Friday, January 10, 2014

Running stitches across snow


Winter is a time for tracks. 

Journeys that in other seasons leave no record are imprinted beneath our feet merely by the act of walking. Boot prints and rabbit bounds, ski-slides and bird-whispers...all visible stories that catch the chilly light and long blue shadows of January.

“Stories, like paths, relate in two senses: they recount and they connect,” writes Robert Macfarlane in The Old Ways: A Journey on Foot.



“Our verb ‘to write’ at one point in its history referred specifically to track-making: the Old English writan meant ‘to incise runic letters in stone’; thus one would ‘write’ a line by drawing a sharp point over and into a surface—by harrowing a track.

As the pen rises from the page between words, so the walker’s feet rise and fall between paces, and as the deer continues to run as it bounds from the earth, and the dolphin continues to swim even as it leaps again and again from the sea, so writing and wayfaring are continuous activities, a running stitch, a persistence of the same seam or stream.”


“Paths and their markers have long worked on me like lures: drawing my sight up and on and over. The eye is enticed by a path, and the mind’s eye, also. The imagination cannot help but pursue a line in the land—onwards in space, but also backwards in time to the histories of a route and its previous followers. 


“As I walk paths I often wonder about their origins, the impulses that have led to their creation, the records they yield of customary journeys, and the secrets they keep of adventures, meetings and departures.”


Macfarlane is an exceptional prose stylist, master of a deep vocabulary with which to describe the landscape and its forms. While reading this wide-ranging book, I kept a pen at the ready to record (i.e., map) all the unfamiliar words I encountered. Schooled! 

(If these quotes entice you to read the book, note that there is a glossary at the end that defines most of these terms...discovered upon finishing the book.)


The Old Ways: An Idiosyncratic Map of Geographical Mystifcation:

Lochan, rinky, trods, desire lines, hodology, sublunary, biogeography, foil [track], corpse roads, leys, drongs, sarns, snickets, shieling, bison roads, grey wethers, sarsens, hoarstones, bostles, shutes, driftways, lichways, ridings, carneys, herepaths, bindle-skiffs, kist, scarp, gneiss, esculent, weald, corry, ortholith, cromack, alterity, geans, batholith, ling, schists, boustrophedon, massif, sintering, bathyspheric, hominin, panjandrum, stravaiger, frails [leaf], marly, corbelled, scurfed off, pachinko, chert, skip (noun), dabbing cloth, sedulous, lenticuler, albedo, chiasmic, hierophany, cursus, xenotopia, chrism, exigesis, vertex, oneiric, blebs, conduplicate, involute, dupel, glaucous, candle-blacking, coombe/combe, beech ahngers, atavism, phragmites, bodging, fissile, Lob, infaunal, marram, seracs.




Photos: Lake Nokomis, Minneapolis, MN

11 comments:

  1. I did not know the origins of the word WRITE...until now. But I do know the origins of words like SPELL, which you undoubtedly know is that of a formula of words that create magic; and perhaps you didn't know that GRAMMAR (a fairly old word) was from GRAMMARIE, the art of enchantments and spell-craft (or DWEOMERCRÆFT: there's one few people have heard), and from which the Scottish get their fabulous word GLAMOUR (which the US people would spell glamor), which is the faeries' ability to make one thing appear like something else—sounds like glamor to me!
    Thank you for the lovely photos. You always connect the mudane world with the ultra-mundane; it is a secret known to too few of us that they are one and the same anyway, and that it is only the gamour we place on our our eyes that makes us forget, and not See.

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    1. I love etymologies. As you may know, Tolkien was a philologist at Oxford, and used the word "dwimmer" in LOTR, as in, "dwimmer-crafty" and "In Dwimordene, in Lórien/Seldom have walked the feet of Men/
      Few mortal eyes have seen the light/That lies there ever, long and bright." Sincerely, Fellow Word Geek

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    2. I'm slightly upset at Tolkien because of his obviously dislike of Cockneys in making the trolls talk with the Cockney dialect, my favourite English dialect as it uses seemingly unrelated rhyme as similes for concepts they sound like ('pears' rhymes with 'stairs' 'hook' with 'look') and wonderful exclamations, like 'Stone the crows!'
      By the way, I wonder how many people have seen the woman behind the leaves in one of your photos. The leaves on the ground pic below your blog list and above the 'wild words', there is clearly a wood-woman partly seen in the sunbeams. I just saw her today for the first time.

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    3. *I* hadn't even noticed that, Reifyn. Is she looking to her right? Maybe she called me to take the photo, a Leaf Goddess.

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    4. To me, she looks like she's facing forward: of her face, you can only see her chin & mouth, which has a closed-mouth smile, then some of her form behind the leaves.

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  2. I loved reading this, and seeing your beautiful white world.

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    1. Snowy greetings from the northern hemisphere, Sarah! There is a breath-mint purity and "Euclidean geometry" (more Macfarlane) about it all...a diamond-edged sort of beauty.

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  3. Fascinating sounding book. I think I've seen it recommended here and there. Time to put it on my list! Hope you have survived the cold out there!!

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    1. The Wild Places is my favorite Macfarlane book thus far, but The Old Ways is excellent as well. Polar vortex was "purifying."

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  4. This is a gorgeous, lovely post, Carmine. I agree, I need to put this on my list as well. "...visible stories that catch the chilly light and long blue shadows of January." Just gives me shivers!! Reminds me of Mel's (Ms. Drafty Garret herself) Lost Girl Diaries Zine, based on "fire"-- she wrote something like... take your pen for a walk across the page... and it was the first time ever I'd made the correlation between paths and ink. And now this gorgeousness!

    Ah, it's lovely to be back here. I hope your holidays were gorgeous, and new year full of wonder!

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    1. Happy new year, Raquel! I hope the time away renewed you--it is lovely to have you back.

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