The pond that laughs so loud

We, my family and I, spent the first part of the week walking down seemingly forgotten trails in the Wheeler Wildlife Refuge. In mid January the water oak leaves that paved most of the winding routes felt undisturbed as they crunched beneath our feet and those of our 17-month-old son.

We did this for about an hour for three days — retreating into the woods to feel our muscles flex, laugh at the dog and baby and marvel at the sun. It is not an opportunity that typically comes along in winter so we let the weather rule us, lure us like a magnet onto our feet and sometimes into the cold.

There are at least 10 things we could have done and should have done, but this, like a prayer, felt as natural and essential as bathing or kissing a child goodnight.

Winter is beautiful in her own hard-earned way, but as far as seasons she is usually upstaged by spring. But winter dazzles quietly, swaying her bare branches against afternoon sun, guarding a mighty river that they say sings. After all, aren’t the most pleasant people those who at least feign ignorance of their good looks?




Give me the dark chocolate, please


As a writer, oftentimes I scold myself for not having a wider vocabulary.

In his book “On Writing,” Stephen King urges novelists to refrain from using large words for their own sake when you would never say them in conversation. I agree, I just wish my word well ran deeper.

But words are like food. Eating the bad stuff is so easy and so filling, for a time. Then the body yearns for substance. It yearns to see “misogynistic” or “unscrupulous” on a page. Sorry, those were the biggest words I could conjure.

Do not panic. You can have your kale juice with your biscuits most mornings. Just remember to ingest that kale juice.

I’ll blame my word palette, as I do most bad habits, on the hedonistic pleasures of the newsroom. Scanner blaring police mumblings in your ear, pizza every other day and birthday cake every week, you gain weight in these joyful, windowless caves, but you lose words. You are, after all, writing for an audience that should understand paragraphs an eighth grader can comprehend. So-called 50-cent words are rarely allowed in news stories. Maybe once or twice a year you can sneak in “sublimate.” I’m kidding, you would never get away with that.

The average reporter will in many senses, dull a vocabulary she built reading Kierkegaard and Shakespeare in college so the masses will understand her. (I haven’t touched either of them since graduating). Yet, it must be tiring, even for readers at an eighth grade level — insulting even — to only be fed mostly flavorless white chocolate. Why must we save all the rich, dark chocolate for when we read late into the night? Dark chocolate words feel good on the tongue, sound expensive and are good for you. And they usually smell pretentious. Too often we write and read milk chocolate. Confession: I am currently reading “Life,” by Keith Richards, so there is more delicious, salty popcorn to be found than dark chocolate.

Perhaps subscriptions would increase if we threw readers a word bone, I mean cartilage? At this point, why not step it up and see. We have nothing to lose. There is little denying that journalists bear direct responsibility for promoting good writing and fair reporting while educating readers about a subject and the mechanics used to convey that.