In Germany, if one of these fellow travellers crosses your path, it’s a witch and you’re done for. In England, you salute them, to avoid bad luck. Here in the land of the wild cherry and the mock orange? Well, look…
A Friend Aloft, or …
… to dig down into the Old Norse and Anglo Saxon roots of English, a favoured one in the sky. Intriguing that the words for the physical world sound a lot like poetry.
English gets spoken a lot around these parts. It is a strange language, made out of a few ancient magical ones like Old Norse and Anglo Saxon, with layers of French and Latin hammered on. The result is a kind of parliament on our tongues. It’s no accident that parliamentary traditions began in Iceland and Britain. The language made sure of that.
Two Levels of Language Meet, Vernon
They look good together, I think.
In the quest of finding words for this land, I think it’s best to remember that English speakers know more than they think. They think in French, but they see the world in Norse and Anglo Saxon. Our friend the magpie, for instance, is not a thing in that part of English that human bodies experience. There, he is an action. The word I’ve used for him, a friend, doesn’t describe him by his colour, shape or scientific nomenclature (Pica hudsonia), but by his movement and by the movement of feelings I give to him. The action is love. Why not? He follows me in unending curiosity and grace through the grass, and so in my heart I’ve set him apart, made him sacred, and have protected him with a bond of freondscip, as our language would say in an Anglo Saxon moment. This isn’t history. It’s a living thing. It’s tenuous, fragile, unmeasurable, and yet remarkably powerful. It’s also the way that English works as a language. Yes, English is a language of freondscip. Good to know.
Magpie Watching Me Through a Screen of History
In the language of the land, this Chinese weeping willow is a newcomer, the way latin and french are newcomers. This moment we live in allows for them to exist together and create new relationships. This coming together is also a form of freondscip.
Our words are even deeper than this. In another ancient sense of a friend, for example, this magpie is free. He lives in friðu, or peace, a shifting place that moves with the attention, just as he does, just like the wind. We all know this language that shifts between action and being, human and earth, in a chain of relationships and obligations and careful attention.
Magpie in a Land of Weeds…
…proving that tumbleweeds are useful for more than spaghetti westerns.
In this sense, the magpie at the opening of these musings lifts up, a word drawn from the force of a wind cresting a headland above the sea, a specific energy of the universe called lift, that has been recognized as a part of this creature’s movements.
Icelandic Golfers Dealing with a Bit of Lift
Oh, just a country churchyard south of Keflavik on a Sunday. Many a skip has broken up on the billows out there. In some fjords, 9 holes of golf in Iceland are listed as par 75. Bracing!
The language is even deeper yet. Our magpie has caught the wind on his feathers. His feathers. Yes. Wings are a newer word, drawn from the extensions of a church into the arms of a cross. They describe a shape. That’s beautiful, and wings are beautiful, but feathers, ah, those are an action again, a force that has become a thing. To feather the lift is to leave the ieorðe, which our anglo saxon ancestors remind us means “the planet we live on,” the earth. A twittering creature, a brid (breet! breet!), a bird aloft has left this “planet we live on” and is in the lift. It is aloft. This is magic. It is also the inter relational space that science seeks when it speaks of how the nature of the form of measurement determines the thing being measured.
Fences Measure the Land and Sift Humans Out of It
Magpies, though, see a great perch. They flit, or fly, down onto it, and catch the lift again to leave. Fences are for humans.
This inter relational world of interdependent ecosystems and observational strategies that drove the German poet Goethe to distraction, caused him to refute Newton at length, and which is being rediscovered today in hundreds of ecological studies programs, has always been here. It has only been forgotten for awhile, and not by our bodies, either.
What the Magpie Couldn’t Care Less About But Human Bodies Long to Get Through
A public good, fruit, on an unownable place, this planet we live on, is segregated according to social relationships. If there is the freedom of friendship here, it comes at a price, but then, if you pay for it, is that freedom? I think we need to work this out a bit, especially considering that orchards like this are going broke.
Scientists are not discovering the nature of relativity out in the world. They are discovering it in language. The rest of us are on the same path. How could we not be, as creatures all sharing this same moment on the earth? And as for the language, well, we already know everything that they’re going to find.
Magpie Re-entering Earth
As a photograph, well, an out-take, but I’m not likely to get a better one, so I’m celebrating it.
Tomorrow: these musing lead into the relationship (or not) between grapes (and wine) and choke cherries. Mmm.