froverly

Walk down a busy street in a city new to you, alone, lonesome, and uncertain, and pass an open door in a stone arch. Walk in and see a broad and glowing floor, high daylight and low candles, silent streamers reaching into the heights, and a labyrinth marked on the floor for walking meditation. A spirit-soaked building embraces you, and with a turn of the prism loneliness is solitude and solace. You did not come for it, but you have comfort.

Navigate an art museum, paintings and people strung out from room to room in a converted Italianate mansion, and enter a long gallery with rows of chairs set up and down the middle. A concert is coming, but already the piano and violin are rehearsing an impressionist sonata to illuminate the Renaissance art. The music unreels in strands of colour, and a forgotten burden of stress you were carrying unravels.

Wander through a suburban neighbourhood, exploring on an empty day in a summer break, looking for anything to crack the concrete spell. Peregrinate along dusty boulevards where cars hiss past like flying pressure cookers, down streets of same-same mid-century side-split houses, then turn a corner and see – surrounded by it all, in a little dell, one block square – a pasture with a house: wooden rail fences, a few horses grazing the felt-green grass, and a clapboard country home at one side. You stop and spend some time watching this little glowing emerald, this sacred space. You haven’t come for it, but you have comfort.

It is froverly.

You may see a rover in this word, froverly, but don’t be overly drawn away by that. Not all who rove seek, and not all who seek rove. A place that is froverly need not be serendipitous, but the contrast and the surprise make the comforting spirit that much stronger. The shape of the word may make you think of frivolity, but what is froverly need not be frivolous – but need not not be frivolous either.

It is lovely for something to be froverly. Lovely? Loverly! And if loverly is like a lover, well, froverly is certainly like a frover. But what is a frover? A frover is a comforter, a means of comforting, or even the comfort itself. It has been given as a name to the Holy Spirit. And so what is froverly has a spirit of comfort, of calm and peace, an invisible hand that strokes your shoulder.

Does that sound like a made-up word? Just look in your Oxford English Dictionary. You will see that frover comes from old Germanic roots and was in the language in Old English times… though it has not been seen in print for seven centuries. Froverly is, of course, a straightforward derivation with the addition of the –ly that makes adjectives such as lovely and leisurely (as opposed to adverbs such as slowly and etymologically). It has been seen in print… here, for the first time, in 2018. Yes, you just turned a corner and discovered it, as though it had always been here. But froverly is a new old word. It’s nice to have it now.

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