Verbose and Grateful

I came across a Lebanese Arabic word yesterday that felt almost as though it had been coined just for me. Soubhiyé. One definition I encountered—a definition that feels luxurious and comfortable and beautiful—was this: “the whisper of dawn, when the house is still in slumber, allowing one to savor the stillness before the day begins.”  That definition, and variations thereof, are valid only in Lebanese Arabic, according to what I have read. The word’s definition in other Arabic-speaking countries is completely different; unrelated in any way to its use in Lebanese Arabic. Like so many words in other languages, its pronunciation depends on the person pronouncing it. The one that I choose to use—for the moment—is this (using what is probably my own peculiar form of phonetic pronunciation): Soob’-i-yeah. The pronunciation, though, is largely irrelevant to me, though the word pronounced in that way is pleasing to my ears. The word’s meaning is what matters. It describes my favorite time of day, that relatively brief period—an hour or two when I am alone with the quiet morning, enjoying the stillness—that feels like it was made for me.

Many words in “foreign languages” cannot be easily translated into English or, rather, there is no English word that shares the meaning of those words. I am sure I have mentioned many of them in earlier blog posts. Words like komorebi, a Japanese word meaning dappled light filtering through a canopy of leaves and branches; fernweh, a German word (translated literally as “farsickness”), meaning an aching to return to places one has never been. There are many more, I am sure. I wish, now, I had categorized as “language” the blog posts in which I mentioned those and other such words. Any attempt to search for those posts now would require too damn much time; searching for a needle in an enormous haystack. English, though, has some of its own pleasingly unique words: psithurism, for example, a rustling or whispering sound, such as leaves in the wind.

I have always had a love affair with language, but I have never delved deeply enough into words to be sufficiently knowledgeable to be an expert. My love of words has been shallow; superficial. I think I either am fundamentally too lazy to more deeply explore language  or I suffer from attention deficit disorder (or both).  Those characteristics/attributes/flaws probably are responsible for the fact that I write and write and write, yet rarely finish what I have begun. I lose interest in my own curiosity. After a while, my creativity begins to wear thin on me; maybe I withdraw from it out of fear I will learn I am not especially creative, after all. The same thing happens beyond writing. Sculpting. Pottery. Stained glass. Painting. And on and one. I lose the drive to continue when I begin to realize I will not achieve sufficient skills or talents or abilities to warrant having pride in what I am doing. I do not doubt I could reach some level of adequacy if I kept at it; but I have fantasies of actually being good at whatever it is I am doing. Rather than coming to grips with the reality that I might not be any good at all, I withdraw. And that is my psychological self-assessment. Psychology; another area of interest I never pursued with enough fervor to become truly knowledgeable. Ditto sociology. Ditto linguistics. Ditto, ditto, ditto. I am not incapable; I am bright enough, I simply have rarely pushed myself to go beyond a self-limiting boundary. I think that is quite enough about my inadequacies. I should write about my capabilities, instead. Perhaps I will do that sometime soon.


Poetry has never been the language of barriers, it’s always been the language of bridges.

~ Amanda Gorman ~


Yesterday, I spent a couple of hours at the cancer clinic getting an infusion of magnesium. I thought I was going in to get a simple injection, but I spent time with an IV drip, instead. My labs from my first chemo treatment revealed that I was low on magnesium, so my oncologist ordered the IV. We (mi novia and I) spoke to my oncologist, who confirmed that my extreme fatigue and other such reactions were normal responses to chemo. She said individuals’ responses differ from patient to patient, but it would not be out of the ordinary for me to feel essentially exhausted for seven to ten days after each chemo treatment…and that the effects could well be cumulative. I was quite pleased with the amount of time the oncologist spent with us, explaining and responding to our questions. I feel like I should know the answers already, having undergone chemo five years ago, but I have to remind myself that I was also undergoing radiation treatment at the time, which is a process with its own side-effects (and which probably combined with the effects of chemo). I felt better yesterday than I had the few days before, though I did get quite tired and napped late in the day. As much as I would rather not nap so much (or sleep damn near endlessly), I know I have little control over my fatigue; it is best to just go with the flow and sleep when I feel like I need it. Which, of late, seems almost constant. My next treatment is scheduled for February 8, which probably will leave me exhausted a few days afterward until around February 18 or so. I hope to feel sufficiently energetic thereafter to be able to participate in an insight program at church on February 25. We shall see. Before then, though, I should be scheduled for a brain MRI, which I expect will reveal that the cancer has not invaded my brain…a non-contrast CT scan while I was in the hospital recently did not show any “acute abnormalities,” which suggests the MRI probably will confirm that my brain is about as good as it’s going to get.


It is now 6:38. I am hungry. I woke at 3:55 and ate a few pieces of cantaloupe. Now is the time for a helping of spicy turkey pumpkin chili. I am extremely grateful for that chili.

And for the loving kindness of friends—you know who you are—who wish me well. I appreciate offers of help and support; they mean more than I can possibly express. I look forward to visiting with “my people.” I hope to go to church on Sunday. Whether I do or not, my door is always open.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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One Response to Verbose and Grateful

  1. Meg Koziar says:

    Thats a beautiful word for your special time of day, John. That must indicate that there are people in Lebanon who are also early risers. (My guess is that all the Lebanese cats are outdoor creatures.) But, how does one just “come across” a Lebanese Arabic word?

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