Wednesday, June 13, 2007

The power of place

I awoke this morning remembering the Valley of the Temples in Sicily. This incredible place is in the south of the island, at Agrigento. There are more than a half a dozen semi-intact Greek temples there, aligned from east to west along a sweeping open plain that faces south, with wide open views of the Mediterranean. To the north lies the city of Agrigento, along the ridge, with high rises and urban sprawl. A small valley lies between the plain and the city, and it was filled with springtime bright red poppies and purple wildflowers. These temples were built in the centuries before christ, to celebrate Greek victories at sea. They thanked the goddesses for their domination over their enemies.

I thought about the antiquity of the earth and of the buildings. But stronger than the sense of time as distance, I felt the continuity of time and the way that it acts as a glue to adhere us to the people who have walked on this earth before us. We flow through time and it is the constant. Some things we build do not flow away when we are gone, but remain for a while, and we can contemplate them.

The temples were beautiful, but more powerful was the place in which they were situated. Standing in front of the Temple of Concordia, I had a sensation of the power of the earth itself. I spun around a few times, looking in all directions for the source of the power. The sun shone and the birds called, and I knew that if I were a builder, I'd want to put my mark here, as well. We piled up a few stones on top of one another, sort of as a joke, to mark the spot.

When we visited Sedona, Arizona, some years ago, we giggled at all the "new age" advertising about vortices in the area. Then, we found ourselves at the top of a hill, looking at the rock piles that folks build to mark a vortex, and we knew why. The place had a special power. The view opened out to red rock walls and at the same time, opened your heart. You could sense time and how erosion works its magic through the ages.

This morning as I remembered the Valley, I started going through my memories of other power places I have been. Here are just a few:

Paris, at the foot of the Champs d'Elysses
Yosemite Valley
Banff
Kings Canyon
On a hill overlooking Hong Kong
Lands End in San Francisco
Ft Cronkhite in the Marin Headlands

Friday, June 08, 2007

Yes, I graduated

I'm thinking about graduation.. Ariana is graduating from middle school, and Ray & Roxanne are finished high school. I came across this list of 100 Words Every High School Graduate Should Know... and sure, they mostly seem familiar! I'm testing myself publically. Let's see how many I can get right. It has been a long time since my graduation! These are my guesses. I'll correct it later, or feel free to correct me in the comments, if you are a smartypants. Italics are what I looked up later.

abjure - swear WRONG - to swear to give up something
abrogate - something to do with the law? CLOSE to annul a law
abstemious - refraining from doing something
acumen - sharp mental ability
antebellum - before the civil war? or is it after? It's before
auspicious - it's a good sign
belie - goes against CLOSE to show to be false
bellicose - sounds like jolly, but I believe it's the opposite hostile
bowdlerize - edit another's writing, making it worse to expurgate! isn't that a word lower on this list! hey! that's not fair.
chicanery - foolishness, mischief WRONG trickery or deception
chromosome - carrier of genetic info
churlish - mean, full of spite WRONG rude, boorish
circumlocution - to physically go around something
circumnavigate - to go around the world
deciduous - the leaves fall off in the wintertime
deleterious - something that does not help WRONG harmful; injurious
diffident - without caring, indifferent
enervate - to give energy to WOW so WRONGthis is exactly the opposite: deprive of force or strength; destroy the vigor of; weaken
enfranchise - to give freedom to
epiphany - holy cow! I understand it now!
equinox - the day when day & night are the same length
euro - the monetary unit of Europe
evanescent - "what a surprise! evanescent Aunt Muriel!" BAD JOKE rapidly disappearing
expurgate - to get rid of, as in deleted text
facetious - light hearted, not serious
fatuous - smug and know-it-all WRONG asinine: devoid of intelligence
feckless - doesn't feck have something to do with hunger? but it sounds like someone who'll take a risk WRONG incompetent and ineffectual
fiduciary - has to do with money
filibuster - to talk and talk in Congress to prevent a bill's passage
gamete - I have no idea! High school was a looong time ago. Male or female reproductive cells
gauche - not suave, uncool
gerrymander - to chop up political districts for one party's advantage
hegemony - political domination
hemoglobin - red part of the blood
homogeneous - mixed up so that the distinct parts are no longer visible
hubris - pride (excessive pride)
hypotenuse - the long side of a triangle
impeach - what we should have done to Bush a few years back accuse
incognito - with a mask on, hidden identity
incontrovertible - unchangable, undeniable
inculcate - teach and impress by frequent repetitions or admonitions Does that work??
infrastructure - the basic building blocks of a system
interpolate - translate WRONG To estimate values
irony - hmm, hard to define, subtle double meaning the real meaning is concealed or contradicted
jejune - I'd like to be able to use jejune in a sentence insipid: lacking interest or significance
kinetic - moving, as in kinetic sculpture or kinetic energy
kowtow - to bow low, down to the floor
laissez faire - to leave alone
lexicon - vocabulary for a specific subject
loquacious - talkative
lugubrious - heavy CLOSE heavy-hearted, mournful
metamorphosis - change, like a cocoon to a butterfly
mitosis - cell division
moiety - does this have to do with moisture? WRONG one of two (approximately) equal parts
nanotechnology - the study of teeny tiny robots that are microscopic
nihilism - philosophy that "nothing" really matters existence is meaningless
nomenclature - the naming of something
nonsectarian - someone who is not a member
notarize - pay good money for someone to sign their name next to mine
obsequious - overly polite, to the point of being annoying CLOSE bootlicking
oligarchy - ruled by just a few people
omnipotent - all powerful
orthography - spelling
oxidize - to rust
parabola - a disc-shaped object studied in math class
paradigm - an understanding of reality
parameter - guidelines or limitations
pecuniary - monetary
photosynthesis - how plants use carbon dioxide to make oxygen
plagiarize - to steal someone else's ideas or writing
plasma - the clear part of the blood
polymer - another word for plastics
precipitous - about to happen
quasar - term from astronomy - a kind of star? celestial object which appears "star-like"
quotidian - daily
recapitulate - summarize
reciprocal - both sides do something in turn
reparation - payback
respiration - breathing
sanguine - brave
soliloquy - a solo speech
subjugate - to dominate over others
suffragist - someone who believes in the right to vote
supercilious - haughty, proud CLOSE disdainful
tautology - a term in logic used to mean something that is true
taxonomy - the structure of naming something
tectonic - used to describe geologic plates that move around over time
tempestuous - hot headed
thermodynamics - study of the power of heat
totalitarian - a regime that sees everything in black & white
unctuous - smarmy
usurp - take over
vacuous - like Paris Hilton, dumb as a post
vehement - strong, with emphasis
vortex - the center of a swirling mass
winnow - to pick through
wrought - done, brought about
xenophobe - someone who is afraid of foreign ideas or people
yeoman - strong person? CLOSE bodyguard
ziggurat - tower

Phew! that's enough brain work for today. Take the challenge yourself!