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Since high school I've kept a collection of unusual words. Crunchy, slithery, fluffy, stinky, plunky words. I have a little box that holds 3 x 5 cards and in it are words that have stood the test of time.

The test? When I'm at a loss for writing inspiration, when I just can't seem to get started, I reach in the box and pull a word at random.

Each card has just one word, written boldly. Often I can remember the first time I encountered the word and was fascinated by it. Or amused by it.

Sample words:


Today's word, when I pulled it out, was "flummoxed". Isn't that a great word? It got me to thinking about what I do when I've reached an impasse and I can't resolve a problem. Or I'm faced with an obdurate conundrum or bewildered by incomprehensible circumstances.

What I do, it turns out, is very much like what my mother used to do. When working over a problem or concern in her mind, she'd sweep the floor. When the dust was all gathered in the center, she'd sweep it into a rectangle; then into a circle; then flatten it out into a long line; then sweep it up into a triangle--all the while, talking out the difficulty, looking at different ways of resolving it.

Now, I'm not much of a person for sweeping. As far as I'm concerned, a little bit of dirt on the floor is good for the soul. But, like her, when wrestling with a problem not easily solved, or a nasty dilemma, I will do some other task that is very familiar, takes no brain power, quintessentially routine, so that I can release my thoughtful, ruminative mind to mull things over.

And that is today's essay on words. By the way, I used several of my favorite 3 x 5 words in this entry. I'm sure you guessed that, about halfway through....

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