Do you see what I see?

Word Count: 382                   Reading time: 1-2 minutes 

In an interview for Writers Almanac, Marge Piercy explained her recommendation that the best gifts for writers are field guides to rocks, stars, birds, amphibians, and wildflowers:

Imagery comes directly out of your own core. It comes from how you perceive the world, how carefully you look and listen, how well you remember, how your mind works. What we have to draw on is largely dependent on how much attention we've paid to what's within and outside of us. Learning to pay attention: looking at shades of green. Not all trees are green, and even those that are differ wildly. How many birds can you identify? In other words, how many times have you looked carefully at a bird? Can you tell by the weeds and wildflowers growing in a meadow if it is dry or wet, good soil or scanty, sweet or acid? How does the bark of a beech differ from the bark of an elm? The bark of a black cherry? The bark of a Scotch pine from that of a pitch pine?

As I leave Salt Spring Island after a week’s visit, I can say that I’ve observed a lot. However if I told you I could pick the difference between the trunk of a birch and that of a poplar, I’d be lying. Throw an alder in the mix and I’m more confused than ever. Still, I’m curious and this is good according to Piercy who added:

The wider your curiosity ranges, the more interesting metaphors will rise. Memory and observation can be trained to precision and retention.

In the past week I have learned that of the three species of blackberry here, only the Rubus Ursinus (Native Trailing Blackberry) belongs. The other two (Himalayan / Armenian and Cutleaf) are highly invasive. I can also name the tiny dragonfly that hovered over the lily pads as we swam in Stowell Lake (blue dasher). That’s modest progress.

Piercy encourages writers to broaden their general knowledge. So now I’m going to try to identify the gold-banded spiders that just spent twenty minutes mating outside my window (watch the video here). If I don’t surface for a day or so, please unplug my modem.

What quirk of nature has intrigued you recently? Where has that taken you with your writing?