In Writing

I am awash in words. Words I write. Words I read. I’m on a writing retreat with nothing to do but think about language, lush, rich, flinty, cruel, imprecise and taunting. It’s delicious.

This occurred to me because I thought of the word “vagary.” Specifically, I thought of the phrase, “the vagaries of love,” a phrase we use when describing the exquisite pain of loving another, one who disappoints and charms, leaves and comes back, rendering us helpless, without help, just holding on and wondering what the hell we’re going to do about it.

I do this a thousand times a day, every day, alight on a word and turn it around in my mind like a morsel. Usually, with conference calls imminent, children clamoring to be fed and laundry which Really Should Be Done Today, I let the word slip back into the crowd and watch its back while it goes.

But at writing retreats there is time to luxuriate. So I looked it up. Not because I don’t know its definition but because I wanted to possess the word completely, if for a moment. I wanted to roll around in it, smell it, rub it in my hair. Vagary. So seldom seen in the singular, often paired painfully with the word “love.” Vagaries. Oh, vagaries, how you vex me.

Noun. Plural vagaries. An unpredictable or erratic action, occurrence, course or instance.

1565-75, in sense “wandering journey”; apparently < Latin vagārī to wander

From the Latin ‘to wander.’ Interesting. It occurs to me that the Spanish word for lazy is “vago,” clearly from the same root. So, those who wandered were eventually labeled vagos and the word turned into something new, the way words do. Both descendants of this Latin word expose our discomfort with wandering, with meandering, with moving along without aim or purpose, with erratic movement. It makes us lazy, leaves us open to the vagaries of living.

And, yet, here I am, lazily vagarying the heck out of my life today. And tomorrow. And Sunday. Until I’ll once again enter the life of the responsible, caring about things like litter boxes and credit card payments. Like a grown-up should.

But how I’ll miss the time to let my mind wander aimlessly.

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