Man of Many Words

Roget

Today is the birthday of Peter Mark Roget (1779-1869), scientific writer, lecturer, and author of the Thesaurus, a project that he did not even begin to pursue seriously until his 70s. That ought to encourage the rest of us slowpokes. Roget was a lifelong and compulsive list-maker, a practice that apparently comforted him and helped sustain him through the terrible depressions that plagued him and his extended family, although he suffered tragedy enough throughout his life to justify serious despair. I love my Thesaurus and was inspired by this birthday to get on the library waiting list (speaking of lists) for a recent biography of Roget, Joshua Kendall’s The Man Who Made Lists. Among Roget’s many other admirers is J.M. Barrie:

“The night nursery of the Darling family, which is the scene of our opening Act, is at the top of a rather depressed street in Bloomsbury. We have a right to place it where we will, and the reason Bloomsbury is chosen is that Mr. Roget once lived there. So did we in days when his Thesaurus was our only companion in London; and we whom he has helped to wend our way through life have always wanted to pay him a little compliment. The Darlings therefore lived in Bloomsbury.” —Introduction to Act I of Peter Pan

Natsukashii: A Japanese word used to express the feeling described above. It is not yet in the Thesaurus.

CakeBalloonsMatilda

BirthdayYahrzeitSusan


New Year’s Resolution: New Language

Today is the birthday of Haruki Murakami (1949), a Japanese novelist and translator whom my son admires, author of Norwegian Wood and Kafka on the Shore, among other works. In addition to writing novels he jogs and runs marathons. Maybe there is a connection between running long distances and writing surreal and humorous metaphysical short fiction.

“Whatever it is you’re seeking won’t come in the form you’re expecting.” —Haruki Murakami

New Year’s Resolution: Teeth

ResolutionFloss

This one is in honor of our beloved, skillful, and funny dentist, to whom we have all been going for years and who has seen so many of our teeth emerge… and depart… It makes me think that every time we smile, speak, or share a crunchy meal (carrots! cookies! corn on the cob!) we ought to remember him with gratitude.

Plus he SINGS while he works.

New Year’s Resolution: Declutter

ResolutionClutter5

A few days before the end of the year I chanced upon (although I don’t actually believe in chance encounters) a book by Gail Blanke called Throw Out Fifty Things. The book is small but filled with humorous encouraging suggestions for detaching from our stuff, both physical and psychic. I can’t believe I’m promoting a self-help book on only my fourth post instead of something intellectually or artistically elevating for the new year. Oh well. Maybe it will help someone else throw out a few things too. That’s how we spent New Year’s Day here, out of necessity when the laundry tub overflowed. What a blessing in disguise.

New Year’s Resolution: Library

ResolutionLibBks3

On my list of things for which I am grateful is the public library, which I consider one of the greatest blessings of modern civilization and which is one of the first things I think of when I pay taxes. I have memories of libraries going back to childhood and recall wandering the stacks in cool semi-darkness, making my selections, then walking home on a hot summer day with a stack of well-worn cloth-bound books, prepared to curl up and enter other realms. Now I see my children with the same passion, choosing the library as a pleasurable destination: “Can we stop at the LIBRARY?” A world of wonders open to us all, free of charge. Thank you, Andrew Carnegie! Thank you, dear Library and Librarians everywhere!