Happy Word Nerd Wednesday! This month’s word story is about a lovely person named Sylvia.
Sylvia, Siv to her friends, is an easy-going woman, friendly and enjoyable to be around. She’s at a party with her friends when she sees a lady whose dress tag is flipped out, sticking out along the back of her neckline. Casually strolling over to her, Siv introduces herself and offers the lady a hug. She quietly tells her the tag is sticking out and tucks it back in for her before releasing the other woman from the hug.
Two of Siv’s friends watch the exchange, smiling at her considerate, discreet style. “So un-obvious,” says one of them. “So true to Siv.”
“Un-obvious, true to Siv” = unobtrusive (un-ub-TRU-siv), meaning inconspicuous or discreet. By quietly and covertly fixing the problem, Siv behaves unobtrusively, sparing the other woman embarrassment.
It’s a wonderful thing when one person helps another without calling attention to the problem. It’s especially beautiful to see two women helping each other in a world that loves pitting one woman against another and obsessing over any fashion misstep.
Siv doesn’t have to help the other woman in our story. After all, she doesn’t even know her. But when she sees another woman in need of help, she acts—artfully, discreetly, in a way that uplifts the other woman instead of pushing her down.
She’s a rare jewel, that Siv, and even though she’s fictional, she inspires me—to be bolder, to step up when I see a need, and most of all, to be ready to act as the discreet, problem-solving friend every person needs at some point in their lives.
(I’m making the executive decision to push Word Nerd Wednesday to next week in favor of sharing pics from my vacation last week.)
I love the beach. I don’t just mean, “Why yes, it is a rather lovely vacation spot.” I mean I love the beach. I’ve been told by the human who knows me best that no one loves the beach as much as I do. Which is both happy and sad. (Happy: I win! Sad: what is wrong with everyone else??)
Once a year, my human and I try to spend some time at the beach so that my soul doesn’t shrivel and die. (You think I’m being dramatic. I am not.) I have to see it. At least once a year, I have to see it, and the moment we arrive, I fly out of the car and down to the water to say hello. Everything else can wait.
There’s simply no place on earth where I am more at home than on a North Carolina beach. With my feet in the water, staring out at the ever-shifting waves, I feel like I can fully breathe, like every inch of me is at complete peace, resonating perfectly with the rhythm of the waves.
I love how much the water changes, from blue to green to gray, the way the fading sunlight stains the breaking edges pink. It’s never the same, from one day to the next, from one second to the next.
And on most NC beaches, you get the bonus of lovely views west across the sounds or waterways, including gorgeous sunsets.
Even my hair is happier at the beach. Who cares if it’s tangled, it smells like the salt air.
And just when I think the ocean couldn’t get more beautiful, a storm rolls in, providing the most dramatic views.
We were even gifted with a late night storm, lightning streaking across the water, brilliant flashes against inky darkness. Whether it’s sunny or stormy or cloudy, the ocean never fails to be beautiful and dynamic.
No matter what happens in my life—the good, the bad, everything in-between—I always know I’ll find my peace by the ocean.
When I am gone, and am no more, rest me here upon this shore.
Release me unto the sea, and know I’ll be forever free.
It’s hard for me to admit that. I never wanted to be a killer. But it just kept happening. Things kept dying in spite of my best efforts. And by things, I mean plants.
The first time it happened, the victim was a healthy aloe vera plant. It wasn’t sickly. It wasn’t circling the drain. I just happened to notice a few bugs in the soil, so I stuck the plant outside, hoping the critters would find a better place to call home.
Unfortunately, the temperature dipped below freezing that night. Such is life in the NC mountains (where I was in college at the time). The next morning I discovered the limp corpse of my aloe vera plant. Cause of death: freezing.
But that was a fluke, right? A blip. Not entirely my fault. Up until that point, the aloe vera plant had been totally alive. So okay, an accident. It happens.
I don’t fully remember the next plant, but I think it was a casualty of a long-distance move, too much time spent in a hot car. And it was followed by a long string of slowly dying plants.
I didn’t get it. I followed the instructions that came with the plants. I did exactly as they directed. Why were the plants always dying under my care? I’ve always loved nature. I was the kid who grew up outside, playing in the dirt and climbing trees. I felt at peace lying in the grass, staring up at the sky. Why was nature rebelling against me?
Then. One day. Something changed.
It was a gray fall day when my husband and I were wandering around the garden section at Lowe’s. A shelf full of small purple plants caught my eye. They weren’t in great shape, but I recognized them, vaguely recalling them gracing the yard of a childhood home. An employee saw me looking at the purple heart plants and called over to tell me they were fifty percent off.
My husband wandered over to me. “We can get one if you want.”
“I don’t know . . .” Images of previous victims flashed through my mind.
“Hey, at least it’s already half dead, so you won’t feel bad if you kill it.”
My husband’s confidence in me was overwhelming. We bought a plant.
I took home the tiny little sprout and separated out the dead portions, putting what was left in a new pot with fresh soil.
“Please don’t die,” I whispered as I gave it a good drink of water, promising it I’d do whatever I could to give it a fighting chance.
And something amazing happened. The plant lived. Not only did it live, it thrived, growing rapidly and producing so many tendrils, I’ve made half a dozen more plants from cuttings.
What happened? It wasn’t that this half-dead plant had a miraculous ability to live (although I’m nearly convinced it’s immortal). Something powerful changed in me: I stopped following the instructions.
Once I started doing my own research online, I realized how wrong the instructions that come with each plant actually were. One told me to give the plant a cup of water every week. But here’s what I later learned: the amount of water a plant needs depends on the temperature, the humidity of the air, and the water retention of the soil, just to name a few factors. So by following the directions with all the other plants, carefully doing exactly as they instructed, I was destroying my plants.
I’m happy to report that since the day I got the purple heart plant, I have managed to nurture not only that plant and all its descendants, but five other plants as well.
So if you want to know how to keep something alive, whether it’s a plant or a relationship, here’s my advice: throw away the instructions.
Happy Word Nerd Wednesday! This month’s story is about a fabulous woman named Maya.
Maya is a particularly skilled person. She has excellent attention to detail, often noticing tiny details other people overlook. Her work is always pristine, rarely an error anywhere, and she expresses her thoughts with meticulous precision. Her mastery of detail is so strong, a friend of hers once joked that Maya would notice an ant in a trench from fifty yards away.
“Trench ant” = trenchant (TREN-chunt), meaning perceptive or astute. It can also mean effective or articulate, and sometimes even forceful. It’s a multi-purpose word, really. It originates from a French word that means cutting. Maya, with her extraordinary attention to detail and precision, certainly fits one definition of trenchant. She’s perceptive, astute, and incisive. She isn’t easily distracted, cutting right down to the details that need attention.
It’s so easy sometimes to be distracted by the mess, to drown in the noise. And there’s always plenty of noise. The detail-oriented focus Maya has is far too rare, but it’s something to be admired when you see it. People like Maya contribute to this world in a whole host of ways, able to cut through all the chaos to the heart of the matter. It can be unnerving at times to be around someone with such perception, but it’s also an incredible gift.
If you have a Maya in your life, treasure them. Appreciate their unique abilities and the way they see the details of the world, right down to an ant in a trench.