Sunday, July 5, 2009

A Couch, a Sofa, or a Daven-port?

I sing the sofa! It had stood for years,
An invitation to benign repose,
A foe to all the fretful brood of fears,
Bidding the weary eye-lid sink and close.
Massive and deep and broad it was and bland—
In short the noblest sofa in the land. …
See the rest of The Last Straw by R. C. Lehmann

Like the subject of this poem, my old sofa had stood for years. So the big news at my house this week is that, after 28 years, I got a new couch. I am marveling at the possibilities that a new couch might bring, prompted by a little bit of internet searching:
Poetry on the Couch: Depressed? Try beating the blues by writing a poem.
Could a new couch lead to poetic flights, freedom from stress?

But then I began to wonder whether it's a couch or a sofa, or maybe even a davenport. And why do we have all of these different words?

Couch comes from Middle English, according to The Oxford Dictionary of Word Histories, "as a noun denoting something to sleep on, and as a verb in the sense 'lay something down.' Couch is from Old French couche (noun), coucher (verb), from Latin collocare, 'place together.'" Fans of seventies pop music will remember what may have been your first naughty French language lesson, "Voulez-vous coucher avec moi (ce soir)?" When I heard that song when I was young, I certainly did not realize that the couch in our living room and coucher were related. I spare all of our blushes.

Sofa, according to my Webster's Ninth Collegiate Dictionary, comes from the Arabic, suffah, meaning long bench. It is a long upholstered seat usually with arms and a back and often convertible into a bed. That is why we can buy sofabeds, but not couchbeds, I guess.

My grandparents referred to this same object of furniture as a davenport, although few people call it that these days. The Free Dictionary online told me that Davenport might refer to "A city of eastern Iowa on the Mississippi River opposite Moline and Rock Island, Illinois. It grew rapidly after the first railroad bridge across the Mississippi was completed in 1856. Population: 99,500,"
or to Davenport, John 1597-1670: English Puritan who fled to America in 1637 and helped found a colony at New Haven, Connecticut.
Or it could be either
1. A large sofa, often convertible into a bed.
2. A small desk. [From obsolete davenport, a small writing desk, probably from the name of the manufacturer.]

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition copyright ©2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Updated in 2009. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved, clarified that davenport is a noun and 1. Chiefly British, a writing desk with drawers at the side but
2. in Australia, US & Canada a large sofa [sense 1 supposedly after Captain Davenport, who commissioned the first ones]

and the Collins Essential English Dictionary 2nd Edition 2006 © HarperCollins Publishers 2004, 2006 third definition for davenport is a large sofa usually convertible into a bed, and gives synonyms:
chesterfield - an overstuffed davenport with upright armrests
sofa bed, convertible - a sofa that can be converted into a bed

But then I wondered if daven-port might be a useful name at times. Daven (with an "ah" sound for the first syllable rather than the flat "eh") comes from the Yiddish meaning to recite the Jewish liturgy of prayers. A port is a safe harbor. So then would a daven-port be a safe place to say one's prayers?

One of the Jewish liturgies of prayer comes with the ceremony for ending the Sabbath called Havdallah, meaning distinction. It marks the return to the week. While this would occur on Saturday evening for Jews, I think that this prayer from The Sacred Art of Lovingkindness by Rabbi Rami Shapiro (p.47-48) is a wonderful prayer as we begin any new week, and perhaps I can infuse and support these prayers on my new daven-port or couch, where I lay down my burdens, and rise up refreshed.
Blessed is the Source of Bliss who offers me a path to bliss. May this be a week for setting aside expectations and surrendering to the simple truth of what is, that I may find my way to what may be.

Blessed is the Source of Wisdom who offers me a path to wisdom. May this be a week for heeding the intuitive voice that whispers within. May I be open to what comes my way, trusting in Life and the One who manifests it.

Blessed is the Source of Understanding who offers me a path to understanding. May this be a week for cooling my desires and seeing things more objectively. May I seek first to understand and only then to be understood.

Blessed is the Source of Restraint who offers me a path to restraint. May this be a week for holding back and making room. May I uplift others and find in their success a bit of my own.

Blessed is the Source of Grace who offers me a path to grace. May this be a week for reaching out to help and reaching out to be helped, for offering love and opening to it when it is offered.

Blessed is the Source of Balance who offers me a path to balance. May this be a week of self-correction, listening to my needs and fulfilling them.

Blessed is the Source of Receptivity who offers me a path to receptivity. May this be a week for patience. May I resist the desire to change what is that I might first come to know what is.

Blessed is the Source of Victory who offers me a path to victory. May this be a week for overcoming obstacles, remembering that some walls need not be toppled, only walked around.

Blessed is the Source of Transformation who offers me a path to transformation. May this be a week for doing things differently. May I seek out new ways of encouraging mutual fulfillment, joy, purpose, and growth.

Blessed is the Source of Grounding who offers me a path to grounding. May this be a week for slowing down and settling in. May I attend to what needs doing and do it with fullness of body, mind, heart, and soul.
May we all be so blessed this week.

1 comment:

  1. I am not sure a davenport, even in Iowa, beats a love seat. On a davenport I miss that scrunched up feelings. Something about setting boundaries I think. Of course, on love seat or davenport, the key is to read upside down. Better than a jar of deluxe nuts for brain food.