Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Naming and connecting with life: textscape

A few years ago, I was taking plant identification/botany courses at Columbia University. I don’t want to exaggerate the impact of these courses – because it was and wasn’t in particular these courses – but the ability to See and confidently to Name the living plants of all kinds in my immediate environment became an open door to an enriched kind of perception. Such learning changes the way one walks down the street or through the countryside. You See differently. Today’s New York Times Science section has an enlightening feature on “taxonomy” which makes a more eloquent argument than I can for the rewarding human experience of Seeing, Naming, and Categorizing. I am reminded of one of the most commanding insights that I had many years ago in my Ph.D. studies in reading the Spanish essayist, novelist, poet, and dramatist, Miguel de Unamuno – he asserted: Without the Word, There Is No Thing. There is a hard to grasp but powerful relationship between the Text (language) and the Landscape (our perception of the living entities around us). Hence my blog: textscape.
A plug to my plant identification/botany instructor at Columbia. (Who gave me a B-. Not that I’m still chafing under her tough grading.) Check out Jennifer Horn’s blog, New York, Plants & Other Stuff.