Gathering Acorns, Hoarding Words

by Catherine Young Issue: Spring/Summer 2019

...there had been a culling of words concerning nature. Under pressure, Oxford University Press revealed a list of the entries it no longer felt to be relevant to a modern-day childhood. The deletions included acorn, adder, ash, beech, bluebell, buttercup, catkin, conker, cowslip, cygnet, dandelion, fern, hazel, heather, heron, ivy, kingfisher, lark, mistletoe, nectar, newt, otter, pasture and willow.

                 —from Robert MacFarlane's "The Word Hoard" in Landmarks

I

 

If children do not know willow,

how will they know the scent

of spearmint, or peppermint in cold spring streams,

or how water flow is shaped 

by willow root? And if 

they do not hear the word catkin,

how will they hear the bees

as they forage for nectar in willow flowers,

in hazel shrubs, birch trees. If children 

do not know acorn,

how will they play in fall

with the scaly cupule of nut on a finger for a hat,

or plant oak trees

that will outlive them?

 

And dandelion – when will they learn

the yellow of a Helianthus mirror of sun, 

or May crowns, or magnificently silken

parachutes – 

How might each successive generation

take life lessons to follow wind

and dreams; find open spaces

in which to land and grow?

 

II

 

Fern in wood;

heron, lark, kingfisher, in river, sky, sea;

otter in stream and ocean; cygnet in reeds,

and all that dwell beside and among us:

humankind over millennia has held the world together 

with words, a continuous thread woven through hymns and sagas, 

echoed across fjords and geyser fields, pastures and yards.

Let us, for all the children, chant your names,

call to your being –

We hold you remembered,

recognized,

real. 



Catherine Young

Catherine Young has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and Best American Essays. After working as a national park ranger, farmer, and mother, she completed her MFA in Creative Writing at the University of British Columbia. Her poetry and prose is published in journals nationally and internationally and appear most recently in Camas, Passager, River Heron, and Ascent. Rooted in farm life, Catherine lives with her family in Wisconsin’s Driftless bioregion. Her writings and podcasts are available at http://catherineyoungwriter.weebly.com/.