Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Insurance and "Wordles"

This morning, I sat down with our State Farm insurance agent to go over existing policies--one of the many things on my "being grown up is surreal" list, mostly because I'd made an appointment to listen to a stranger describe all the things I was supposed to be afraid of.

As a Mennonite, this kind of meeting also makes me uncomfortable.  And sad. There was a time when more Mennonites and other Anabaptists didn't buy into most insurance plans.  If something happened--fires, sickness, theft, injury--the church would step in to see you through. We made our own commitments to each other, unspoken and spoken.

I calmly reminded the agent that no, I wouldn't take anyone to court if they wrecked into my car and didn't have insurance. No, I didn't want life insurance at this time, and that my husband and I had talked it through. No, I don't want my home owner's insurance policy to cover any jewels or furs or firearms, and no, I don't have an iPhone, can you believe it? Will not be getting one, no. I don't want to be "connected" all the time. And yes, I've heard the statistics about how many people use tablet computers these days. No,  I don't have a texting plan for my phone, and I don't really want to know what app may "change my life forever." And every time Diane Rehm says "Send us a Tweet," I want to die a little inside.

I'm more interested in poems inside us, I wanted to tell her, the ones that sometimes also change our lives forever. What poem keeps your mind and body humming? What poet visits you in dreams? And do you have special insurance for poets--you know, to cover submission mailings, contest fees, residency application fees, especially when a poem gets rejected, or isn't even read by an editing staff who sends you a rejection email that could've been written by my cat in a bad mood? Or how about those visits to the shrink, the life planner, or those extra vacations taken because (most of) the world thinks you're  [ fill in the blank ] for wanting to write poems and read poems and talk about poems like some people talk about the latest features of their newest gadget?

I kept quiet, of course. Smiled and signed/dated next to my signature that looks like my Grandma Ruth's cursive. She was a 3rd grade teacher and taught me how to lean my R's just so.

After walking home from my visit with the insurance agent, I sat down at my writing desk and saw the "Wordle" I'd printed out, a word cloud generated from all the text in my first book of poetry. Up until this week, I didn't know the word or the "Wordle" itself existed. The largest words in a Wordle are those that appear most often in the collection, then the middle-sized words, and so on. I started to think about how long it took me to shape this book--10 years--and how my next collection will house different words that swim to the surface most often.

I'm not completely naive. I know that life sometimes changes with the blink of an eye, and having insurance can be important in an individualistic world. But what do I want to leave behind? I'm grateful to write--it helps me build up a world I want to live in, need to live in. And it insures my current self--I hope--in a unique and lasting way on the page.

What words do you use most often, whether you're a writer or not? And what do these words hold up/protect or illuminate about what you hold most dear? Some things to think about.

Here's the "Wordle" from The Apple Speaks http://www.wordle.net/show/wrdl/6285838/The_Apple_Speaks

          title="Wordle: The Apple Speaks ">Wordle: The Apple Speaks 


  1. It looks quite beautiful - only wish it were a bit bigger. Interesting concept. I assume computer generated?

    1. Ann--yes, computer generated. You can click on the link above, and it will generate a larger version. Thanks for your comments!