captivating language, and where it can take you
As much as I’d like to take credit for the fantastic pun “other-wordly,” it belongs to the URL of one of my favorite tumblrs (other-wordly.tumblr.com). It is a blog dedicated to the appreciation of strange and lovely words. Yee-Lum, a creative writing major and the mind behind other-wordly, elaborates on the concept: “Sometimes those are words from other languages that can’t be translated. Sometimes they’re words for feelings we’ve felt but never been able to name. Sometimes they’re just words that sound good.”
(n.) the perfect, delicate, crucial moment; the fleeting rightness of time and place that creates the opportune atmosphere for actions, words, or movement; also, weather —Greek
There is only one elevator in this building, with 10 floors and a near constant stream of people. But, from 2:45 to 4:45 p.m. every day, after the lunch rush and before people start to leave for home, the elevators are quiet.
He noticed this, once, when he woke up too late and had to rush to work. The elevators weren’t surrounded by the usual mob, and he could make the journey to the seventh floor without raising his blood pressure. From then on, he decided that he would always take his lunch break at 2:45 p.m., and luxuriate in his brief monopoly over the elevators.
Of course, there is always that one moment that changes things. This moment came a month later when the elevators broke. He begrudgingly walked six flights of stairs, with the handle of a plastic take-out bag digging into the palm of his hand and the greasy contents swinging against his leg. Each floor has a gray steel door, with a small window where you can see through to the window of the opposite staircase. On the second floor, he peered through the opening and made accidental eye contact with a vaguely familiar, boyish face.
He had silky black hair that flopped onto his forehead and a smattering of freckles across his nose. It was Arnie, the graphic designer who he had briefly noticed in the kitchen last week. Something electric passed between their eyes in that instant, and then he was gone. On the third floor, this awkward instant happened again, and it slowly evolved into a race to the seventh floor. Each time they reached the small window, they would flash each other a smug grin before racing up the next flight.
Once they got to the seventh floor, they opened the heavy gray doors and met in the middle of the hallway. He had sweated through his work shirt, and by now, the contents of his take-out box threatened to give. They caught their breaths and laughed before shaking hands and shyly introducing themselves. Their hearts were warm and their cheeks flushed. This was the beginning of something new and something beautiful.
(n.) (v. phr.) “to repair with gold”; the art of repairing pottery with gold or silver lacquer and understanding that the piece is more beautiful for having been broken —Japanese
She was an artist, mostly. Some might call her a doctor, or a surgeon, but she believed that she was principally an artist. She passed through the hospital and stopped at the bedside of a little girl. Her eyes were frosted over; she was blind. With a syringe, the artist dipped into her silver paint and painted a constellation underneath the girl’s eyelids, and the stars danced and flashed until the little girl stirred and revelled. Every other time she blinked, a shooting star would escape and get tangled in her eyelashes.
The artist drifted toward a boy with a weak heart that fluttered and sighed and sputtered. She drew out her syringe again, dipping into the golden paint and plunging it deep into his chest. The iridescent liquid pulsed through the chambers of his heart, until it started to beat with exuberance. In the sunlight, you could see the golden glint of his veins through his semi-translucent olive skin, like marble. He could still only take shallow breaths, but his cheeks flushed and glittered.
Throughout the hospital, flashes of silver and gold danced under the cheap fluorescent lights as the patients sat up and admired themselves. She could not fix their supposed “brokenness” because they were not broken in the first place. Even before she did her work, they were each artworks, masterpieces. All she did was add some superficial lacquer that would eventually help them realize their own self-worth, which was so much more than just silver and gold. She rejoiced in these imperfections. She stashed away the supplies and limped out the door, her silver leg clicking against the linoleum and echoing through the hall.
(n.) the scent that lingers in air, the trail left in water, the impression made in space after something or someone has been and gone; the trace of someone’s perfume —French
He had been dead for exactly 43 seconds, but it seemed as if time was unraveling to reveal a different reality. Now just a sentient consciousness, he looked down on his physical vessel gently, nostalgically. He had passed in his sleep on the living room armchair, and the episode of Judge Judy he had been watching continued with indifference. A hazy bluish essence floated around the elderly body, a strange phenomenon he had never seen before.
He turned to the upright piano that sat in the corner; the air around it was tinged with a light red. This must be his daughter’s aura, she used to love this piano. He was then drawn to a warm yellow energy that surrounded a window ledge, what used to be his wife’s favorite reading spot. Her essence smelled of daisies and dusty library corners.
He looked back at his body, and saw that the corners of his blue essence looked green, evidence of his wife’s presence in his soul. Other parts looked purple where they mixed with his daughter’s red. He could see the whole dynamic of the world now, the offering and exchange of soul matter that occurred with every interaction. Two young lovers shared a first kiss, and small wisps of their souls mingled with each other, creating a new color between them. A stray dog, with an exuberant orange radiance, bounded across the alley to nuzzle his best friend in the world, a stuffed cat toy tinted with the same orange glow.
Whenever someone invests energy into a person, place, or thing, a smudge of their essence is left behind. To share oneself is to let the colors bleed outside the lines. Colors can clash and stain something forever, but they can also blend beautifully and create something new. It is that vulnerability, that risk, that allows people to feel passion, empathy, pain, and love. The soul is something that lingers after one departs, and it can be found in the smallest of places. It goes unseen, but not unfelt.
It is so beautiful to discover a word that describes what was previously indescribable, and there is the equivalent to that feeling in every avenue of expression and language. It is finding the perfect chord progression, meeting someone you click with, or watching a favorite movie for the first time. These are the moments where life seems to fall into place, and things make sense.