of language

Brambles at the mailbox

The mailbox sky minus the crows

At the end of an errands run, as I walked back to my aunt’s house, I saw quite the murder of crows above me.  More and more flew above, streaking the sky black and headed to a cardinal direction I ought to know but don’t. [I find myself easily lost, headed west when I should go north, finding the ocean at my back when I meant to dip into it. ]  At the tangle of brambles and berries on the triangle of land by the mailboxes a woman and a little boy peered both up and forward.  She was more captivated by the birds, he by the bushes.  I’m not sure if they were picking berries,  but that’s what it seemed like.  As I picked up the mail the woman said “They’ve been flying above for the past ten minutes, I don’t know where they’re going.”  Though she was probably talking to the little boy, I answered yes, they had been and that I’d been watching them for a while as I walked.  She smiled at me, but I felt like I’d interrupted.  As I walked away I heard the boy saying “Crow. Want me to tell you the Latin root?”

I find it frustrating that I don’t know more languages.  I have a smattering of French, a bit of Itallian, and I can fake my way through Spanish text, but I’m at a loss at truly understanding a language besides English.  Though I’ve felt the loss of language, it was most poignant when I read an article that my mother gave me for my birthday: The Vital Heat, The Inborn Pneuma and the Aether.  The article is bound with blue paper and has been cut out of whatever journal it came from, so the only citation I can give is that it is written by Friedrich Solmsen, from Cornell University, sometime after 1948.  In it, Solmsen quotes direct sources without translating.  “Πασης μεν ουν ψυχης…” and so forth.  Though of course even this is a mis-translation, ignoring accent marks that I’m sure change the entire meaning of words.  He uses phrases such as “clearly,” and “as shown by” without making much clear or shown.  The fault is not his, but my own.  

I want to know texts, and know them in their original form.  Translations can be beautiful, but something is lost.  Of course, one can argue that someting is gained as well, that the text becomes a collage instead of an ink drawing.  There are layers of translated text, translator, original author; text that is made of the cracks, crevices, platueas and mountains that occur when two languages are asked to combine and convey the same thing.  

In this way, the journal projects I work on are like translations of text.  Growing out of multiple locations, the texts ideally begin to weave together and create something that, alone, would be impossible.

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