Waking up early has its perks, I’m finding, and this morning’s ramble will hopefully inspire me to rise early another day. The spring woods glow in the early morning light. Here and there, fresh green fronds shiver above their bed of last year’s leaves. Blueberries — I think, summer will confirm — raise their fairy-bell flowers to charm a passing pollinator. Oak saplings dangle fuzzy tangles of leaf and stem.
Now’s about the time of year when the magnolias blast open their pink buds, and people flock to cherry blossom festivals to fuss over those blushing beauties. Every newborn thing here in my woods is infused with a rarer rosy hue. Each velvety leaf shades to red by the faintest of blends. Trees that appear frothy with blooms from a distance turn out to be festooned with fresh foliage.
You’ll have to forgive me. I seem to be channeling my inner rhapsodic gardening columnist. But I’ve never been in the woods at the right time to see this before. I suppose I can let them speak for themselves.
I have always been compelled to know the names for things I find. That plant, that fruit, that color – what is it? I want to file all these details and observations in the right drawer, labeled so I can open the “chokeberry” folder at will and riffle through everything I’ve learned from the plant, go back to the time I first recognized it in real life. And, vice versa, an unfamiliar name in a book is a tantalizing hint that there are new things waiting to be seen. Few things are more satisfying to me than pinning an unattached appellation I’ve been saving since that 2007 magazine article to its subject in real life. I have a lot of those floating around. I’m dying to hang them on some handle in my woods.
Names imply intimacy. I want to know everything I can about my home. Who and what it’s filled with. How all the trees and bushes and wild creatures live and grow through the seasons. Learning a name for something I met in its first hours, at 6 o’clock on a fresh May morning, christens my relationship to it. The name makes me responsible for it, in a way.
So which name belongs to these? Highbush blueberry? Huckleberry? Fetterbush, maleberry? That’s one of my projects for the year, to identify all my neighborhood plants. So I’ll be formally introduced soon enough. I hope the names will unlock more details, and reveal more secrets. And I hope that, come November, fall’s scarlet leaves will carry me back to a spring morning when they first blushed in the sunshine, the day I learned their names.