Mourning the semicolon; it turned into a wink and was gone…

I’m of an age when I can fondly remember articles, objects, bits and pieces, things that just don’t exist anymore…

Card Catalogs — Yes, I was a librarian who learned how to catalog and classify a book and type a perfect catalog card (in triplicate) with accurate punctuation, including semicolons; but we’ll get to that later…. (Old librarians never die, they just get reshelved.)

Electric typewriters  — especially the Selectric, which greatly aided in typing the aformentioned catalog cards in triplicate with semicolons.

LPs — Ah, the sound of the needle hitting the vinyl; wondering how many we could stack at a time; sprawling on the floor next to the speaker reading liner notes and the words to Leonard Cohen songs; filing the records alphabetically in orange crates; arguing if Old and In the Way should be filed under Garcia, Grateful, or Old… (Old guitarists never die, they just come unstrung.)

Words — Perfectly good words have been hijacked. Like hoe, cloud, text, troll, dirt, tablet. Being a country girl at heart, I was startled a few years ago when a colleague told me she would never read or tell a story that had the word hoe in it. “Really?” I asked. “I guess you wouldn’t read Peter Rabbit out loud?” Can I just say that in my garden, one of my favorite tools is a hoe? Although while using it, usually I’m staring at the clouds or watching for trolls in the dirt. (Old Gardeners never die, they just spade away.)

And now semicolons. Just in case this surprises you as much as it did me, use of a semi-colon now dates you; modern writing methods reject semicolon usage. So all of us who perfected the use of putting together two similar sentences and joining them with that lovely little winking punctuation mark? We are marked as over the hill; just like that, our skill is no longer needed. (Old semicolons never die; they just wink over the hill…)

I’m not sure how this has come about, but I can certainly posit theories with the best of old grammarians. (Old Grammarians never die, they just lose their verbs.)

Theory 1: The Internet has shortened everyone’s attention span, so that long sentences are simply an annoyance. Short sentences please. Or no sentences. Just a verb maybe? If a sentence is too long, shorten it. Have two thoughts joined together? A period in between will do just fine. Hey, the shorter the better. And no long words either. (Old programmers never die, they just cache in their chips.)

Theory 2: No one has time (or wants to take the time) to sit down and luxuriously read long novels with elegant prose and graceful sentences. We want that first chapter, no, the first paragraph to pull us in with action; if it doesn’t deliver, well there’s another book on the Kindle that will. I used to give a book sixty pages before I gave up on it; the other day a reader bragged that she never gave any book longer than the first paragraph… (Old writers never die, they just start a new chapter.)

Theory 3: Texting and emails and emoticons have ruined punctuation and spelling.  Nthng els 2 b sed ;-) The Carnegie Mellon professor, Scott E. Fahlman,  is credited with inventing the emoticon in 1982 when he used :-) and :-( on a bulletin board. (Old professors never die, they just lose their class.)

Graph from Grammarly.com

Theory 4: Simplicity in writing is now a virtue.  People who hate semicolons (Kurt Vonnegut, Cormac McCarthy, probably Hemingway) are terse, get to the point, and put-down-that-period writers. I don’t hold that against them, certainly, but it is their style, which goes hand in hand with Theories 1 and 2. (Old theorists never die, they just keep making assumptions.)

Theory 5: Readers want the sentence to be over before it’s over; a semicolon means there’s more to the story. There is beauty in a semicolon allowing the writer to build on a thought; a semicolon also allows the writer to believe that the reader can follow a semi-complicated sentence. It’s about trust between the writer and the reader; yet, a semicolon is also about tone and nuance in a sentence that commas and periods just can’t get across. (Old readers never die, they just turn the page.)

In researching semicolons (to find out if reports of their death were greatly exaggerated) I found this brilliant quote by Lewis Thomas, scientist, essayist, and lover of semicolons:

I have grown fond of semicolons in recent years. . . . It is almost always a greater pleasure to come across a semicolon than a period. The period tells you that that is that; if you didn’t get all the meaning you wanted or expected, anyway you got all the writer intended to parcel out and now you have to move along. But with a semicolon there you get a pleasant little feeling of expectancy; there is more to come; read on; it will get clearer.

As an old librarian (who has not checked out quite yet) I suggest that we enjoy that pleasant little feeling of expectancy; there is always more to the story….

Plastic wrap? Sandwich baggies? Just Say No

Lunches get packed around here five days a week. I take the leftovers; Mr. H. C. prefers a sandwich, fruit, and cookies.

I have Pyrex bowls for the leftovers, but sandwiches just don’t fit well in the bowls. Plus, trying to cram three bowls into a lunch cooler that already contains an ice pack, a pair of safety glasses, sundry small tools, first aid supplies, and yesterday’s banana isn’t easy.

I would guesstimate that 90 percent of our trash is food container waste: plastic that isn’t recyclable. We burn our paper here in the country, we recycle hard plastic, glass, and metal. We are down to one small garbage bag per week. But plastic bags…

Yes, I buy sandwich baggies AND I HATE THEM. I also hate plastic wrap (and if you have never had a long length of the stuff just magically turn into a stuck-together-mess in your hands, I’d like to talk to you about your skills…) The stuff is just plain evil, but until a couple of weeks ago I felt that I didn’t have any other options.

And then I bought 9 organic food wraps from Eteeshop. Here is Mr. H. C.’s neatly wrapped ham sandwich. There are three sizes in a set: small, medium, and large. The medium wraps a sandwich very nicely:

The small wraps up cookies, fruit slices, hard boiled eggs…

These apple slices are not so neatly wrapped but they dropped on the floor and did not open or spill out.

The large wrap will cover a pie or a casserole dish.  Maybe vegetables, like celery or cucumbers? I haven’t experimented with that yet. But I do have a brick of parmesan cheese wrapped up in the fridge.

After using, they might need to be  washed depending what food you’ve wrapped. I usually just brush off cookie crumbs, but I wash the larger ones with cool water and mild soap using a sponge. The wraps are very waterproof and water beads up on them. I usually hang them to dry, but they can easily be dried with a towel.

I’ve used them for two weeks and I’m sold. They are made of cotton and coated with waxes to make them stick to themselves or a dish. I don’t know how long the stickiness will last, but they are recyclable when they can’t be used as a food wrap any longer.

And just so you know, I’m not getting any material benefit from saying how much I love these cool food wraps. The bright colors make me smile early in the morning. And I’m also smiling because I don’t have to spend time in the plastic wrap aisle any longer…

Dancing in Fall

The sky invites
The sycamores to dance.
Bare branches
Bend and sway
Curtsying to one another
In proper fashion.
IMG_5048.JPG
Meanwhile the leaves have flown.
They turn up around back
Loitering by the steps,
Rabble rousing and wild dancing…
Waiting for the night wind
to whisk them away. IMG_5084.JPG

I’m very thankful that the leaves in the country don’t require raking, piling, bagging, and stacking. The night wind just whisks them away…

 

This was originally posted in November of 2014.
November 2017 is national novel writing month around here. So, yeah, don’t bug me, I’m finishing my novel…