Panoply

Sometimes I hear a word and I put it in a holding place if I don’t look it up immediately. Panoply was one of those words. I liked the sound of it…how it looks and yet I had no idea what it meant. If I were to conjecture a meaning I might say it’s an abbreviated way of saying piano play perhaps? There are many words that have become archaic…we hardly ever hear them and they go to the ancient graveyard for rarely used words. I had a boyfriend once who used archaic words regularly. He had been an early reader. Both of his parents were deaf. He got his amazing vocabulary from the classics and other books that he encountered at an early age. And, sadly, most people wouldn’t have an understanding for some of what he was saying.

Panoply: pa-ne-plea/noun/Greek panoplia, fr. pan-+hopla arms, armor, pl. of hoplon tool, weapon–more at Hoplite. (1632) 1. a: a full suit of armor b: ceremonial attire 2. something forming a protective covering 3. a: magnificent or impressive array (the full-of a military funeral) b: a display of all appropriate appurtenances (has the – of science fiction…but it is not true science fiction–Isaac Asimov)

Pan…Greek from pan, neut of pant-, pas all, every; akin to Toch B pont-all) 1. all: completely (panchromatic) 2a: Involving all of a specified group b: advocating or involving the union of a specified group 3: whole: general.

Hoplite: A heavily armed infantry soldier of ancient Greece.

Merriam-Webster

How many of us remember, if we were even taught, how to translate a dictionary definition? Reading the above definition, there are parts I can relate to and other parts that I really don’t understand the reference. My father was a wordsmith–he loved looking up words in one of those huge dictionaries that was placed upon a wooden lectern-like stand, accessible and for quick reference…though not as quick as Google. He loved thumbing through the dictionary pages to find the word of choice and then to study the etymology of that word. The definition of etymology being “the study of the origin of words and the way in which their meanings have changed throughout history.” He believed that a deep understanding of a word was a clue to a deeper meaning to whatever he was reading. An understanding of a word’s origin could tell him so much more than what the author of the book might have intended. It could also take him on a vicarious journey as to where that word had traveled from originally.

Do we take words for granted? If we are avid readers, and especially women, we shouldn’t take words or literacy for granted. And, if we are women who write, we should have a devout relationship to words. There was a time, not so distant, when women were not allowed to learn how to read or write. A literate woman was an exception. It’s hard for me to comprehend this. If it wasn’t for me being able to read and write, would I find another way to express the feelings and thoughts that well up in me begging to be scripted? My answer to that question would be “yes.” However, what I expressed through art, embroidery, sewing, quilting, tatting and other womanly arts might not be so translatable by the highly lauded logical mind. It wouldn’t be so credited in the male-oriented versions of history.

Honestly, in my life, when I get caught in a circular pattern of words and thoughts, I toss the mighty pen aside and look for another way to express what is inside of me. I look for an escape route from the tyranny of thoughts that go nowhere! There are countless ways to quiet the mind–knitting, quilting, gardening, drawing, painting, etc. Staring out of a window on a snowy day in the mountains, like today–there are no words…

She’s on her own

You pay more for a room with a view. This is a commonly known fact. As if the view would not exist without the room faceted just so. This enables the proprietor of the Crest Motel to charge $50.00 more per night than for a view-less room facing the parking lot and highway. I begrudgingly admit that it is special. A tanker or barge or a large vessel, not know by name to a landlubber like myself, passes through the channel. Three black crows preceded by their barking caws swoop down, fanning their wings with a sudden shudder and then pulling them in tight to their shiny black bodies.

I like vistas such as this; they make me want to cry. The view is accompanied by the soothing sound effects of the constant ocean. I know the ocean mostly from the shore. I called her mother when I was in the womb. I grew up five blocks above the Great Highway in San Francisco, beyond which the ocean stretched as far you could see.

An impatience lays upon me as I sit in the chair in this room with a view, writing. I must go down and sit outside in a chair overlooking the sea–the chair the three crows occupy. My coming chases the raggedy crows away as their calls remain overhead. A bridge stretches across a broad expanse of bay. From this distance the glint of a car crosses from one side of the bridge to the other. The manmade landmarks are foreign to me, but not the sea.

It is both sad and strange to travel alone. And, I have to admit, I feel slightly depressed. Most of my life, I held someone’s hand–a sibling’s, rarely a parent’s; infrequently, a spouse’s hand, often, my daughters’; sometimes a boyfriend’s, now my own. Keeping my own company. The bird chatter sounding like a slightly squeaking brake, the wind rustling the coastal trees, the silent bay and the noisy highway together create an oddly restful ambience.

I could explore. I could go to the office and get directions to a path which would take me onto the beach or out to the breakwater wall, perhaps. Movement, physical movement, often helps to shift sadness. I’m curious. It looks like one could walk down there and be right beside the water. I have a plan.

The desk clerk in the office tells me that there is no trail down to the beach. She directs me to the river trail. I can catch it behind the Safeway parking lot. “It’s really nice,” she says, “it’s all paved.” She doesn’t know that I prefer the feel of the cushy earth to unyielding pavement. I thank her.

The fog begins to roll inland with a certainty, hiding the small mountain range on the opposite shore and the longest bridge. I must go before I disappear as well.

Later: Everything is an adventure or at least something to write about. Like the discovery that this is not the ocean that I’ve been looking at and writing about. This is the Columbia River! And it’s huge, like an ocean! The fountain in the center of the courtyard below has colored lights in the bottom of a scant pool which splashes colors up though the now-dribbling water. The river trail was paved as foretold, a small trolley ran beside it for those who didn’t want to walk, jog or bike ride. It’s 7:35 in the evening now. The sun is making a slow descent in the west. It hasn’t reached the fog bank yet which is going to surely douse the sun and send me inside.

Sitting on the upper balcony outside of my room, I’m aware of how much I live inside myself. There are five neighboring sliding glass doors opening onto this balcony. The deck streams from one end to the other without dividers. It’s a narrow deck; no one else is out here and I’m glad. I’m not in a sharing mood. I’d nod and go inside if someone emerged.

I distract myself. The Astoria Pier runs ramps down to the vessels below. Small dinghies, moderate-sized fishing boats and a hulking steel fishing boat, orange and rusting–these line the pier.

And the seals, there are signs on every ramp–“Danger, Seals on Pier!” Their mossy green-brown bodies have taken the sun into their hides and claimed it. They have an air of “don’t mess with me.” Their barking. Unlike the crows, they won’t be scared off–if someone gets too close, their echoing barks intensify. Are they complaining? Staking territory? Merely chatting?

I wonder if I’ll always be alone. When do I stop feeling like a stranger to myself? Omigod! A huge tanker like a floating gray whale passes in this very wide river. Spontaneously, I wave, shouting “I’m here, over here!” A small, less significant boat scuttles past the tanker, lost beside its bulk. The fog interferes with the sun’s warmth but not it’s light. The tanker moves slowly but steadily. Watching it is better than watching television; the mind is not assaulted. I learned today that each blast of a ship’s horn has a meaning. One blast means passing on starboard, two means passing on the left. Five short blasts is an alert “If we don’t change course, we’re going to crash!”

This woman, myself with wild golden brown hair sits in the setting sun on a green plastic chair clutching a fat blue Dr. Grip pen as if my life depended on it. The hot tub invites but two young women are filling it up with their high esteem
–no room for me. Now the sun is flirting with the fog and the air has a sudden nip. I’m going inside.