The whole universe was stilled as tho’ listening for a voice. For the space of one heartbeat there was peace on earth…Existence rested against the heart of God, then sighed and journeyed again. Elizabeth Goudge, “Green Dolphin Country.”
I enjoy saving and savoring words—new words, old words, your words. Although I am not endeavoring to write a dictionary, I have quotebooks and notebooks of varying shapes and sizes containing all manner of language within their covers.
Words with more than one meaning—like ‘make’ and ‘take’ or ‘pitch’ and ‘frequency’–all go in my ‘Defining Moments’ journal. (I got the idea from Kel Rohlf, who wrote a little volume on words and their meaning, devotional style.)
I have a small Moleskine of other words that are new to me, the meaning of which I have yet to learn, set aside for my own dictionary work. Words like ‘mimesis’ and ‘amanuensis’ via the book I’m reading for the season—“Waiting on the Word—a Poem a Day for Advent, Christmas and Epiphany” by Malcolm Guite.
When I happen upon a particular verse in Scripture that I want to meditate on for a while, I write that in a thin volume with blank pages to add a little embellishment next to the words.
And then there are favorite quotes I’ve been collecting.
Years ago I found an old-fashioned Record Book at the Thrift Store and began a scrap booky kind of collection. I’d gathered phrases I liked from magazines, church bulletins, calendars, what-have-you, and started gluing them into the pages of the book.
The writer is an explorer. Every step is an advance into new land. Ralph Waldo Emerson
That’s what storytellers do, Mrs. Travers. We restore order through imagination. We instill hope again and again and again. Tom Hanks as Walt Disney, in “Saving Mr. Banks”
My readers are no doubt familiar with the quotation bible, Bartlett’s Quotations, a volume first published in 1855 by John Bartlett, “a small, thin volume of 258 pages set in a single column with an index which ran to a full 36 pages.” (from the preface to the 13th edition, 1955).
The copy I have of the 1955 Bartlett’s belonged to my stepfather, also named John. It is the only possession of his which I have, making it all the more valuable. But the real meaning to me is knowing we both shared a love for words with rich meaning, colorful and creative language. His hands once turned the pages of this book, an image that spans the years like a bridge between us, bringing me not a little joy.
I am no Bartlett but I also have written down my own quotes over the last few years; I have 42 pages filled so far in my drugstore notebook.
Some of the latest entries:
God wants to give us our hearts desire—God just needs to work on our hearts a little. Debbie Blue, Consider the Birds.
Idolatry has two faults. It is not only a slur on the true God; it is also an insult to true things. Robert F. Capon, The Marriage Supper of the Lamb.
On my shelf there is also a separate journal dedicated to entire books cataloguing passages and phrases I want to remember.
Eugene Peterson’s A Long Obedience in the Same Direction
The Journal Keeper by Phyllis Theroux,
Green Dolphin Country by Elizabeth Goudge
Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts
I’ve written before about how the things we keep, keep us. These collections of mine will be added to as long as I’m able to gather words, perhaps to pass on to my own children or grandchildren. Like a written snapshot of what made my heart sing or moved me to tears, left me in awe or touched me deeply, they are a record of who I am.
Tell me, reader, where do you keep your words?