I love language. One of my favorite quotes is from poet and novelist Naomi Shihab Nye who said:
It is really hard to be lonely very long in a world of words. Even if you don't have friends somewhere, you still have language, and it will find you and wrap its little syllables around you and suddenly there will be a story to live in.
Whether I’m writing or speaking, I have always enjoyed the process of choosing just the right word for the right situation. I can’t imagine not having that ability. This is why I have been looking forward to reading Diane Ackerman’s new memoir, which chronicles her experience of seeing her husband, author Paul West, suffer a stroke and immediately lose his own ability to use language. As Ackerman poignantly describes the impact of this loss: "Words had been his pastime, solace, and obsession for so many decades. How on earth would he now pass the time? More like let time pass over him. Surely his days now held more hours than before, idle hours alone and with no words as windup toys." (p. 87) For this particular couple, a shared love of words and wordplay is what had brought them together in the first place, having played a continuous and ubiquitous role in their marriage. The devastation of losing that connection, and ultimately regaining it, is the basis for Ackerman’s story.
As I expected, my emotions have been stirred and my sensibilities challenged, as I read this touching love story and try to imagine an existence without the ability to say exactly what’s on my mind, and to say it with just the right words.
One Hundred Names for Love: A Stroke, a Marriage, and the Language of Healing