Saturday, April 17, 2010

A Passion for Words

Have you ever met someone and known instantly that the two of you would be great friends if you ever had the chance; a sort of girlfriend-crush you know could become a real and deep friendship? I call those people kindred spirits, and Gigi's like that for me. I love her eye for beauty, her passionate commitment to living thoughtfully and well, and her words. I really love her words. They are full of heart. Always. And beauty.

One of my earliest memories is of a deep sense of longing.

I must have been about four years old, and I was sitting on the family room floor with my older brother and sister as they read silently to themselves. We were surrounded by colorful storybooks piled into stacks that seemed as tall to me as mountains. I watched closely as my brother’s eyes scanned the pages, wondering at the secret code he had unlocked that allowed him to discover adventures in distant lands; I listened as my sister flipped through the pages, loving the sound of the crisp paper between her fingers; and I even opened some of the books myself, trying to piece together the stories from the pictures, and sometimes lifting the books to my nose to smell the paper and glue, as if some clue to their essence could be found hidden there.

Not long after that I learned how to write the letters of the alphabet, but I had no idea what sounds each letter stood for yet. One afternoon I wrote a series of letters on a piece of scrap paper, and I asked my mother to tell me what they spelled. “Well, Gigi,” she said, “that spells gzbltkysup.”

“But that’s not a word,” I complained. So I tried again. And again. Each attempt worse than the one before it. Finally, I had an idea. “You write a word for me,” I said.

And so she did. D-O-G. Dog. Now that’s a word, I thought. That’s a word I can learn how to spell, and I can remember it, too. And soon I was seeing it everywhere: on the dog biscuit box in the pantry, in dog food ads in my mother’s magazines. Even in storybooks. I could read a word. All I had to do now was add to my list of words, and eventually I would know how to write and read every word in the whole wide world.

And so my first passion was born. Words led me to books, and books led me to writing tales and poems of my own. Soon the room I shared with my sister was overflowing with the books I'd hauled home from the library and from neighborhood yard sales. Many, many years before I ever read Virginia Woolf, I experienced my next real longing, a longing for a room of my own. In second grade I dragged the antique desk--the kind with a little hole in the right corner for an inkwell--into our bedroom closet, and there among the skirts and blouses and macrame belts I penned tomes on the backs of fliers from my father’s grocery store.

Reading and writing were the driving force of my childhood and young adulthood. No matter what else I did, what sports I played, what boy I loved, what classes I took, they were my refuge, my treasure, my challenge, and my joy. When my father died my sophomore year in high school, the poems of Czeslaw Milosz and the novels of Jane Austen were my solace. They didn’t let me escape life, rather they helped me to face it with more strength and understanding than I could have on my own.

Books were the reason I became an English major in college, and why I began publishing my first poetry and fiction in journals when I was in my early twenties. They were the reason I met and fell in love with the cute boy in my literary theory class who could write sentences like nobody’s business, and who would eventually become my husband (and most-trusted editor). They were the reason I went to graduate school for creative writing, and the reason I have continued to publish and teach ever since. I taught creative writing, children’s literature, and introduction to literature to university students for many years. I recently left my job to write full-time and to teach writing privately. The only thing I can imagine that’s more joyful or satisfying than reading a beautifully written sentence is writing one. The only thing better than that is helping someone else learn how to write one. Words are my lifelong passion, and I love having the opportunity to share this passion here at Relyn’s blog, since I know they are a passion for her, too. Thank you, sweet friend, Relyn, for indulging me.

As for the list of words I began in childhood, I am still adding to it almost daily. Fortunately, there are more words in the whole wide world than I can ever know, so my passion will continue to grow for as long as I have eyes to see and there are books to write and read.

All words and images are by Gigi Thibodeau. Gigi is a poet, a wordsmith, and a wonderful photographer. Her favorite book is Jane Eyre. Her favorite movie is Moonstruck. Which, I think, tells you quite a lot. She lives in a converted mill full of thrifted, magpie-ish treasures with her husband and two contented cats named Scout and Dill.


Gigi Thibodeau said...

Sweetest Relyn,

Your words about me and about our friendship have left me weepy and, for once, *nearly* wordless. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for letting me come visit today. What a joy to be over here in your beautiful world.


Julia Christie said...

Delightful to join two such incredible women! I am inspired.

Smiles to you both.

Char said...

oh yes, that's how i feel about gigi too - beautiful person that she is.

and a wonderful writer. thank you for sharing this.

