I bet you’re thinking I didn’t choose a Word of the Year for 2017. I did choose a word. I just wasn’t sure I wanted to share it. Back in the heyday of my creative writing blog I kept a list of my own wittisisms. One of the most popular of those witty bits was:
There are some secrets a woman keeps not because she doesn’t want anyone to know but because they don’t make sense to anyone but her.
So it has been with my Word of the Year. Not exactly a secret. It does require some explanation though and I didn’t feel inclined to explain. In order to keep my choice from being misunderstood I had to seek out a lesser-known synonym. The best one I could find is an old-fashioned term that has fallen out of usage. Even if I avoid a misinterpretation no one will know the word, so no one will understand it without checking Webster. And who’s gonna do that? I’d still have to explain.
Thus far I’ve opted not to open the discussion so I could avoid a tedious explanation. But time marches on and my silence risks even further misunderstanding. Tedium be damned, I shall not shrink from difficult conversations out of laziness. That’s not my way. Besides, anyone who has been blogging for 10 years ought to have mastered the medium without tedium.
Therefore, my Word.
I wanted to choose Wild. You can imagine the multitudes of impressions attached to such a small word and most of them do not represent my intention. Not wild as in Girls Gone Wild. Not wild as in feral animals or children. Not wild as in one-eyed Jacks are wild. Not wild as in bed-head. Not wild as in stormy, rebellious, wild-eyed, outrageous, or savage. Not wild thing you make my heart sing. Definitely not wild as in wild hair (or hare) up one’s ass. ← I’ve always hated that particular expression; as if all daring deeds come from the ass. Boo.
I wanted wild as in wild strawberries, wild herbs or mushrooms, or “these grow wild around here.” Wild as in “in the wild.” When Fellow Flowers introduced their light green wildflower they used a downright genius phrase for the theme — grows in unexpected places. Yes. That’s what I wanted. But all of this was going to be too cumbersome to detail every time I wanted to reference my WOTY moving forward. I needed a word that would deliver the goods without all that baggage.
I found such a word. But no one uses it anymore. Which means no one recognizes it anymore. And the more I thought about it the more I liked the idea of a word so correct and succinct yet so mysterious. Feels like a Yes. All this mystery growing in the unexpected place of perfect accuracy. Tastes like a Yes. Veracity and enigma; a wordsmith’s dream. I’ve stewed upon it lo these fourteen days. I need to take ownership or move on to something else. I am going with it, my wild word of antiquity.
Please join me in a warm collective embrace of my Word of the Year for 2017:
By antiquity I mean early 1600s and dead languages — Latin, in this case. An even older version of the word is Agrestial, which looks a little prettier, but I’m not sure I want to reject the simpler model. According to the dict-a-philes, agrestal is pronounced with emphasis on the middle syllable: uh-GREST-el. That’s more musical that it looks, no?
I rather like doing it wrong through (I’m wild that way). If you put the emphasis on the last syllable (ah-greh-STAHL) it makes a completely different kind of music. It sounds like a battle cry in a foreign language. I imagine mounted Tartars in woolly headgear leading a heavy metal charge across frozen tundra. Agrestal! Aiyeee! Or maybe in Barcelona, an autumn holiday festival with smoked fish and spicy wine. Salut! Agrestal! Or the name of a lost city, i.e. The Legend of Agrestal (by yours truly).
Agrestal. Even without the definition the sound of it strikes my fancy like flint starts a fire. But the definition suits the wild for which I wished and waited. If I say it and mean it the fancy correct way agrestal represents exactly the wild I wanted.
When my mother-in-law was still alive she maintained an extensive garden on the old family homestead. She tended everything from flowers to shrubs to trees to vegetables, both ornamental and edible, indigenous and exotic. A pink dogwood sprung up wild in the middle of the yard one year. No one calls a dogwood a weed even though a weed is any plant growing where it is not wanted. She called it a volunteer.
Agrestal means growing wild. Growing wild in fields or growing wild on cultivated land. Agrestal means growing naturally without cultivation by humans. Like my mother-in-law’s volunteer dogwood. Like wildflowers springing up where no one planted them. Like edible berries in the forest. Like heather on a hillside. Lilies in a swamp. Ginseng in the jungle. A carrot in the cabbage patch. An onion in the orchard.
That’s what I want for 2017; to flourish where I am, even if that’s an unexpected place. Even if I’m a poppy among the rose bushes. Even if I am the lone clover in the prairie grass. I want to grow and bloom and produce fruit whether I germinate in the wild or in manicured gardens. Mud, cliff, sand, or fertile soil. Sun, wind, drought, or flood. 2017 is a huge question mark. I can’t predict the conditions ahead. I can’t predict how they will affect me or how I will react. But I can intend to thrive the wild way. I can resolve to survive. I can prosper in unexpected ways. May I find sufficient harmony in my environment to endure the seasons of change to come. And so may you.
— Whetshined Weathergirl
(where the wild things are)