When Mary Queen of Scots escaped from the castle of Lochleven in 1568, she traveled south, letting her hopes travel an ill wind towards England. She rode for sixty miles before resting, later writing that she had "been three nights like the owls".
This phrase has stayed with me for days. Mary's evocative words clung to me, finding life even after centuries have passed and the tragedy of their mistress has dimmed into near myth. The words are clear, easily understood; she has communicated to us that she and her doomed followers had to flee: silently and by night. But her words are also deep, like a forest tempting me to venture further into the meanings that grow there; to experience other emotions I might find as they cool my cheek, to take her metaphor and spur it in a different direction, smelling the good, rich words I discover as they brush against me like inquisitive branches.
"Evocative" is one of my favorite words. If I could see it, I would see a shadowy face staring through a veil, pitted with embroidery. Its eyes are furtive: darting, dancing and daring. I don't doubt their realism – I know the sweep of line, the arch shadowing from above – but their meaning is an iceberg of significance that avoids me; I am tempted me to look deeper, to learn more, to envision it all.
An evocative word or phrase moves you; it makes you think. The surface definition is plain – but you must advance into the heart of its imagery, into the heart of the speaker, in order to obtain enlightenment.
Now, I know that Mary crossed the border into England, was apprehended once more and then beheaded 19 years later. But I also know that for three nights she flew low, the wind cold and laden with drops lifted from the North Sea, cutting into her famous white skin. I know that she hid amongst the trees, and searched for her food amongst the crofters and peasants of the Lowlands. I am able to see all of these things because her words dropped the crumbs before me, urging me to follow.