Orts and Crots and Meaning-Making

Cup of Coffee: I might be having too much fun with the business of labeling things with random words. I hope my students are having half as much fun as I am. I should make sure to credit Susan Goldsmith Woolridge for the idea, in her marvelous book: poemcrazy.

One of the things about the Judeo-Christian creation story that always captures my attention is the idea that the humans are tasked with the work of naming. The Holy One breathes life into the clay to make a living person, and then the people set about the task of breathing out the names of their companions, the animals. I wish I could figure out how to make a seamless connection here to the sort-of-silly and whimsically-fun project of labeling people and things with random words from our Word Pools that we are doing in my Creative Writing class.

There’s something mind-expanding about taking the random word “chaos” and using it to label the foamy swirl in the middle of my cup of coffee. When I added “widdershins” to the outward spiral of the cup, I was being less whimsical, because the old word for the leftward spiral is widdershins. And “chaos” begat “primordial,” so that, too, was association rather than simple randomness.

Even so, I can see how, turned loose to run in its own pathways, my brain played a simple associative game with words and ideas, building up tidbits of meaning into a cohesive whole. And that’s the process I want my students to be finding. Breaking it all down to the little bits, and rebuilding up new structures and associative maps of meaning. Beginning, like First Human, with words for things, and then building up relationships and intricate and complex webs of patterns and thoughts.

Speaking of words and the structuring of meaning, for some reason this morning, my mind has pulled the words “ort” and “crot” out of the stew of my brain. An “ort” is a small piece of something, particularly a leftover bit from a meal. I am thinking of all these little random words that we have pulled out of the webs of sentences and ideas and thrown onto other objects, like the crumbs dropped from the table of a messy eater. A “crot” is a piece of a phrase, an abrupt fragment of meaning used to create movement and rapid transitions in a piece of writing.

Begin with the crumbs, the orts, that fall out of the meal of a conversation. Grab twenty random words. Thirty? Forty? Taste them. Memorize them. Write them. Throw them against the wall. Toss them together and see which ones stick together. Combine them into crots, little strands of potential. Knot them. Twist and spin them. Form them into longer strands and webs, phrases, sentences, ideas. Follow the footsteps of First Human. Breathe that Holy air into your lungs, and breathe out Words. Orts. Crots and phrases. Make a new thing.

Gratitude List:
1. Orts and Crots: Tiny pieces and fragments of meaning that get thrown and tossed and jumbled together to create meanings and ideas and conceptual frameworks.
2. Breath. Breathing. In. Out. Gratitude and compassion. Hope and fortitude. Breathe. Breathe. Breathe.
3. Goldfinches on the thistle sock. (Thistle sock–that’s fun to say.)
4. Morning writing while my small architect designs a house made of shipping containers. He has taped four pieces of graph paper together to create his idea.
5. A little bit of snow remains on the ground. I’d like some deeper snow at least once this winter, please.

May we walk in Beauty!

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