Monday, January 31, 2011

The Descriptive Mood

Going for a walk invariably puts me in a descriptive mood, especially a walk in nature. I wind up thinking about how I would describe, for instance, the waters of Lake Michigan this morning. The water was almost thick, heavy with ice floes. How to describe its movement? Often, the right German word will occur to me (one of the hazards of being bilingual), and then I’m trying to find the fitting English one. In this case, the German word “Wogen” would have captured the water’s movement but there is no equivalent English word. “Waves” would be “Wellen,” and that describes a forward rolling motion: crashing, splashing, sucking back. Today the water was rocking back and forth. Rocking, that would be it. Heavy with ice. Almost oily, but not really, because oily makes me think of iridescent oil slick. And the water seemed more gentle and benevolent than that. The water had the color of what? CafĂ© au lait? No, wrong word, that brings up warmth and tastiness, and this was a cold windy morning. Sea green? It was more brown than green, and green could easily be thought of in terms of turquoise shimmering Caribbean waters. This was definitely not shimmering. It was dull, like dish water – yes, dish water might be the right word.
So what do I have then? – The water was heaving, thick with ice floes. Once in a while it managed to lap up the boulders of the shore, coating them with another dish watery layer that would freeze to make grey glass of the rocks.