Letter of the Day:  X

X is for Xerophyte that my friend RoXane will describe in a guest post.  I write about Roxane often on this blog because she is my best writer-mama-pal.  We have helped each other along the writing path.  Here we are at a Boyds Mills Workshop in PA, a workshop sponsored by the founders of Highlights for Children magazine.

X: A Letter Most Expressive

“Xerophyte, X, is a plant
That includes the prickly pear cactus.
It’s not exactly exciting, though,
When its thorny arms reach out to greet us.”

– X page from P is for Peace Garden: A North Dakota Alphabet

Oh how I enjoyed writing the X page for my nonfiction children’s book, P is for Peace Garden: A North Dakota Alphabet. And I still love reading it, every chance I get, to children especially. Not just the rhyme (though it’s awfully fun to personify cacti), but the sidebar information about the xerophyte; how its juices can be strained and boiled to make prickly-pear syrup, and that it is used for cattle food and, in long-ago years was consumed by humans during food shortages.

First, as you can well imagine, X was not the easiest letter of the alphabet to write about. And I had some constraints. I needed to find something significant within the state of North Dakota that had to do with X. Other authors in this series writing about other states came up with creative things like “X marks the spot.” But I wanted something educational and not so elusive, which is why I was so elated to stumble upon the word xerophyte. I didn’t have to stretch my imagination too far to remember stepping on prickly-pear cacti as a girl growing up in Northeastern Montana, and stepping over them frequently as well in Western North Dakota, where these sneaky babies thrive and often hide.

But there’s so much more that draws me to the letter X than that. For one, how many people can claim they have an X in their name? I’ve always felt particularly proud to have a name that was a little different, though not in an odd way. And I largely attribute the X in Roxane for making it so. When you say the name, everything sort of rises and falls on the X. Without the X, my name would be Roane, and that, I’m afraid, would have been a downer. The X brings so much vibrancy to that one word alone!

I also love symmetry. Oh, don’t get me wrong. There’s a place for asymmetry as well. But I love it when things can come together and find a happy union. The two lines of the X are a joyful pairing. They’re each doing their own thing, going their own way, but they meet in the middle. I like balance, I like peace. X gives that to me.

Perhaps more than anything else, though, I think I’m lured to X through the fact that it often does not get the attention it deserves, or when it does, it’s the wrong kind of attention. Take X-rated movies, for example. Couldn’t they have used a different letter to signify something being off-limits? (And who is they anyway?) Sometimes, X just don’t get no respect (I’m calling to mind Rodney Dangerfield of old)!

Even within my name, X is sort of hidden. It’s shy and a little different, kind of how I felt as a child. And yet, it has something to offer the world. It has something to share. It has all sorts of potential, which is exciting in a most exclamatory sort of way. Note, though, that it’s oftentimes led by another letter. I consider myself a leader, but I prefer allowing someone else to guide me, just as I did as the younger of two siblings in childhood.

Indeed, the possibilities for X are extraordinary, if only we would take the time to examine X and appreciate its strengths. I see this as part of my life’s mission – to seek out all the X’s in the crowd, call them out gently, and help them notice just what it is about them that makes them so very excellent, even if they can’t see it themselves.

It’s something I have been offered by other unique, X-type people (even those without the letter X in their names), and something I hope to continue to do for others, especially in my life as a writer and mother.

Mary has been one of those people coaxing the X in me to come out and shine. And I so appreciate the chance to write this fun post for her today, to give X the time in the limelight it truly deserves.

This is how I end my sidebar on the X page of my book:
“Would you ever eat a cactus? How about some prickly pear syrup to go with your pancakes?”
Well, would you? Have you?

I find the possibilities of X exhilarating. How about you?

Roxane B. Salonen
Communications Specialist/Author
Beauclair Communications: http://beauclaircommunications.com//
Peace Garden Mama: http://roxanesalonen.blogspot.com//
Peace Garden Writer: http://peacegardenwriter.blogspot.com//

Thanx, Roxane! That’s exactly what I was hoping for.

Journaling Prompt:  What makes you, or your name, unique?