Trees, Shrubs, and Wildflowers of So On and So Forth

I bought two field guides yesterday.

I had a problem with music that was particular to me, rather than particular to the field. I learned about music but had time for little else. I even neglected casual listening. When everything is purposeful, actions become surprisingly empty. That problem might also be particular to me but I’m less certain than of the former.

One of the guides was A Field Guide to Trees and Shrubs: Northeastern and North-central United States to Southeastern and South-central Canada. The other, A Field Guide to Wildflowers: Northeastern … etc.

There are people who learn about the world through music. I was never one of those people. If it wasn’t pretty immediately technical, I didn’t bother.

I read a book recently about writing. The author said he rarely looks for bigger, more creative words. Just learn the names for things.

There are an extraordinary number of names for my sightline from a bench in a park.

Park and synonyms. Tree and synonyms. Technical names for the tree. Leaf and bark and branch and root and synonyms and technical names. Zoom in little by little with a microscope, back out to the wider scene, and in again with a different focus. Thousands of names and the list grows with snippets of knowledge about the physical world. Still more, with knowledge of the political or spiritual world.

Pundits talk about industrial towns and coal miners as much now as ever. George Orwell spent weeks in mining towns of Northern England, living with miners and descending into pits in which people died from explosions, black lung, and collapsing roofs. Tom Friedman probably didn’t.

Joan Didion writes about her obsessions; water, El Salvador, mundane history of the state of California, chemical compound names. I don’t have a dictionary or thesaurus (though I probably should). I do have an atlas. And now I have field guides to trees, shrubs, and wildflowers of Northeastern and North-central America and Southeastern and South-central Canada.