The day is coming to an end. I’m sitting in my shed, reflecting on what, if anything, has astonished me today; what have I given my attention to, other than work and a trip to the supermarket. Seeking a spark of inspiration, I look up the word astonished in an online dictionary of etymology.
It comes from Old French. Astonien is “to stun, strike senseless.” Yes, I can think of a moment when I’ve been stunned like that today.
I was running in the woods this morning, plodding along very slowly with my dog, Luna, when suddenly there was a loud shout from behind: “Runner coming through, look out!” Then a puffing runner sprinted past me.
I was stunned by his shout. It was very loud; I was in a lonely wood; my mind was on other things. I jumped. More significantly – the lasting astonishment – was the stunning brazenness of it (from Old English: bræsen ‘of brass’).
Whenever I’m out for a run and find myself coming up behind someone moving more slowly, I’ve always coughed loudly, or kicked up some leaves, or given my dog an unnecessary whistle – anything to make a noise that will get the attention of the person in front, but politely and quietly. It’s never occurred to me that I could just shout at them to get out of my way. A small astonishment, but they all count.
#4 of 30.