Sometimes it strikes me as curious. The many, seemingly disparate meanings certain words hold. Words like Swiss Army knives. Small enough to slip in your pocket and capable of unfolding in different ways, depending on whether you need to whittle a piece of birchwood, open a bottle or tighten a screw. This makes them convenient– but also at times when context is unclear– confusing. A Swiss Army knife on a camping trip is easier to understand for instance, than a Swiss Army knife in carry on luggage going through airport security.
Misunderstood Swiss Army knives are typically confiscated. Misunderstood words however, will typically continue to travel through the world unchecked, trailing bafflement, umbrage, heartbreak, hilarity or–fertile possibility in their wake. Unlike a misunderstood Swiss Army knife an imperfectly word can cause happy accidents, advantageous reactions– even poetry. Especially poetry.
Meaning more than one thing means carrying, at all times, the potential to be useful, problematic, poetic, or various combinations of the aforementioned. In some ways this is the precise definition of what it means to be a person.
In the dictionary the word ‘visitation’ has several meanings. Though they do not at first glance appear to be related to one another, they actually are. These meanings brush up against one another in inventive ways.
“an official visit by an important person especially to look at or inspect something
The appearance of a divine or supernatural being
a time before a dead person is buried when people may view the body
a special dispensation of divine favor or wrath
a severe trial
access to a child granted especially to a parent who does not have custody
the visit of the Virgin Mary to Elizabeth recounted in Luke and celebrated July 2 by a Christian feast”
Yesterday, after sunset, a visitation. Actually, two.
I stepped into our mudroom and startled a little cat sitting at the top of the staircase outside our front door. She darted down the steps. Then stood behind the trumpet vine bush at the base of the staircase, her head peeking around it so that she could still hold my gaze. We stared at each other silently for a few moments, then I called out to my husband to heat up some milk for her. I crouched down at the top of the staircase and began talking to her. Where did you come from sweet one? What do you want? Are you hungry you beauty? I began to walk towards her and she stepped cautiously out from her hiding place. Then rolled on her back and let out a plaintive miaow. A movement so trusting, and endearing it made me smile. If it was a movement calculated to win over hearts, then it was well played.
When I placed the container of warm milk on the step below me, she stepped up to it on her ballerina paws with no hesitation. Began to drink, pausing every so often to look up at me again as if suddenly transfixed by what she saw.
We stood at the top of the staircase, in our darkened mudroom watching her. She drank and my heart filled.
Not long after she had vanished into the night, we looked out and saw a little fawn at the base of the staircase — a startled brown face in lamplight looking up at our startled brown faces in the window.
What if –we are each other’s visitation?