Friday

Gamboge



Poet Stevie Smith didn't think much of the gamboge colored flowerings of late summer and early fall. I thought she had golden rod in mind and not the robes of Cambodian forest monks but a saffron robed Buddhist monk is where I ended up this morning chasing the word.

Down through the dictionary page I went, careening past gambol, considering the many possibilities of games and gaming until finally surrendering my papery search for an on-line dictionary. I don't use printed dictionaries as much as I once did and I find I miss them.  I miss the chase.  I miss having a look at a neighboring word and the flights of fancy their incongruity often provokes.  Like finding Gandhi and gangbanger in a proximity a more literal landscape would not allow.

I digress.  But then that is precisely what the printed page of a traditional lexicon might encourage in a less than disciplined mind such as mine.  Not that an on-line search is going to put me on the straight and narrow. Right now, rather than considering  the deep greens and yellows of early fall where I began, I have found myself thinking of people who have chosen to live lives committed to a deeply meditative experience rather than the hustle of a more commercial world.

I imagine glimpses of deep yellow moving through an occasionally clattering bamboo forest.  I imagine a nun sitting quietly under a canopy of small slender leaves.  I imagine a bamboo tube filled with the sticky resin of the gamboge tree that will become dye for her robe. I imagine the cracking sound made when the bamboo is broken to release the hardened column of resin inside and the hands that will carry the resin to the waiting vat.

One word, isolated by defining considerations, has become hundreds, could become thousands, could become infinite moving across barriers of specific language.  Language is a restless thing, without interest in borders and mostly indifferent to grammatical rules of engagement. I consider a word through its possible definition and a world opens to me.

Gamboge, found in a poem, is followed by this morning's musing half-way round the world. Beautiful, too, the sound of it's music.  I think of a cello playing the first winds of autumn and am returned to where I began:  the deep rust-twinged greens of early fall and the yellow flowerings that accompany them.  Gamboge.