Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Tohubohu message from the trees

This morning, I awoke with a new word in my inbox: tohubohu … a state of chaos or total confusion. Seemed like a perfect word for these days when the bedrock of our democratic republic has been under attack, not by foreign intruders but by our neighbors. 

I paid homage to this new word, crafting a colorful meme to post later on social media, then went for my morning walk. It’s a chilly, January morning tempered by full sun and sky laced only with cirrus threads ... a combination that always makes my spirit turn cartwheels in delight to be alive, to see one more day of beauty and walk through the trees quietly sending me oxygen and life. 

I inhale deeply and their generous gift brings tears to my eyes. It made me wonder why I would stay in a state of tohubohu when I am surrounded by the most amazing beauty and birdsong. The trees don’t tell me about chaos and violence; the birds don’t whisper stories about my neighbors; the quiet doesn’t fill my brain with moldy spaghetti thoughts.

Returning to my tiny home in this oak woodland, I find the internet down. Although my phone is a hot spot backup,  I sat in my favorite, comfy chair (there are only two), striped by the warming sun, and decided to extend the moment, letting words meander along their own paths while the cinnamoned coffee warmed me.

The world goes on without me. Good guys will do good things. Bad guys will do bad things. And, everyone in the middle will follow their beliefs or their hearts, kiss their kids, post puppy pictures, put on their work pajamas and try to make sense of their day and the world around them. 

Nothing will change as I sit here watching the rythymic dance of the oak branches while a gray squirrel digs for the acorn he buried months ago, waiting for just this moment of hunger to uncover his stash.

I do wonder though … what word occupies the other end of the spectrum from tohubohu? ... Peace? Contentment? Order? Understanding? 
Maybe rutabaga, sound cousin to tohubohu, and the purplish-orange root vegetable I just hacked apart and fed to the Instapot of lentil soup-to-be. The internet is down so I can't plunge pell mell into Googleland and find the source of such a word as rutabaga. However, its final ahhh sound seems friendlier than the weeping sound of tohubohu.

So, I’ll take it. I’m going to spend today being all rutabaga and leave tohubohu behind.

Postscript: The internet is back and I found out that rutabaga is a Swedish word meaning, basically, a bunch of roots. Wikipedia is a favorite, but it doesn’t have much of a sense of humor or romance. 
Postscript #2: A Facebook friend adds to the understanding of this word:
'Tohu' and 'bohu' are actually 2 very ancient words, meaning similar but not identical things. They came down to our modern day from one of the oldest books that has survived, the Bible. Specifically, the second verse of the first book of the Bible. "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was an UNFORMED WASTELAND (Hebrew: tohu) and DESOLATELY EMPTY (Hebrew: bohu), darkness covered the surface of the watery depths, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters." The words are used 2 other places in the Hebrew Scriptures: Isaiah 34:11 and Jeremiah 4:23. To me, these historical usages and antecedent meanings of the two words add a profound depth of meaning to them.


  1. Rutabaga, yes, love it. I enjoyed this article immensely. It felt good, warmed my heart, smiled my lips. Thank you.

  2. Joyce, you painted such vivid images of your surroundings that I could smell the clarity in the air. I loved this phrase, too: "the quiet doesn’t fill my brain with moldy spaghetti thoughts." Food to ponder...

    1. Thanks, Becky ... hope you have no spaghetti thoughts of any kind in these strange days. hugs.