Coiled and Struck

May 10, 2009 at 4:22 PM
Onomatopoeia (ana-mata-pee-ya) are words that sound like what they are. Wham! Pow! Kablooie!

And in English -- while we may be poor on universally applicable grammatical laws, and poorer in literate souls, and even poorer still in an agreed proper usage that is universally applied -- we are HUGELY RICH in onomatopoeia. A wealth of words allude to their meanings by wrapping diction around function, so that you can let the meaning speak itself. Slip, slide, flap, wiggle.

As you say the word struck, the tongue first forces a "st", which contains compunction and force, then flows its way out with a "ru" toward a "ck" - an obvious blow.

Same with the word coil. In order to say it, your tongue must start hard, then undulate and then finally settle again. Very much like the concept that it conveys.

If you learn your word roots far enough back, every word can be thus. Every word began as the best means known to that person of making sound convey a particular meaning. It is when the meanings shift in huge cataclysmic bursts that we lose ground and can no longer find original meaning on our tongues.

We lose our linguistic touch easily, however, it always returns.


I have a small cabin on the end of my yard, that a strange older hippie couple had been renting for nearly nothing. It has no bathroom - they used my outhouse when they lived here. I honestly didn't know what the tiny shed was until someone said it was my outhouse. (Lovely. Just what I always wanted. I'm making plans to plant begonias in it as we speak.)

Anyway, this small cabin intrigued me, as I'm low on dressers, having a remarkably larger household than a few months ago, and more coming. I thought perhaps the hippies had left something behind that could be of use.

Apparently dressers are too establishment. As I was heading back, I stood on the porch and looked about me. Remarkable piles of detritus (aka crap) left behind by the "make love not war" generation surrounded me. Bits of couches, springs from some kind of 1950s kitchen device. A motor out of God only knows what kind of vehicle, conspicuously not present.

I looked down and noticed I was about to step on something.

There was a beautiful, small, pounded-tin cabinet, very thin, with little arched doors like a cathedral, that looked as though they opened. It had obviously originally been painted some cheerful middle eastern or Russian pattern.

I crouched on my heels, and opened the doors to find them lined with and hiding a mirror, now falling away at my touch like a recognized dream through the cracks in the porch. Not old or wiggly mirror, but shattered and disintegrating with the force of opening the tin doors. Oh well. I wondered. Had I somehow never opened it, would the mirrors have retained their arching stained glass shape, shattered but holding together anyway, long after the metal containing them had rusted away?

I looked down into a shard of glass and saw bits of myself staring back up. Just as interested as the real me.

I decided that if I knocked out the bits of glass, it might make a good home for a picture of my children. A tiny shrine to the things that matter most to me.

So, I closed the doors again, and lifted one end of the mirror.

As the cathedral mirror tilted away from me, I noticed a small movement beneath it. Two things. Tiny ants, already well into picking up their food and babies for relocating, having been trained over millions of years into thinking with constant relocation, and having learned through experience passed on by the dead among them that it is wiser to avoid danger when carrying your life around with you.

But also under there, and entertaining no thoughts of relocating, was a very small, very proud, pure-black snake. He looked like a rattlesnake, but probably wasn't. I think he was hardly thicker than a worm, but twice as long. He had decided to let me know the cathedral I had picked up was his home. How he did this, since he didn't move even one tiny bit, I'm not sure. Perhaps it was the steely determinism in his miniscule, proud head. Perhaps it was the attitude of absolute certainty that he conveyed as he lay coiled and resting his head lazily against his skin. He was dead certain that I would replace his cool, pleasing home and let him go about his life again, because he was, after all, the noblest of all snakes.

His little eyes looked up at me without fear or worry and I looked down at him without any either.

I decided that he deserved his existence. I'll come back in a few weeks and maybe find the cathedral ready for me to repaint and move, once he's gotten too large for it to conceal him from prey any longer. Hopefully he'll move near the mice that invade my kitchen each night.

I put his house down and went home. There were many other things to be doing.


Today I am struck by the phrase mortal coil, as though the body is wrapped around me, smothering my existence, rather than a tool toward living.

Perhaps it is a bit of both.


  1. Mr.Pete. Says:

    There ya go, thinkin' again.

    It's about time. I missed your posts.

  2. Kat Says:

    my lovely Desiloo.

  3. Shelley Says:

    You know how fantastic this is - right?