meeting the nameless wild

I knew I needed to write here this morning, but I had nothing to say. So I looked outside the open door to see the weather - because I write about weather a lot here, don't I? That's because it's more to me than rain, sun, breezes.

I think it was Pope Francis who said that religion is a relationship - it is not really about the words, or the rules, but about coming together with God. (Or Gods, Goddess, ancestors, faeries, universal harmony, Love, life, as the case may be.) Some people do it with communion. Some with drumbeat and song. Some people kneel beside their beds every night, murmuring prayers they were taught as children. And some people stand in the misty, pearlescent poetry of wind with their arms open and their eyes shut.

Which is why I write a lot about the weather.

I am reading Robert Macfarlane's latest book, Landmarks, which is about lost names for nature. It's beautiful, of course. I am a devotee of his. But I find his wild and lovely names slipping from my heart. I guess this is because, although I passionately denounce the removal of words like dandelion, willow, acorn, from the dictionary in favour of blog, broadband, and celebrity - and although I grieve the shift in culture which leads dictionary-makers - I am not anxious about the loss of specificity in our language. Perhaps it's just because I am not a verbal thinker, myself. I have written before about this. With familiarity comes a loss of the spirit of loneliness, and of groping towards something that is at once precise and insubstantial ... For that matter, do we even have a term for the poignant, dream-inspired groping through silence? For the wish to pinpoint an exact word and yet the fear that we will, thereby turning magic into something mundane?

While I agree with Wendell Berry that, when we name something and become familiar with it, we love it and will fight for it, I also believe there is so much in this world that we reduce with our imperialistic naming. Don't give me a word for sodden shadows on a hillside one afternoon. Describe it like a song, like a touch along its soft and blurring edges. Shape it for me with your word-picture of its lush body, so that I know it, and feel it, and appreciate it as a unique individual, and not merely weather. Say the shadows eased down, ripe with rain-dreaming, to the hip of the hill, where they lay as if sleeping - a lover safely sleeping on his lover, and her breathing slow, gentle, so he does not wake - and all the shadows' dreaming suffused the grass, so that, walking it barefoot, you felt like you were treading through a cold, wet, torpid sky, an imagination of clouds.

Familiarity isn't really a matter of putting our word - or set of rules - on to something. It's about meeting it, experiencing it for the self it shows you, all the while being your own real soulhood, so that each meeting will result in a different description, whole new words, unique creeds, but that doesn't mean each one isn't true in itself.


  1. I love this post. And that first photo with the words written in the sky. Beautiful.

    Your words remind me of a quote I shared on my old "home hum" blog many years ago:
    "'Our people don't share the European mania for naming and categorizing,' he chided me. 'You think that just because you can give something a name you know something about it; but if I told you its name, what more would you know about it? Nothing essential about its nature, nothing important at all: just an artificial word some man has randomly attached to the creature that won't make it fly any better or produce more young. It is another form of colonialsim, this naming of our world.'"
    ~from The Salt Road, by Jane Johnson

    This passage brought to mind so many things for me about how I experience nature (especially bird watching), but also about people and what it means to know something. These days, we confuse information with knowledge. We think that our ever advancing technology has opened a treasure trove for us, but has it? Are we more understanding, more compassionate, more connected to life?

    Thank you for this post, Sarah.♥

  2. This! Yes. You have put beautiful words to what I have long felt.
    I have friends who diligently learn all the names of plants who simply can't understand my lack of need to know the names. I've never been able to explain how I feel that it is enough to enjoy them as they are, to simply let them BE. My soul is satisfied to wordlessly feast on the beauty around me without trying to add labels. There is much power in naming things. For the most part, that is not a power I need, or seek. The flip side is that I'm lousy at remembering people's name.

  3. Oh I do so agree Sarah. I prefer to think of the landscape in terms of poetry and how I react to it rather than in Latin terminology.

  4. I get this. As another non-verbal thinker I really do. And I agree with the description of naming our world as colonialism, to an extent. But I also love to shape my non-verbal thoughts into words. It calms me and helps me feel connected because most people would not understand if I were attempting to dance them a tree or an adventure (although a good many would, granted, it would take an awful long time : ) ). And for that don't we need names and labels as common ground? I am neither a collector nor a cataloguer (is that a name?) of things in the way an 'ologist might be, and I appreciate that a kingfisher does not know or care what we call her, and nor does my dog probably for in his head he is probably (in a Larson-esque way) Poo-Wearer, Hunter of All The Food and King of the Blackberry People. But I do like me some words when I'm describing magic : )

  5. Oh that book sounds lovely. I will look for it, in my library system.

    As always, your way with words, is stunning. Not 'stunning' like a flash of lightning. Stunning in their ability to paint word pictures. And of course, it is a Gift. And Art. Whatever one wants to call it. Not possessed by many. So therefore, rare.

    And what is rare, is of great value. Not in the coin of the realm valuable, although I wish it were so, for you. Valuable as a sunset is... Or as a spring flower is... Or as a sudden shower is.. Or a mist is...

    Thank you, yet again.

  6. yes, weather is a large part of life, living, survival of body and spirit.
    such a lovely post and wonderful things to consider. I am glad you write about weather, it touches deep inside me.