A Dictionary of Tenderness

cover of Dictionary of Tenderness book by Lisa Zimmerman with old photo collage of women having a picnic
collage of paper strips describing beautiful word "sillage" and absence
collage of autumn forest illustrating dictionary words apricate, petrichor, susurrous and psithurism
collage of woman's legs flying illustrating dictionary words nefelibata, saorsa and incompressible
collage of woods at twilight illustrating dictionary words camhanaich and gloaming
collage of huge roses against snowy scene illustrating dictionary word frondescence
accordion book of paper collage made by artist Lisa Zimmerman

A Dictionary of Tenderness

A collection of odd and beautiful words that create a tender poetry

Mixed media accordion book, two-sided, 24 panels
Folded: 7" H x 5.5" W x 1.5" D
Unfolded: 7" H x 38" W

A few years ago I began to collect strange and beautiful words - words that were both lovely to say (and hear) and had definitions that intrigued or touched me. I was especially attracted to mysterious-sounding words I had not heard before.

The more I hunted, the more I became aware that certain words and definitions evoked tender emotions in me -  melancholy, wistfulness, contentment, yearning. And like tiny poems, these words conjured images and stories that spoke to me. 

What I found so remarkable was that, through the narrow aperture of a simple definition, I could view the many small, seemingly insignificant, human experiences that make up our lives. But from this view it was clear that such experiences are far from insignificant; rather, they are singular and precious.

When I was done with the book, I realized this dictionary had become a meditation on tenderness. It asks: In a world filled with both vast beauty and unlimited tragedy, how deeply can we open our hearts and let ourselves be moved?