Friday, August 25, 2006

The Memory of Unnamed Things

An evening walk in late summer is a lovely thing. The heat of mid-summer is past, though still strong enough a memory to make me appreciate an evening cool enough for comfort.
More changes, another shift in what I see around me and in the woods is underway, though the move towards fall is still a slow one. Nonetheless, the transition is inexorable, and each new day brings new changes.

Last night I saw common nighthawks, an early migrant. I was walking around the new pond, the light already dull with the gray of a cloudy evening, when I saw a shape I haven’t seen for a year. Several birds flew low and close past the pond, somewhat falcon-ish with their pointy wings, but far slimmer.

Nighthawks! The shape of them triggered the word in my thoughts, an automatic response without my conscious search or even a known desire to put a name to the shape. And with the word came pictures of other nighthawks, other sightings, better sightings where the light was bright and every detail could be seen. It was a joy to see them again, and I felt surprise at how effortlessly the word came to me, seemingly without my volition. It’s been nearly a year since I’ve seen nighthawks, or even thought of them, and still the word was right there, ready to be placed with the shape.

And yet, this morning, I can still picture the birds as they flew past me, unnamed, in that moment before the name burst inside me. Something magical is lost with the naming of things. Beauty lives in an unnamed moment, as surely as memory creates its own. But memory’s beauty is different than the beauty of unnamed things that sweep by like nighthawks in an evening sky.

1 comment:

Kati said...

Hummm, what is it, possibly that naming things helps us deal with the poignant aspects of beauty, delaying the inevitable ephemeral nature of all things, named or not?