Friday, February 28, 2014

Reading Feb. 27, 2014

From The Rural Life by Verlyn Klinkenborg, pp. 18-19, Little, Brown Co.

. . .I awoke recently with a deep taxonomic yearning, an urge to sort the trees in the forest by name. I've found, for instance, that on the east side of the house I live in there are two pignut hickories, enormous, stately trees. Beneath one of them grows a hemlock, a reminder that hemlock is highly tolerant of shade.
. . .
That's the kind of knowledge you carry into the woods when you first begin classifying -- the fundamental keys that allow you to cleave one tree from the mass and call it Fagus grandifolia or Betula papyrifera. Perplexing as the woods can be at times, there's an underlying order to them. Do the buds on a twig, or the twigs on a bough, grow opposite one another? Then it can't be an oak or a hickory. Do the buds alternate along the twig? Then it can't be a maple or an ash.
. . .
There's something appealing, especially on a gray winter afternoon, about learning such basic things. Walking through the woods with these keys in hand reminds me of the summer I learned the stars. Night after night I sat up into the early morning, sorting through the constellations and deciphering their movement through the sky. It wasn't enough knowledge to let me navigate the heavens, but it was enough to make me feel at home on Earth.

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