Friday, November 04, 2022

Friday Ramble - Frost

This week's word seems to have been around forever, coming down to us from the Middle and Old English forst meaning "freezing, becoming frozen or extreme cold". There are Old Saxon, High German and Norse variants claiming the same ancestral roots, and there are the Proto Germanic frusta and Old High German vorst, both related to the old verb freosan meaning "to freeze". Somewhere back there are Old Saxon, Frisian and Dutch kindred, and at the root of it all, the PIE (Proto-Indo-European) form preus which seems to have described processes of both freezing and burning. Huh???

PIE is the reconstructed common ancestor of the Indo-European language family, thought to have been spoken from 4500 BC to 2500 BC (from the Late Neolithic to the Early Bronze Age). The Proto-Indo-Europeans were most likely herding tribes who lived in the vast steppes north of the Black Sea., and while they left no written records, their language took root wherever they alighted during their migrations.  A fair bit is known about them from the archeological record, and their genetic markers can be seen in modern Europeans. Whenever I excavate a ramble word, remove its old and middle European trappings and discover its PIE roots, I am wrapped anew in reverence for words and language, for those who came before us and the commonalities of earthly existence going back to the beginning times.

A fine day is coming into being, skies in deep, vibrant shades of lavender, purple and gold. The sun has yet to rise, but geese are already flying up from the river and out to stubbly farm fields to feed. The air is filled with their joyous songs on this brisk morning in early November. There is frost on trees, cobblestones and roof tiles in the village; puddles and fallen leaves in the streets are outlined in ice, ditto the birdbaths in my garden. The Virginia creeper vines in local hedgerows seem undeterred by the night's plummeting temperatures, but they look as though their insouciance and jaunty stance is darned hard work.

The rose leaves in the garden are clad in frost this morning too, the crystals clearly defined and sparkling. Blue sky and silvery frost, russet and gold rose leaves dancing in the wind - who says there is no color about in late autumn and early winter? One has only to look, and the best time for looking is just as the sun is coming up over the trees.

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