Spring has brought days of rain, so when sunshine broke through this week, I ventured out to clean up some of the winter debris. My backyard would horrify a perfectionist, because I let everything go during the cold months. All the plants that bore beautiful blossoms last summer now stand brown and bare.
But the birds loved them. They didn't know they were pecking at lowly debris. They swooped in to gather leftover seeds like decked-out diners at a formal dinner. It was my way of caring for them, plus it bribed them to stick around.
This word, debris, captured my attention and sent me on a word-origin chase. I discovered that debris in its literal sense means "garbage" and "broken refuse." It didn't show up in the English language until 1708. But get this: According to Charles Hodgson at Podictionary, debris has an older English parent word that came from the French of the Norman Conquest 900 years ago. "The bris meaning 'broken' had a more subtle tone to it than just something that was broken; the mode of breakage was by crushing."
Debris is also related to the word "bruise." I know a lot of folks these days who are feeling bruised and broken by job loss, serious health issues, and an uncertain future. One woman is dealing with her son's bone cancer. He has two young children, and is not expected to make it. An elderly couple are buying their groceries by credit card. A friend is caring for her 89-year-old father, who has Alzheimer's disease.
My mom had a small framed plaque that sat on her dresser. It now sits on mine. Its words are as soothing to me today as they were the first time I read them as a young child:
Before you go to bed, give your troubles to GodSeedplanter
He will be up all night, anyway.