#6: Phrontistery

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Definition of Phrontistery: noun, a place to think or study

My niece, Hayley, jumped into bed in the middle of the day and covered her head.  We were on vacation near Sarasota, trying to balance homework with a good time.  Through a muffled voice, she kept saying, “Leave Me Alone.”

A junior-high paper on the pros and cons of gun control was due in three days.  Her parents stood on each side of her, and opposing ends of the issue of weapons and permits.  They were gently unified in their goal that she just start writing and all would be solved.  But a contest of wills ensued, and Hayley popped her head out from the blankets.  She said, “I’m thinking!”

I butt in with, “In her mind she’s working on it.”

What looks like stalling to others can be vital to the process of getting in the chair with a firm concept from which to build.  My strategies include whispering to my orchids, talking to myself, or arranging new vignettes from my vintage French pottery collection.  The gym is good for finding the rhythm of a dialogue, but running errands kills the day.  So does a lot of talking with others during peak writing hours.  Hiding under the covers wouldn’t be my choice, but when Hayley came out, she was ready to write.

Creative concepts naturally happen in all kinds of situations.  But to grasp from the ethers the perfect phrase, a well thought out essay, a finished book, or to write as a spiritual practice, a phrontistery is required.  I need proper ergonomics in an aesthetic environment, and silence.  Otherwise, Good Ideas Gone By is the only story there is.

Photo of orchid by Marissa Bridge

P.S:  For the rest of August, Marissa and I are suspending this column.  We need to sink into our individual phrontisteries and work on bigger projects.  Bearing much gratitude for you, our followers, we’ll resume soon.

 

 

#4: Ecdysiast

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From The Oxford English Dictionary :                                                                   Ecdysiast: (noun) a striptease performer

In the late sixties, Jeff, my ex-husband, and I met a dancer from a long legacy of ecdysiasts.  We were promptly invited to her home to inspect generations of vintage stage costumes, and to meet her thirteen foot boa constrictor, Tiny Tim.

Upon arrival, our hostess said, “The snake is hiding behind the stove.”  So the dark-haired beauty pulled out her Kansas City skin-trade costumes, many of which belonged to her mother.  Dressed in regular clothing, she demonstrated a few shakes from behind a fluttering fan of pink ostrich feathers.

Very distracted by the sound of slithering, I could only barely whisper, “That’s cool.”   A snake on the loose was not what I anticipated from our social call.

“Jeff, will you help me get him out of there,” the dancer said.   “He might cut himself.”

Jeff wrestled the stove out of its confines, the woman grabbed the snake by the tail, and said, “Oh God, help me!  Tiny’s wrapped around the gas-line.”

Jeff gripped Tiny Tim with both hands.  Because of the reptile’s powerful writhing, his arms shot above his head, positioning the monster close to the ceiling.  Jeff managed to hang on, but as we stared in horror, dust bunnies from Tiny’s body fell off him and landed in our eyes.

I never heard such sounds from my ex, as if he were on a runaway roller coaster.  He lurched, twisted, and tripped from the kitchen to a small cage in the front room.  Tiny obediently coiled inside his home, the dancer slammed the door and locked it.  Just like that, it was over.  Left panting and sweating, Jeff held his snake oiled hands out like he’d been slimed, I was fairly sure I never wanted him to come near me again, and with a quick dip and giggle, our hostess had just survived an awkward performance.

In seconds, we left that house with an oft-told tale: Jeff and I knew a stripper who performed with a boa constrictor.  Given the strength required to handle thirteen feet of pure muscle, it simply wasn’t possible.  After all these years of embellishment, this is the truth: that girl was a normal dancer with a pole, removable costumes, and a few inanimate props; Tiny Tim was her household pet; and it was Jeff who danced with a boa constrictor.

Photo by Marissa Bridge

#2: Magnolious

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We plant trees for the women in our family who die.  It began with a Redbud, my mother’s favorite, at the world headquarters of Unity Village, Kansas City.  Then came a Magnolia for our forty-nine year old sister, Gretchen.  It was placed twenty feet from Mom’s Redbud, which died shortly after Gretchen’s tree went in the ground.  We bought a replacement, it died too, and now we commemorate them both in the Magnolia.

Near the end of Gretchen’s life, she took care of someone’s house, plants, and animals while they were on vacation.  Early in their week of absence, she got all gussied up in one of the owner’s cocktail dresses, shoes that Gretchen could barely walk in, and adorned herself in jewels.  She drove their BMW to a bar, brought a guy home, and as if she lived there, entertained him for six nights in a row.

On the eve before the owners return, Gretchen called me and explained her predicament, not knowing what to tell the guy.  I said, “You have to tell him the truth.”

“I can’t do that!  He’ll think I’m a big liar.”

“Well, what if he knocks on their door looking for you?’

“I know, what should I do?”  I heard the conspiring laugh.

“ I think you have to tell him, Gretch.”

I never found out how she got out of that one.   Smoke inhalation in an apartment fire took her life.  At her memorial, during the informal stories from those she saved and loved when no one else was there for them, a teary-eyed tall blonde stood to speak.

“Gretchen worked for us a few days a week,” she said.  “She only did what she wanted and it wasn’t that much.”  A knowing laugh erupted from the attendees.    “But she was so good with the kids and our pets.”

Remembering Gretchen’s description of the woman whose persona she assumed, it was clear I was looking at her.  “The weird part though, “ the woman continued, “is how much time we spent talking to her, about her after she went home, and even my friends called to hear the latest Gretchen episode.   She drove us a little crazy, but we’ll really miss her.”

I view Gretchen’s week of borrowed identity as a climactic convergence.  She’d always been a prankster, an envious person, she possessed theatrical flair, and an impulse to impress.  And she felt most alive the moments after a big scare.  But the biggest influence in her life was disappointment.  In Gretchen’s mind, it was only through intrigue and risk that she could begin to approach her magnolious potential.

Definition from the Oxford English Dictionary:                ‘ Magnificent, splendid, large’

Magnolia photo by Marissa Bridge

#1: Revirescence

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When young, my writing was fueled by rage and righteousness, put down with a furious pen. These days I quietly type away, sifting through facts for a buried truth, a clear explanation of what just happened.  And I write for revirescence.

So this is the latest.  After a year-long recovery from broken bones and medical immersion, I went online and met a man.  Immediate core differences stood between us, but the mission of my healing legs held us in symbiotic captivity.

He treated me like an injured queen and I acted like one.  We took weekly trips from one end of New York State to the other, and traveled to other countries.  With every step of the way on his lovely arm, I grew stronger.  A few months ago, pain-free and greater leg power than ever, I pronounced myself completely recovered.

But my needs were our structure, and without them the foundation of the relationship shook. Our lack of common priorities turned into a contest of wills.  The future did not belong to us, yet in the scheme of our lives, it was an important chapter.  Speaking of which, I find myself in another recovery, this time with mighty bones…and an open heart.

 Revirescence: excerpted from the OED, noun                                                                                                                         ‘ The action, quality, or fact of growing fresh or new again; an instance of this.’

Photo of Long Island Hydrangea by Marissa Bridge