I have spent two days underground, exploring the newly unearthed canal beneath the house. August has brought many storms to Brooklyn, and this past week we had some earth-shattering thunder-bashings. Literally earth-shattering, considering that the lightening and thunder knocked loose a wall of the catacombs and instead of packed mud and earth, I saw an opening. I cleared away the debris to discover a canal, running east/west, through a tunnel-like cavern.

Bubo and I spent much of yesterday in the grotto, as we’ve taken to calling it. The temperature is a good bit cooler within the grotto, and the humidity feels high. I will be testing it later today with some instruments specifically made for that.

This morning, I took my coffee into the grotto. From clearing away the wall in the catacombs, I’ve managed to create a sitting area overlooking the canal. I sipped my coffee and watched the water tumble past. It’s surprisingly light and clear down there, leading me to believe that there are clearings in the tunnel roof and walls allowing sunlight to pour in. Unless, perhaps, this is not an abandoned waterway at all, and there are lights lining the walls. I’ve not explored very far, yet. I’m still taking readings of pH levels of the water. The fact that it smells like beef stew after 6 pm is fascinating. And makes me wonder if the canal is in fact filled with beef stew and not pure Brooklyn water. So many questions to answer!

This discovery leads me to today’s word.

Selcouth is an adjective meaning unusual, strange, rare, uncommon or wonderful. It is from the Middle English, in turn from the Old English selcūþ, seldcūþ“unusual, unwonted, little known, unfamiliar, novel, rare” – which, in turn, are from seld + cūþ (known).

This grotto, this canal, are certainly selcouth, wouldn’t you say? Could it lead me into the Paerdegat Basin? Is it made of beef stew? Is it still used as a secret waterway? Does it meander through the entire Atlantic Coast, or is it Brooklyn-specific?

I’m putting the finishing touches on an exploration boat – think Dr. Livingstone meets Cleopatra’s barge – to fully explore with Bubo. Would you join me? It promises to be a selcouth journey.

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