Monday, October 06, 2008

Words can be worth a Thousand Pictures

I read some amazing words today in Gen. Douglas MacArthur’s final address to the cadets ad West Point in 1962. The words themselves actually took my mind into battle with the sounds, smells and feelings of wars long past. The passage is too lengthy to put here but a simple internet search will bring you to those same words.

Pictures and graphics can do much to move you to action, explain situations, and even build memories. But there is something special about words put together in such a way that they take you, in your mind, to places never been. I have never been moved to tears by a picture or a good graphic but I have repeatedly been moved by a letter from a loved one, a song with words that make my heart sing, or a book that tugs on your emotions like a child wanting to play. I enjoy writing and I enjoy going places in my words, they work for me and I hope they resonate with you.

I could say that when I was young I used to play in our back yard. Or I could say:

My childhood on the farm is now filled with memories of the earth. The earth made up of the smell of fresh-cut grass as I rolled and rolled down a small hill in our backyard. I would get up dizzy and ready to do it again with our collie Princess running after me trying to figure out if I was hurt or playing. The earth made up of mudpies my sisters and I would construct in an old chicken-house turned bakery. Earth and water were the only ingredients but taste was only limited by our imaginations as we explained to the gas man who came on the yard that it was a chocolate chip cookie not a simple chocolate cookie as he thought. The earth made up the smell of freshly plow-turned furrows which would exactly fit my (full sized) GI Joe Army Jeep as it raced down the road until ambushed by the waiting enemy. Clods of dirt made realistic, exploding bombs as my hero fought unbelievable odds to eventual victory every hour of play. The earth made up of trees where I dared the impossible climb. Sometimes egged on by my brothers but mostly just to see what was up there. My first remembrance of fear was falling to the earth from a precarious limb and having the breath knocked out of me. The fear didn’t come from the fall as much as it came from the frantic gasps to get air into my lungs. Seconds felt like hours as I lay on my back in the grass wondering if I was going to die. Finally my body found the switch to activate the inhale almost like turning on a bank of breaker switches until you finally found the right one. The earth holds these memories for me and when I look at climbing trees, smell freshly turned dirt, get my hands muddy, or sit on a hillside the earth releases them back into my heart like hugging an old friend.

Words can be worth a thousand pictures.

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