they hold Ingrid Michaelson's "The Chain" (my favorite song from her newest CD - Everybody). Gentle is a word for piano.

Gentle, adj. The paradoxical bursting forth of spring. It isn't gentle, not at all in the first moments. It is wild - the colors and blossoms and the clean smell of ocean air mixed with newly warmed dirt. Springtime is the mud on your rain boots and walking with your face turned up towards the sky, and the first tulip opening its petals to the sky and the first robin in the early morning outside the kitchen window. Spring is gentle in its activity, the swift calendar movement from March into April and May like the unfurling of ferns in the forest. Gentle is all the humming activity of spring.

Gentle, adj. The word for how I want to live this new season, the wrinkly new pink skin (without makeup every morning) and my bright smile... I want to live gentle and vibrant, my words delicate and quiet and true, and with my arms full of the best-smelling flowers just for you, to fill our lives with the freshness of love and life and laughter. 

Rose Garden


1 comment:

  1. I pray for gentleness often as a mother. Let my actions and words be gentle...

    I am a new follower, please stop by and return the favor.


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