On learning a word

My workday ended, I settled down on the sofa, where the pillows were fluffed and ready to receive me. I opened my newspaper and anticipated the highly praised book that I would start after the paper was read. Then the telephone rang. Too busy all day to notice that there had been no call that day, I was now aware that this would be the first call to my number. Writers love aloneness when they are writing; they need the solitude. But when the typewriter has been covered, like the cage of a songbird at night, then other needs surface.

I hurried to answer so that whoever was at the other end would not hang up too soon, thinking I had gone out for the evening.

After a few words I realized, with a rush of disappointment that I was listening to someone wanting to sell me a magazine subscription.

Usually I manage to cut short such solicitations, but now I welcomed the sound of another voice. A man was speaking. His voice was pleasant, and I had no idea whether he was young or old. It was definitely not the rote one hears when someone is learning how to sell subscriptions.

Since I am in the process of packing for moving to a new address, I explained to the caller that this was not a good time for me to subscribe to anything. The man took it well and was ready to hang up when I added, ''You see, I am in a state of flux.''

His reply was immediate. ''As in physics?''


He thanked me and hung up.

In all the years I have been writing, I cannot remember ever having need for the word. Why now? I decided to look up the definition to make sure it was what I had wanted to say. As is common in dictionaries, the word was many-faceted. It was one facet that delighted me: ''(the rate of) flow of luminous, radiant energy.''

I had meant a feeling of flowing, uprooted, unsettled - but radiant? Luminous? The caller had given me a gift of poetry! I had found it in connection with the sedate science of physics, because of his clue.

Luminous, radiant energy. The words would leap up and stop whatever I was reading, to be savored. Uprooted? Unsettled? No more. My mind flowed gently in the direction of my new home, this time with a feeling of joy.

There were no more calls that evening.

I no longer needed them.

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