Archive for the ‘Words’ Category

Arenaria macrophylla

Arenaria macrophylla. I saw this little wildflower on our hike yesterday. Small clumps grew here and there next to rocks or Douglas firs. Green spiky leaves and those little white stars of flowers. Nothing flashy or unusual about it, just a little woodland wildflower. Unless you are a serious student of wildflowers and live in the western or northern United States, you have probably never heard even of it. Especially since its name has changed—I don’t know when—to Moehringia macrophylla. However, this little plant with the tiny white flowers will always be special to me.

 Back when I was a kid, every sophomore biology student in our class had to make a wildflower collection. Having looked forward to the process since my older brother took biology three years earlier, I happily spent the spring searching woods and fields for new flowers. My parents drove me to places like the Columbia Gorge and Mt. Hood to find different varieties, but my favorite place for exploration was the railroad right-of-way behind our home. I loved to wander the paths, listening to the birds singing and the breeze blowing through the maples and firs. Finding wildflowers just gave me another excuse to escape to the woods.

 I found many flowers there—two species of trilliums, Johnny jump-ups, spring beauties, candy stripes, piggyback plants, hazelnut, elderberry, and many more. Some I already knew; others I looked up in Helen Gilkey’s Handbook of Northwest Flowering Plants, the same book older brother had used. It was like a puzzle using the “analytical key” to narrow down a flower to one particular species. Were the petals joined or separate? How many stamens did it have? Was the corolla regular or irregular? (And no, I don’t remember what all the items in that list mean anymore.)

 When I noticed this tiny little white flower nestled up against a Douglas fir, I was especially intrigued. Having no idea what it was, I analyzed it carefully until I came, finally, down to genus and species: arenaria macrophylla. The book gave no common name. Arenaria macrophylla seemed a long name for a little plant, but I loved it—the first plant I knew only by its scientific name. Discovered practically in my backyard.

 I see arenaria macrophylla—excuse me, Moehringia macrophylla—from time to time when out hiking, and it always takes me back to my youth and the wonder of discovery, the joy that even a tiny white flower can bring.


Read Full Post »

Why Bushtits?

Bushtit byWill Elder, NPS

I can’t figure it out. I’ve been writing this blog since last August, writing about birds of many kinds, plants, clouds, the seasons, changes in our lives, and a few more odd subjects. And yet every time I check my stats to see which entries people are reading, the same title comes up: Bushtits. If it weren’t for bushtits, my traffic would drop to perhaps 1/3 of what it is now. (not that it’s spectacular now!) So what is it about bushtits? Are people so intrigued by those little gray birds that they are frantically searching the web for more information? Or is it something in the name bushtit that draws them? (I hope not, but I can’t help but wonder.) And yet when WordPress shows me the search terms used to find my site, often “bushtit bird” shows up, so maybe it really is those charming little avians.

Please, someone, if you have come here looking for bushtits, for bushtit birds, that is, drop me a comment to say why. I am really, really curious!

Read Full Post »

Word Meanings

Not long ago, I wrote about what early September means to me, here in the state of Oregon in the United States. A gentleman from Australia made the excellent point that September means something quite different to those in the Southern Hemisphere. Where I live, September is the start of autumn, as well as the beginning of the school year. However, to people in certain states, school begins in August. In Japan, my son tells me, the school year starts in April. And, of course, autumn begins at different times in different places. Not to mention those parts of the world where seasons change little, or perhaps change only in amount of rainfall, rather than in temperature. Although I don’t think of myself as particularly self-centered or ignorant, I can see that I totally missed all of the connotations that September might have—and still am missing many, I’m sure.

 This same gentleman, in an email loop to which we both belong, discussed the different pronunciations within the English language that can make a play on words in Australia meaningless to someone in a different English-speaking area. So, even when we supposedly speak the same language, words may sound quite different and mean quite different things.

 If a simple word like September can have so many different meanings, imagine how much the meaning of something like “freedom” or “religion” or “honor” might differ according to one’s country, beliefs, and upbringing. Add in different languages, and you have another layer of interpretation. No wonder there is so much misunderstanding in the world! We try to discuss something, assuming that we understand each other, but the words we say are not always the words the other person hears. And the words we hear back may not be intended in the way we take them. Perhaps the biblical advice that we be “quick to listen (and) slow to speak” (James 1:19) is much more practical than I ever realized!

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: