Have you discovered The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows by John Koenig yet? It’s a marvelously readable “dictionary” for word-lovers, described as “a compendium of new words for emotions, its mission to shine a light on the fundamental strangeness of being a human being – all the aches, demons, vibes, joys, and urges that are humming in the background of everyday life”. I thought I might make use of it in my Conversations with the Muse, for obvious reasons.

I never like to get all heavy at the beginning of art making, preferring the looser, playful, wait-and-see-what-happens approach. So first I did my painting, cutting up pieces of an old painting and and collaging them on. Then found the word to match.

Mithenness: noun, from Middle English mithen, to be hidden away

The unsettling awareness that the rest of the world happily carries on in your absence, that although things only ever seem to change when you check back in for an update, they’re unwilling to wait for you, and undergo massive shifts while your back is turned – your mother getting older, your old friends becoming different people, your hometown losing some of the hallmarks that made it feel like home. . .

To these examples I would add so many garden examples. Like when you go away on a trip of even three days during the growing season and return to riotous growth that seemed to wait on purpose until you went away. Like when your lettuces bolt before you get a chance to pick them and the bugs sneak into the folds in the cabbage in the middle of the night and make holes. These things, and many more about the people who you let out of your sight for a while, these things are unsettling even though you know it’s silly to feel that way.

So, Mithenness is the word of the day! and somehow just knowing there’s a word for it is better than a relief. It’s a bit of a thrill!

And by the way, don’t try to find it in Websters. You’ll have to get the book.



  1. Love this! I have poet friends who are always using words from that book, also such interesting ideas it creates!
    Love the cut, paste and paint image you created to go with it. Thank you for your wild creativity, so inspiring. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh my. Wisdom shared. Thank you …You hit the nail (eMail) on the head here. I had a long overdue talk w friend yesterday that went on for ninety min. I found a stash of old photos of the kids last night and shared some in texts to Kristen to share with Dylan who wasn’t even there. (Trying to plan to take them all to Yosemite next summer when my femur is healed.)

    Hope you’re doing well. I’m suddenly, sharply, older. The world turns. We do what we can…

    Seems to me we’re leaving an awful lot of responsibilities on the plates of the next generations.

    Love & Misses, Marybeth Falzareno



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