Anonymous said...

what beautiful writing. thank you for this.

Unknown said...

Hi Relyn and Gigi,

Beautiful photographs, poetry and words generally, Gigi. I've enjoyed my visit, here and over to your place, very much.

beth said...

oh how i love gigi, too....

both of you have a way with words that inspires me !

Cathi said...

What a beautiful post from Gigi - also one of my fave people in this blogger world. I adore her writing and heart so much!

Relyn - you too have a beautiful way with words! Happy weekend! xxoo :)

KTW said...

What a wonderful post! Not only is it refreshing to witness what terrific friendships can be forged in the blogging world, but also to have discovered yet another blog to enjoy! Gigi, I'll be by your place. And often. :)

Tracy said...

Gigi is such a huge inspiration! I admire her gift of words and expression... Her words always tug at my heart. :o) Happy Weekend, Relyn ((HUG))

A Gift Wrapped Life said...

So lovely to meet you and I so enjoyed this post on one of my favorite bloggers. I just met Gigi recently but her blog is one I always click on the minute it posts as I know I will somehow be swept away by her words. And her words.......oh my!

ELK said...

oh this is a wonder filled post...chapter and verse with a happy ending!..the photos add much too!!

SE'LAH... said...

You both are incredibly inspiring women. Beautiful post.

Simply Mel {Reverie} said...

Rely & Gigi,
Ladies, ladies, ladies! You are quite the duo ~ and what a collaborative post of pure word indulgence!
This is one of those posts that I will tag and save forever because it is so powerful and every WORD touches my soul!
Thank you ~

Nieves said...

The photos in the post are really beautiful and the words in your post about books and about your friendship with Gigi are even more beautiful and touchy. Congratulations to you both for sharing such a strong and beautiful friendship and thanks to you for sharing it with us.

Ciara Brehony said...

Hurray for Gigi! A well deserved, beautiful post. And what a lovely find is your blog, Relyn!

Sweet Tea said...

Like a favorite blanket, sweet memories warm the soul.
Love your words, Relyn.

debra@dustjacket said...

As always Gigi touches my heart....the words and pictures are just wonderful and form a story that you can enter...thank you Gigi and Relyn.

xxx DJ

Elyse said...

What lovely words you have here. And how wonderfully coincedental that I just posted about To Kill A Mockingbird, and Gigi's cats are Dill and Scout. I love it.

Prairie Girl Studio said...

thank you for this lovely and comforting
invitation to sit by your fire a while, relyn ~
what a pleasure to 'meet' you!

i have loved gigi and her gift from the moment
i read her first word ... *hug*

gigi, your words here are exceptional as always ...
i can't wait to gobble up each sentence, just so i can
get to the next ... yet, i savour each as i go ... your passion is contagious ... you are heartwarming.

a truly beautiful friendship is blooming here!

smiling wide,
prairiegirl xo

Deborah Carr said...

Gig has created a beautiful weaving of her life.

I am utterly convinced that we are all part of a previously designed story, each woven in with the other in an intricate way..and that someday, when we flip to the other side, we will see a pattern beyond our wildest dreams and imagination.

That's what I believe.

A Box of Chocolates said...

Relyn and Gigi a truy lovely post, the poems and the story so sweet. Thanks girls

Angie Muresan said...

Relyn and Gigi,
What a beautiful post this is! Your words on words and your words on each other are pure poetry.

Amanda (Small Acorns) said...

What an amazing gift Gigi has! This post is fabulous. Thanks!

Patti said...

What a wonderful post and story! I can see why you two are friends~

kath said...

I like that part the best, the lesson about learning just one word, every journey begins with a single step.

christina said...

Gigi, is a lovely person, and oh so talented, writer and poet. and she makes a mean, shortbread as well. : )

Denise | Chez Danisse said...

This was a treat. I enjoyed learning about Gigi and was also taken back to my own childhood. Books held a very powerful place in my early life. I thank my mother for indulging me with all of those trips to our neighborhood library. Those trips were the beginning of a lifelong love of books.

spudballoo said...

Oh you've taken me right back to the beginning, and the joy of finally, finally being able to read a story to myself and thus begin a lifetime of joy!

Gorgeous photography too, bonus! x

Jaime said...

I absolutely adore Gigi. When I read her words, I am whisped away to soft and beautiful places.

This was lovely.

Mikey said...

nice blog. thanks.

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