I ran across a reference to Diane Ackerman’s A Natural History of the Senses twice in the space of a couple of days last month. First in Austin Kleon’s blog (do you read it? If you don’t, gift yourself the time to do so) and then in a second place — which I promptly forgot to write down.
I might not pay attention to everything, but nudges like that set me off on a search, sure, once again, that this is a clue order. Or clean closets.
Barely beyond the title page, I stopped reading, charmed by a word that made sense, and yet I’d never used:
1. to submerge; engulf.
2. to overcome utterly; overwhelm
Negative connotations drag at the more conventional, contemporary overwhelm. But Ackerman, in describing Helen Keller’s finely attuned senses of smell, taste and touch, said:
She wrote at length about the whelm of life’s aromas, tastes, touches, feelings, which she explored with the voluptuousness of a courtesan. Despite her handicaps, she was more robustly alive than many people of her generation.
I choose whelm as a guide word, a talisman on this blog journey. Time to give myself permission to find the things that make me feel curious and alive. And dive deep.