Bibelots

a place for the curious

The love of words

A firewoman in full gear


  A fiery woman: ‘brandweervrouw’
Image via Nationaal Archief

Funny, isn’t it.

People sometimes say that names don’t hold meaning. That they don’t define you. But they can. And in the age of the internet, usernames are an opportunity to add meaning to who you are. Yes, my name is Rosalie. It’s a name I was given. It’s nice. It’s got rhythm. It’s not too common. Often though, when people call me by it, I wonder who they’re talking about. Rose, I’ll go by sometimes. That’s nice and short. But it’s still pretty floral. Sometimes Rosa, if I’m so inclined. In reality, that’s just playing with form.

Ever since the internet came along, I’ve had usernames that aren’t my actual name. More often than not, they don’t disclose gender. Sometimes they deliberately play with age. Beyond that, there’s barely any thought put into them. I’ve had a tiger, an item of clothing, a waterbird and quite a selection of sentences. They all seemed nice at the time. The ones that lasted are the ones who attracted their own audience. On and off through time, an occasional username has stuck and held its own. I don’t entirely understand why. I do know what a gift it is. That it allows me to play with my sense of self.

I’m not sure that the playfulness comes only from the name out front. Sometimes the label can begin to define the person inside. But these names, they’re honestly about what lies underneath. The strong names. The hard names. The silly names. The lovely and the loving names; they’re all me. Or aspects of me.

In a time when privacy is being eroded and identity is claimed to be about trust, this is when I want most to protect these names. Not just for me, but for every single person that needs to breathe. That needs protection. That should be given a space to play, grow and live.

When I went with the username @theloveofwords some years ago, I was working hard to find a way to spend more time with words. I was playing with them, and writing more during the day and creating more at night. So, on a whim I went with my heart. A heart full of words. I wasn’t hiding who I am. After all, here it is, it’s me. But, as ever, it’s a version of me. It is not the whole of me, but it often becomes a very large part of who I am.

No. These names were never just a name. I would only be fooling myself. It was never nothing. Every time, it was about the little things that I love. This time, it was about the words. All of them, big and small.

I do spend more time walking among the wild, wild words now. It wasn’t an accident. I’ve worked hard. And this latest name has made it fun. It calls to me. The words too; they call to me. They define me. What this is, is love.

Yours

The love of words

This has heart

One day, many years ago, I walked into a little bookshop in Glebe. It’s a beautiful place; full of culture, cafes, bookshops and all sorts of people. I bought a keyring with the words:

Glebe: somewhere on the East coast of Australia

You can tell a place has a sense of humour and confidence in itself, with vague and ridiculous words like these. The keyring’s broken now. But being the emotional hoarder that I am, I’ve still got it tucked away somewhere.

I fell in love with Glebe. The place and it’s people. It is, as Lonely Planet puts it, ‘quietly Bohemian’. A couple of years later, true love moved me to NSW, and I ended up working in Glebe. Just a roll of the dice, but a good one.

The place had its own unique charm. And it was built up by the people that chose to live there. Glebe, at that time, had a vibrant gay & lesbian culture. It wasn’t my culture or my community, but they were welcoming and amazing. The openness and kindness that was at the core – that’s what made it so wonderful. I doubt I’ll ever have the right words to describe it. Not for that place, at that time.

In another bookshop in Newtown, I found a beautiful book. Not in any special fiction area, just on a shelf. The guy’s name was Armistead Maupin. And his little family of Tales in the City won my heart. Won it, broke it, stormed it. These stories aren’t mine, but Armistead’s storytelling made me feel welcome in the Tales. Just as Mrs Madrigal would have made me feel welcome at 28 Barbary Lane. Armistead’s Tales have a fascinating history, but this isn’t about that. And others have written about it better before, and by people who can call this story their own.

These words are about what’s at the heart of a place, or a story. About how understanding each other doesn’t stop when we point out the differences, but allow them to be seen and shared. And, that’s painful. Sometimes it’s hard to hear or read, sure. But the heart it takes to share who you are, how much you’ve suffered only to be you, that’s something incredible. I had a chance to hear a moment like this again more recently, thanks to a beautiful podcast episode about Remembering Stonewall, from the gentle folk at 99PI. This episode left me speechless. People like this – and their stories – are everywhere. They change you. They open your heart, and your mind.

I suppose what this is, is my way of saying thank you. Thank you to the brave, to the beautiful. Thank you to the open, the honest, the kind. This is for you, the storyteller. The one with the story to tell.

My words won’t ever be enough. Instead, I’ll give last words to the grand lady herself:

“You don’t have to keep up dear. You just have to keep open.”
– Mrs Madrigal

Podlike: rumblings in here

lots of little green lights

Shining some mindful insight

I am in here

This week’s podlike is a bit of a wild card entry. It’s been another magnificent week in podcast land, with too many ear pleasures to describe. But out of the storm of inspiring stories I stumbled on this stunning piece of audio from Rumble Strip Vermont. I hadn’t listened to their show before this week and this ep was my intro to them. And with it I’m hooked.

I am in here is a journey inside the thoughts of Mark Nutter. Mark’s form of autism meant he wasn’t able to speak for the first 30 years of his life. He could only listen. In this remarkable episode, we get to hear from Mark. In his own words.

I know love goes, but I am really into love’s arrival. I am aware that I felt deeply aware of love for a long time. […] I felt love and I saw love between real people, and between the movie/TV folks too, but I was not a participant, though I found I felt it in me.

Mark’s story – a story told with deft and beautiful human insight – left me breathless. I feel honoured to have been given the gift of hearing it.

This is the potential beauty of podcasts everywhere. This sudden light into the heart of someone else’s life. Someone who lives life in a way you can never experience for yourself. You can’t experience it, but possibly you can, for a moment, try to understand it.


 

Podlike: scrutiny in the house

bank of lights, tinted green

The harsh light of scrutiny

Housekeeping #4: scrutiny

I love a lot of what the folks at the Wheeler Centre do. While one of my unwritten rules for these articles is ‘one review per podcast show’, I’m going to let myself off the hook here. They just make too many types of shows. But the vastness of their work is what brings about gems like their latest mini-series, ‘Housekeeping’.

The Scrutiny episode of Housekeeping scratches at the surface of something that at first feels like it might be papery and dry.  Yet it somehow ends up in the middle of the digital era and leaves us surrounded by questions of privacy, individuality and public scrutiny. Like many of the best podcasts, it sets up our expectations and rapidly strips them away. With fascinating and beautiful speed.

Once you step out into the wilds of the internet, there’s no telling what’s going to happen.

I love it when any broadcaster or podcast show does a 3 or 5 parter, like Jarni Blakkarly & the Wheeler Centre have done. It’s a sweet, tangible serving to look forward to and it almost always leaves you wanting more.


 

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