Defining big words

The experience of Alaska’s coastal scenery, which was part of our recent vacation, falls very quickly into cliche, into big broad adjectives like spectacular and beautiful. These words seem good enough for short answers (“how was it?”) but don’t really communicate that much. Not to others, not to one’s own perception or memory either.

Some extra attentiveness, it seems to me, is required. For most of us, today, the default solution is to point and click the digital camera. A quick capture, that, of what’s worth capturing, with the possibility and intention of looking again and remembering. Perhaps that’s enough. Still, sometimes I sat watching with my journal open, trying to find specific words, trying to put some content into the repetitious inner “oh wow” of this mountainous, green, and blue terrain. What is the green of this particular green, the blue of this particular blue? How to describe the sound of glacial ice calving, an eagle in a tree, the sight of whales when evidence  as slight as a tail above water or a spume of spray can set a whole deck-row of folks exclaiming, clicking, and training binoculars as a kind of burrowing for more?

It’s harder work than one expects, this describing, this paying attention, when it’s — yes — simply spectacular and one wants to leave it at that, except that one knows only too well that the big disappears more quickly than the intentionally-apprehended, which is often smaller.

As for the culture of cruising, that’s hard to describe as well. When I used that expression to someone we met on ship, he asked, “What do you mean?” Good question. What did I mean? Vaguely Las Vegas says something but is also cliche, a big-word stereotype. Slow Vegas for a lot of people over 50 gets closer. Not good enough, though. What exactly? This too needs reflection, definition by detail and story. I feel like it needs analysis.  I’m a woman at the end of  my holiday, however, not a travel writer. Let’s just say it was a “great” (big word) time for now and I’m much too relaxed to work at it further at the moment! For my own future, I’ve got some photos and notes.

5 thoughts on “Defining big words

    • Yeah, that’s what I meant. 🙂
      Had a good time with the kids/grandkids too. I think that’s another experience (grandparenting, I mean) that feels big and wonderful but very quickly cliched if you talk about it. Also makes most sense with the details: like hearing Ben whistling as he goes about his play, and seeing Maia’s glee in riding on H’s shoulder and pulling on tree branches so they “rained” on his head and Nora’s speed in getting around the cul de sac on that wheelless bike in her yellow boots. Not to mention Anneliese’s emotional expressiveness. (And she can whistle too, which seems amazing to me for a 2-year-old, though her whistle is just one note so far, not tunes like Ben). And all the cute things they say. — Wish you were here so I could bore you with more! 🙂

  1. Glad to hear you had a relaxing and yet spectacular vacation. I’ll pass this blog along to Rita and Steve. I know they will be able to relate…

  2. It would be nice to be there to hear more of your grandchildren stories. You do have some pretty sweet grandkids. I can definitely picture Nora on her bike – but I’m pretty sure it had wheels when I saw her on it. I think it was missing the pedals.

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