Writing my way through the A-to-Z blogging challenge, I’ve tasked myself with leading you on a meandering tour of the virtual garden of delights and curiosities and thoughts that make up my world – all through the lens of unusual, obscure, or simply charming-to-me words.
O is for…
ombrifuge: something that provides protection from the rain; especially an umbrella
We’ve been having our share of cold rainy days, but I’m holding tight to the adage “April showers bring Spring May flowers.”
I’m delighted when my mind carries its thoughts into dreamtime, and the opportunity for all manner of wonderful things to show up.
Such as this dream, which still has me grinning. First there was a street full of people carrying open umbrellas. Which was odd, as it wasn’t actually raining. In fact the sky was filled with double rainbows in jaw-dropping gorgeous colors more suited to a box of the most fabulous surreal crayons. Just as I was adjusting to the delights of these visions, I noticed that, in fact, people weren’t actually carrying umbrellas. They were carrying giant flowers that were somewhat shaped like umbrellas. It was gasping-in-delight amazing. I SO wanted a flower of my own to carry. But even as I was thinking about how cool that would be, the scene morphed once again. Now instead of people carrying flowers like umbrellas, the people’s heads had turned into giant ball-like flowers (think Alliums) and their necks were the stems. It was hilarious and fabulous at the same time. I woke up thinking it was a whole new definition to flower child.
Umbrellas are pretty curious things if you think about it; and being curious, I looked up the etymology. According to the Online Etymology Dictionary – umbrella: “c.1600, first attested in Donne’s letters, from Italian ombrello, from Late Latin umbrella, altered (by influence of umbra) from Latin umbella “sunshade, parasol,” diminutive of umbra “shade, shadow” . A sunshade in the Mediterranean, a shelter from the rain in England; in late 17c. usage, usually as an Oriental or African symbol of dignity. Said to have been used by women in England from c.1700; the first rain-umbrella carried by a man there was traditionally c.1760, by Jonas Hathaway, noted traveler and philanthropist. Figurative sense of “authority, unifying quality” (usually in a phrase such as under the umbrella of) is recorded from 1948.”
That’s a lot of interesting tidbits to sort through isn’t it? I honed in on the parasol aspect. I confess to being quite fascinated by Asian paper parasols – both the early Chinese oil-paper ones and the Japanese waxed rice paper ones. And what about those charming little paper umbrellas that sometimes adorn drinks? I found a large box of them in a Japanese paper store once and I was giddy with delight. I used them in a number of mailart project, and I suspect I still have a few hidden away in some studio drawer. Sort of feels like a stash of hidden treasure.
I discovered another amusing fact. Mushroom-fakers was the nickname given to umbrella menders in nineteenth century slang. Do you find that as funny as I do? But it also made me consider the fact that umbrellas were mended, at least at one time. I’m thinking that must have been a custom in a rainy clime like England. I’m not sure in a place like here with only occasional rain, umbrellas actually get enough wear to be mended. Though living in the Windy City as I do, I’ve had more than a few blow inside out over the years.
And finally, I can’t help but smile at this vintage illustration of birds gathering under the cap of a mushroom. Aren’t you curious as to what tune the gnome is serenading them with?
What about you? Had any good dreams lately? Wishing for a new era of Flower Power so we could all head to San Francisco with flowers in our hair? Prefer umbrellas or parasols? Have a mushroom story to share? Do tell – you know I love to hear.