Wistful

The rock in Crane Pond that wistfully dreams of being Moby Dick

I feel wistful this morning. Or would, if I knew for sure what the word meant. And now, having woken up thinking that first sentence, I am stymied: after two thirds of a life-time spent writing and thinking (and that’s the correct order for those two actions) in English, there are still common words or expressions that escape me. Now, what balances this out, or makes it feel less painful, is the fact that I know this to be true of and for my mother tongue just as much, and any of the other languages I speak. But that’s no consolation either, even though I have been covering my ass with the threadbare quilt sown together from the tatters & rags of all those languages of mine that are not mine. A matter of seams and seems. I know we never own a language completely (or in any other way: the verb I used is not a valid description of our relationship to language). So I go to my trusted American Heritage Dictionary, the desktop edition. wistful: 1. full of wishful yearning. 2. pensively sad; melancholy (from obsolete wistly, intently). Is it any surprise that this defines exactly the way I felt upon waking up? And thus I may have to conclude that language knows me better than I know it. Or that language teaches me what I feel. Which seems normal: I am only passing through here, through it, full of wishful yearning for knowing and using it better, and pensively sad after I wake up or write this or something else, given that, as I or language wrote above, the writing comes before the thinking.
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