Quote Unquote: Weightless Words

Photo by Aja Riggs

I remember once my sister, a visual artist whose studio was filled with canvases, tubes of paints, easels and old coffee cans filled with brushes and sticks of charcoal … in short things … once saying that she was envious of me as a writer: “All you need is a pencil and paper and you can create,” she said.

But I, in turn, have often been envious of the artists in my life. They get their hands dirty with color, they surround themselves with objects that possess texture, shape and depth. The tools of their trade have weight.

We poets and writers have only words. Ephemeral and elusive, they can not even hold their shape as they pass from one language to the next.

Samuel Johnson, the man who gave us the dictionary and the great grandfather of journaling had this to say about the tools of our trade:

“I am not yet so lost in lexicography, as to forget that words are the daughters of earth, and that things are the sons of heaven. Language is only the instrument of science, and words are but the signs of ideas: I wish, however, that the instrument might be less apt to decay, and that signs might be permanent, like the things which they denote.”

 Me, too.