To Name the Wild Things

For me, connection to nature, to Mother Earth, to the Green Nation, to the wild things of our world, is vital to my creativity and my zest for list.  And the process of Naming, as Madeleine L’Engle called it, is a way that I connect deeply with the life around me.  For many years, it’s been about Naming the birds that come to my feeders, or that I see when I’m walking. It’s about learning to recognize the lazuli bunting or the the hoary redpoll that appear amidst the house sparrows and house finches.  But it’s also about Naming the one white and tan society finch, definitely someone’s escaped caged bird, that came to the feeders for a while this winter.  She’s our Little Runaway. The individual.  The specific one.  The one I grieved for when she probably didn’t make it through one of our cold spells and we didn’t see her anymore.

And then there are the endless bunnies.  Craig and I started naming them — Felix and Virginia, and then there was Milly, and then Chaz, Clarisse, and Leonard.  Could we really tell who was who?  No — that is, not until Leonard got one of his ears torn off, and then he became Lennie Lil’ Ear.  He stuck around all of last summer, and I rejoiced to see him, and grieved when he finally didn’t seem to in the land of the living anymore.

The Rose teaches the Little Prince to tame her.  Then she is no longer one rose among many, but The Rose.  First, the name:  she is a rose.  Then, the Naming:   she is The Rose.

This summer for me is about learning the wildflowers of this area.  I bought a couple guide books.  I mutter, “showy milkweed,” “cowboy’s delight,” “goldweed,” as I take my morning walks.  And I’ve started, patch by tiny patch, to seed our property with native wildflowers.  And as things grow and bloom, I’m coming to recognize them and I Name them and I love them:  the blanket flower that’s flourishing by our front walk, the sea of blue flax in the spring, the one native sunflower.

To know the names of all the life around me, to Name them, to love:  connection and joy.

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