Mi Escritura Estraña

When I took the hummingbird feeders out this morning, I was surprised at how cool it felt to walk outside. The indoor/outdoor thermometer read 67 degrees, a much more civilized morning temperature than recent morning lows of 76 or more.

The temperatures in the mountain village of Mexico, south of Guadalajara, where my brother lives, are only a few degrees cooler this morning than we have here. But the daytime highs there reach only the high seventies, occasionally topping 80. By the time we visit in a few months, the average daytime highs will have dropped to the mid-seventies and the nighttime lows to the low sixties or below. The hottest month there is May, when the highs reach the mid-eighties and the average lows stay in the low sixties. That’s a climate I could learn to love.

According to an online language instruction website, duolingo, I am thirteen percent fluent in Spanish. While I wish it were true, I think my level of fluency is considerably less. My ability to understand and communicate in Spanish, though, actually is far better than the speed with which I can do it. I can force myself to understand and make myself understood to a limited extent, but it’ a slow process. I imagine the speed of my Spanish communication is akin to the speed of swimming—with boat anchors tied to both arms and both legs—across a large lake filled with blackstrap molassess.

I am sure I have the intellectual capacity and lingual flexibility to learn to be conversant in Spanish, though I am less certain today than I was ten or twenty years ago. But what I possess in capability I’m afraid I lack in discipline. I’m undisciplined in so very many ways. And on top of that, I’m more than occasionally contumacious. Now there’s an adjective that, unfortunately, describes me. It’s defined as “stubbornly perverse or rebellious; willfully and obstinately disobedient.” Surprisingly, to me, Google Translate offers a Spanish translation: contumaz.  Perhaps before I engage in a serious attempt to learn Spanish, I should become fluent in English. Most English-Spanish translation resources refer to terms like subjective, indicative, imperative, perfect, perfect continuous, preterite, etc., etc. Even though  my mother was an English teacher who worshiped at the altar of grammar and insisted on diagramming sentences, I resisted learning the terms. I remember saying to someone (not her), “there is no reason to call a word a gerund; just call it an ‘ing’ word.” I think, now, a more thorough understanding of the structure of the English language and the terms used to describe verb conjugation might have served me well.

But I’m not writing about a lifetime devoid of English verb conjugation, am I? Probably not. Yet I cannot say with certainty what I am writing about. The weather? A trip to Mexico? Learning languages? It could be any or all of the above. It’s just my strange writing, mi escritura extraña.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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