Hiking in the Yosemite high sierra last month gave pause for thought, along with time to sync with the seasons, swim in waterfalls and watch friends construct simple-yet-incredible balancing rock sculptures.
We started talking about how to spend a summer afternoon in nature. “Whittling” was immediately mentioned: whittling time, whittling wood (for a walking stick of course), whittling an idea, or even whittling one’s waistline. It has a beautiful sound. And it got me reflecting on favorite verbs — in English only, as a list of melodious Italian or Spanish words would go on forever.
Whittle and weave are two of my favorite, complementary verbs. According to Merriam-Webster:
- Whittle means “to cut or shape something by or as if by paring it with a knife; to trim or pare down.” It also can mean “to wear oneself or another out with fretting.” (I guess I don’t like the latter definition so much.)
I also found a fun saying: He who trims himself to suit everyone will soon whittle himself away.
- Weave means “to interlace especially to form a texture, fabric, or design; to produce by elaborately combining elements; to direct (as in the body) in a winding or zigzag course, especially to avoid obstacles.”
It comes from Latin for web, also related to networks, which makes perfect sense. One can weave a story, fabric, weave through time, and weave a wonderful life rich with a network of community, experiences and friends.
Whittling is about honing in on what’s essential, meaningful and purposeful. Weaving is about taking those essential parts and blending them together in a tapestry or mosaic or story or journey, such that the sum — and beauty — of the threads together is greater than their individual parts.
May each of us weave and whittle a better life each day!