The Names of Things

A friend and I were enjoying lovely sunny afternoon in Austin strolling a riverfront trail. On the trail were runners, cyclists and dog walkers. The cedars and a rinse of morning rain gave the air a clean fresh smell. My friend and I stopped at a mulberry tree and sampled some berries while we shared childhood memories of eating mulberries. Further along the trail, we watched as a small lizard at the edge of trail slowly ate a meal of insects. We took photos of the turtles sunning themselves on logs that jutted out of the river.
As we walked we sudden caught a sweet smell in the air and immediately looked for the source; lilacs. But as we looked closer, these lilacs were not the kind that I knew, as they had yellow berries. In the shallows of the river we saw plants that had a platter sized, almost spade shaped, leaf. It was very unusual and I told my friend that I was frustrated at not knowing the name of it. In my mind it was more descriptive to say, “I saw gardenia and plumeria” rather than say “I saw a white flower and a pink flower.” But my friend disagreed and said that since she didn’t know what gardenia or plumeria looked like, so a white flower and a pink flower were more descriptive to her.
When I thought about it later I realized our walk was like going to a party where I don’t know anyone. Just because I go to a party and  see an Asian woman, a black guy and a blonde white guy  I  still don’t feel any connection to the people and the environment around me. It’s just me in my  own little world. If I talk to the Asian woman I learn that her name is Ann and she is from Atlanta. The black guy  is Joe and he’s from Toronto. The blonde white guy is from the north side of town. Even if I don’t see these people again, I feel a better connected to where I am, at that moment, because I now know just that little bit more about the people around me.
So after a little research, when I walk along the riverfront I can look forward to seeing something familiar and calling it by name. The tree with fragrant pale lavender flowers and yellow berries say, “There’s the Persian lilac.” Or the plant in the water with platter sized leaves, “That’s the lotus flower.”
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~ by wordsbykatherine on August 17, 2010.

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