I picked up Ursula K Le Guin’s Always Coming Home again this weekend. This quote is from text at the very end, in a chapter called “Living on the Coast, Energy, and Dancing”, it describes the meaning behind a greeting, “Heyiya“:

The first element of this word, hey- or heya-, is the untranslatable statement of praise/greeting/holiness/being sacred.
The second is the word iya. This means a hinge: the piece of hardware or leather that connects a door to the opening it closes and opens. Connotations and metaphors cluster thick to this image. Iya is the center of a spiral, the source of a gyring motion; hence a source of change, as well as connection. Iya is the eternal beginning, the process of energy arising and continuing. The word for energy is iye.
Energy manifests itself in three principal forms: cosmic, social, and personal.
The cosmos, the universe, was usually referred to rather casually in Kesh as rruwey, “all this.” There was a more formal and philosophical word, em, meaning extent-and-duration, or space-time. Energy in the physicist’s sense, the fundamental power incontrovertible with matter, was emiye.
Ostouud described weaving or the weave of a fabric, bringing together, relating, and so was used to mean society, the community of being, the fabric of interdependent existences. The energy of relationship, including both politics and ecology, was ostouudiye.
Finally personal energy, selfhood of the individual, was sheiye.
The energy of these three forms of energy throughout the universe was what the Kesh called “the dancing.”
The last of the three, selfhood or personal energy, ramified into another set of concepts, which I shall treat very summarily: relating to sex, mind, movement, work, and play, each with an inward-coming and outward-going aspect…..
1.Lamaye, sexual energy. Lamawoiye, the energy that goes into sex (libido?)
2.Yaiya, extraverted thought. Yaioye, introverted thought.
3.Daoye is kinetic energy proper. Shevdaoye is energy expressed in athletics, traveling, all bodily skills, labors, activities. Shevdaowoye, personal movement, is the body itself.
4. Ayaye, playing, learning, teaching, Ayawoye seems best translated as “learning with out a teacher.”
5. Sheiye, personal energy, considered as work: the basic activities of staying alive – getting and preparing food, housekeeping, the arts and work of life. Shewoiye, work directed inward, work towards personhood or selfhood, might be translated as soul-making.

To be alive was to choose and use, consciously or not, well or ill, these energies, in a manner appropriate to one’s stage of life, state of health, moral ideas, and so on. The deployment of iye was really the principal subject of education in the Valley, in the home and in the heyimas, from infancy till death.
Personal energy was of course a personal matter; the individual made the choices, and the choosing, wise or foolish, mindful or careless, was the person. But no choice could be made independent of the superpersonal and impersonal energies, the cosmic/social/self-relatedness of all existences. Another word, very important in Kesh thinking, tuuvyai, mindfulness, might be described as intelligent awareness of this interdependence of energies and beings, a sense of one’s place and part in the whole.


There are six Kesh words which can be translated as “love,” or conversely, one can say that there is no Kesh word for love, but there are six words for different kinds of love. At first I thought the Kesh distinctions were similar to the Islandian – that subtle and useful trilogy of ania, apia, alia – but the overlap of meaning is only partial. The following list is the best I can do.

1. wenun: noun and verb, to want, desire, covet (“I love apples.”)

2. lamawenun: noun and verb, sexual desire, lust, passion (“I love you!”)

3. kwaiyo – woi dad, heart goes to -: to like, to feel an impulse of warmth toward (“I like him very much.”)

4. unne: noun and verb, trust, friendship, affection, lasting warmth (“I love my brother.” “I love her like a sister.”)

5. iyakwun: noun and verb, mutual connection, interdependence, filial or parental love, love of place, love of one’s people, cosmic love (“I love you mother.” “I love my country.”)

6. baho: as a verb, to please, to give pleasure or delight (“I love to dance.”)

The principal distinction between 3 and 4 is one of duration – 3 is brief, or a beginning, 4 is lasting or continuing. The distinction between 4 and 5 is more difficult. Unne implies mutuality, iyakwun asserts it; unne is lovingkindness, iyakwun is passion; unne is rational, moderate, social love, iyakwun is the love that moves the sun and other stars.

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Cascadian wordsmith and reluctant scorpio, with a fondness for honey, trees, and ducks, as well as birds on the wing and orange kitties.

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