The following tiny thought is penned by the ever talented Alice Wild Williams. You can read more of her delightful musings here. Everything she does is wonderful and you are welcome.
My grandmother used words the way some people use rusty old bathtubs to grow vegetables: not really for their intended purpose, but with a useful kind of beauty. If she thought my dad was being cheeky she’d say he “got away with words.” To her, “first thing to hand” was something important, treasured. Something she’d save in a fire. “That picture of you on the boat when you were little, watching the whales? It’s my first thing to hand.” Most people thought it was an impediment from learning English last, after Spanish and Japanese, but it wasn’t.
Language lived in the cumulonimbus of cigarette smoke that hung above her head. She could shape or disappear behind either whenever she wanted.
“Apply within,” is how she would command us to summon courage. When we fell over and skin peeled bloody from our knees,or when the raincloud settled in her chest for good, and we stood by her bed and took turns holding her hands that felt like kindling.
Years later these mangled turns of phrase show up when I least expect them. For my birthday, a well intentioned boyfriend woke me in the freezing pre-dawn for a balloon ride. I am completely terrified of untrustworthy flight. Planes, sure. Planes have maths and magnets and science and lots of people in uniforms. Wicker baskets suspended by fire and silk do not.
Two sounds can be so far removed from each other but sound exactly the same. Rain that begins like a slow applause, a heart that volleys like a game of tennis. The balloon breathed out just like a whale, the silence between exhalations as quiet as the space between the stars. We rose with the sun. I clung to a basket that felt like kindling, and all I could think was Apply Within.