By Cheri Stringer
Almost every week, I take some of my time to explore the English language. I’m fascinated by its effect on our lives, especially words that describe nature and their interminable ability to recharge us, heal us, and ground us in beauty and peace.
In this search I was looking for words to describe and define the feeling I have when surrounded by nature that I had lost. As I explored, I stumbled across the book The Lost Words by Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris. The book discusses words which had been removed from the Oxford Junior Dictionary. The words had been removed because the publisher felt they were no longer a part of modern-day childhood. Words like bluebell, dandelion, bramble, otter, acorn, willow, and catkin had been replaced with words like chatroom, email, broadband, and voicemail. My immediate reaction was one of sadness for the loss of words to describe our experiences in nature.
In doing further research, I discovered another Macfarlane book, Landmarks, which is a collection of landscape related words and an ode to experiences we can only garner from mother nature. This work, dedicated to collecting terms about place, had thousands of words from across the globe. Almost all of the words related to land, nature, and weather. Below are some of the words that touched my heart and inspired me:
Arete: A sharp edged mountain ridge, often between two glacier carved canyons
Ammil: A term for the thin film of ice that lacquers all leaves, twigs, and grass blades when a freeze follows a partial thaw, and that in sunlight can cause a whole landscape to glitter
Shivelight: A word created by poet Gerard Manley Hopkins for the lances of sunshine that piece the canopy of a wood
Psithurism: The sound of the wind in the trees
Discovering these lost words led me to think about stewardship, how sharing our experiences big and small helps us to capture and retain the words to describe a sense of place. Each word we use has the power to describe our experiences in nature, restore it to the forefront of our minds, and pass it on to the next generation.
We all have experiences in nature that are unique to us, just like the feelings those experiences evoke. How would you describe the feeling given by seeing a simple mountain stream?