Favorite memories & favorite words by Helen DePrima and Liz Flaherty

by Helen DePrima

Little remains; but every hour is saved 

From that eternal silence, something more,

A bringer of new things . . .

Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will

To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

Passing my 75th birthday has made me recall my favorite poem from high school, Tennyson’s Ulysses. I can’t recall why such a work on aging appealed to me, just starting out in life – maybe because I was raised by grandparents already in their mid-sixties by the time I was born. My grandmother performed calisthenics every morning before ladies were supposed to exercise, and I can remember her weeding and digging in her flower garden even though she was terrified of snakes. My grandfather had been lamed years before driving a runaway horse, but he still managed to hobble to the porch to yell at my cousins and me as we raced our horses down the long driveway, pretending to be Roy Rogers or the Lone Ranger and swinging up onto low limbs as we rode underneath.

hiking.jpeg

Later, as a Visiting Nurse in the Colorado Rockies, I cared for many elders who faced their infirmities with amazing humor and fortitude, shining examples of how to stare down time like steely-eyed gunfighters on a dusty street. I hope I’ll show the same courage if I ever need care to survive.

Okay, hiking now entails many stops to catch my breath and careful scrutiny of every tricky rock and root, but I always make it to the top. (Even if I beg to be left to molder there rather than face the trek back down.) I don’t run the rapids any longer, but I can still paddle my canoe – my J-stroke is a thing of beauty and gliding in silence across a quiet lake requires its own special talent. In winter, I shovel snow and haul wood on my sled. When spring finally comes, I’ll be digging my garden and pitching mulch off the back of my truck, trundling rocks to build stone walls and constructing trellises and fences from saplings I’ll cut from our woodlot. 

I guess the trick to aging is never to bemoan abilities lost but rather to celebrate what’s still possible. Seventy-five? That’s just late middle age.

by Liz Flaherty

We're on different pages this week--my fault--so don't even question why our posts are totally unrelated. I just hope you enjoy them both!

My friend Nan Reinhardt just read a manuscript for me. It is a story of my heart that has, admittedly, paid a visit over nearly every publisher’s transom in the business. It may never see the light of a reader’s day, but I love every single word of it. Any suggestion of cutting or changing meets with a gasp of outrage that, thankfully enough, no one hears but me. Nan, who’s not only an author with Tule, but a copy editor as well, liked my story. A lot. Gave me all kinds of good feels and atta girls when we talked about it. 

Then she said, and I quote—well, okay, I paraphrase, “Good grief, woman, did you know you used the word though 111 times in this manuscript? I HATE the word though.

And, yes, she does. I think she gets downright unreasonable about it, but even a dedicated though-user (that would be me) will admit that it’s possible that 111 times is too many.

Years ago, Mallory Braus, when editing One More Summer, mentioned how many times I’d used the word like. She suggested doing a global search, but at that time I didn’t even know what one of those was, so I went painstakingly through the manuscript—one more time—and took out at least half of them. There were still too many, and I think the book was much shorter.

I’m not going to talk about just or that. Let it suffice to say I may have been in trouble for them, too. 

When I was in high school, in junior English / Literature, we read Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter. I hated it, but that’s neither here nor there. Our teacher mentioned at the outset that Hawthorne had used the word ignominy and its relatives very often. Sadly enough, I remember that word better than I do anything else. I’ve grown to like the story over the years, but never Hawthorne’s writing. 

Besides overuse, there are some words I just don’t like. I don’t even have to have a reason. I despise the word quip and love grin, look for opportunities to use excruciating, but avoid luscious. 

Last night at a writers' meeting, a new attendee named Tom Blackford had written a song. He is a former pastor, and his song was wonderful. Three words stuck with me: ...under the steeple..., and now I have a new phrase to add to my most loved words. 

What about you? Do you have favorites or un-favorites?

Helen DePrima