Saturday, 7 March 2015

Omnium Gatherum

Omnium gatherum, before it became the name of a Finnish death metal band, meant “an assortment of unrelated things.”

 Actually, I didn’t know Omnium Gatherum was a Finnish band. But because the first rule of writing is “Check your facts”,  I googled it. I learned that there’s a difference between melodic death metal and progressive death metal as musical genres; also, that Omnium Gatherum (as a band) records under the Lifeforce label. Does anyone else think that’s a little weird? The things you learn when you check your facts with Google!

I also learned that omnium gatherum --  “an assortment of unrelated things”–  has many wonderful synonyms: agglomeration, alphabet soup, collage, crazy quilt (oh, I like that one), farrago, gallimaufry, grab bag, gumbo, hash, hodgepodge, medley, mélange, menagerie, miscellanea, mishmash, mixed bag, montage, olla podrida, pastiche, patchwork (another great word!), potpourri, ragbag, salmagundi, scramble, shuffle, smorgasbord, stew, tumble, variety, welter. In fact, it’s a veritable omnium gatherum of synonyms, and a great source of pleasure for word lovers, of which I am one. Why use the word assortment, when you can use a word like gallimaufry or salmagundi?

But I digress. This blog will be an omnium gatherum of things I learned last week when I hung out with my kids and grandkids. So, without further ado:

 1. “It’s not fair!” wailed 5-year old Aerin, when she watched her sister open a birthday gift, a toy similar to one Aerin already had, but nicer.  “She’s a lucky duck!” We spent a few moments reminding her that when it was her birthday, she too had gotten great toys. “Yeah,” she said, wiping away her tears, “Sometimes you get to be the lucky duck, and sometimes it’s someone else’s turn to be the lucky duck.” Wow! What a precocious child to have already learned that life lesson. (BTW, the toy is a galimoto, made in Kenya and sold at 10,000 Villages, the MCC fair trade store.)

2. It’s great to walk with your grandkids and explore the world. On a walk through the Matsqui prairie, Geneva, 9, found a lovely blooming hellebore, with a sign beside it: “Planted in loving memory of Geoff.” Because I’d been taking a class on end-of-life issues, the idea of plants as a fitting memorial instead of a tombstone was dear to my heart. “You can plant something in my memory after I’m gone,” I suggested, then had second thoughts. Perhaps this idea was a bit macabre for children? Geneva didn’t miss a beat. “Oh, I think it will be a rosebush, Oma, and I will come and water it a lot.”  Ah, thank you, dear child. Roses would be lovely!

3. Life is short: wear the sparkly shoes before you outgrow them, even if it is just for a walk on a muddy trail.

4. There’s a time to walk, and a time to rest. Holding hands when you walk is lovely. Sitting on a bench is great, too. From the bench you can see where you’ve been, where you are, and where you’re going, if you just take the time to observe.

 Ditto for life: sometimes you keep walking, sometimes you rest and check out where you are.

5. And finally: there’s no time like the present to think about the future and make your wishes known. At the aforementioned class about end-of-life issues, participants were urged to talk to their loved ones about their beliefs, values and wishes – even to put these things down in writing so the ones you leave behind will have a clear understanding of what’s important to you. We had “the conversation” with two of our children last weekend. It was wonderful. We laughed a lot. In particular, they laughed about my expressed wish that a particular song be sung at my funeral. No, it’s not “How Great Thou Art” or “Amazing Grace,” although those are good. It’s this one, which I sing with my grandkids every time we visit – even the 11-year-old still sits on my lap when we sing it:

It's so nice to have a cuddle with a person that you love
Feels so good to have a snuggle with a person that you love
When I'm happy or in trouble I run fast right on the double
Just to sit and have a cuddle with a person that I love.

(You can listen to this at

My kids are mystified as to how they will insert this song into a funeral service. And maybe I’m asking too much. It will be one of those things that is in the omnium gatherum of their lives, lurking in the background on their “to-do” lists: figuring out how to sing a cuddle song at mom’s funeral, when that time does come. If it makes them smile, so much the better. I’m smiling too.

PS One of my 14 readers asked me to post a picture of my finished “Loose Ends” project (see post "Loose Ends" a few weeks ago) Here it is:

I gathered the loose ends of fabric selvedges, stitched them down, and inserted into a frame which I painted with more dots. I also beaded in the spaces. I left space around the composition to indicate that I have unfinished business in my life, loose ends that need to be tied up.

1 comment:

  1. Salmagundi....I love that word. Your words this week are suggesting lots of art piece ideas! Thank you, as usual.