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Columbus, Ohio December 2000

It's 23 degrees F (-5 degrees C). The small lake behind our place is frozen solid. The generously sprinkled snow makes a soft cushion to tempt any laggard leaf that has not yet fallen in tune with nature.

My daughter Ananya and I are getting ready to go out. The peak of winter has its dress code. "It is too cold out there," I tell her. "Let's wear two pairs of pants." The mind of a three-year-old has its own ways to interpret our Celsiuses and Fahrenheits. "It's two cold today so we need to wear two pairs of pants?" she asks.

Clothed for the occasion, we take our make-shift sled -- an empty plastic box tied to a blue nylon rope -- and head out. Her "friends" and "sister" -- Winnie the Pooh, Chief the Dog, and a doll -- accompany us as we go out onto the lake. She tugs at the rope and the sled makes a path in the fresh snow. The friends and sister seem to be enjoying the ride as we cross the frozen lake, walking, running, and skiing in our boots. Now it's her turn to sit in the sled and the friends and sister cheerfully make room and welcome her in. And it's my turn to pull the sled.

"I wonder where we get zero cold?" she inquires.
"Hmm...," I try to think of an example, one she is familiar with, "In Hawaii."
"And one cold?"
"In Seattle."

She iterates through other possibilities until we reach the extremes.

"How about five cold?"
"That would be the North Pole."
"And six cold?"
"There is no such thing as six cold."
"So can we go to the North Pole?" Her eyes brighten, "I can play with the polar bears there and meet Santa!"
"Sure, we can," I assure her.

Even with our heavy coats, gloves, mittens, caps, mufflers, socks, boots, and two pairs of pants, cold is beginning to seep in. Our noses have turned red and it's time to go back in. I hold the friends and sister while she eagerly fills the sled with snow for the snowman we'll make in our living room.

New snow begins falling as if trying to make up for all that we've picked up. I treasure the moments as I wonder about her future, keenly aware of our fleeting time together. With unfettered imagination, who is to say where a child can't reach?

* * *

In this week's words we'll see a few uncommon homophones - words that are pronounced the same but have different meanings or spellings - of common words.

bight (byt) noun

1. A bend in a coastline; also the body of water along such a curve. Example: The Bight of Benin in W. Africa.

2. The curved part or the middle of a rope (as contrasted with the ends).

[From Old English byht (bend). Ultimately from Indo-European root bheug- (to bend) that is also the source of bow, bagel, bee, bog, akimbo, and buxom (originally one who is obedient or pliant).]

See more usage examples of bight in Vocabulary.com's dictionary.

-Anu Garg (garg AT wordsmith.org)

"[Hurricane] Wilma's surge proved too much for two houseboats that sank to the bottom of the bight." Brian Haas; Hard-hitting Storm Takes Some Bluster Out of Key West; The Seattle Times; Oct 25, 2005.


How strange that nature does not knock, and yet does not intrude! -Emily Dickinson, poet (1830-1886)

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