Sun-Catcher, Yellow-Wobbler, Golden-Fairy, Five-Golds, Noddy-Shinehead, Custard-Crown, Goldie-Bowl
Kennings (from Old Norse) - poetic phrases used in addition to the usual name of a thing.
Find something, then write as many ways of describing it with new names, then share and see who can guess what it is.
It’s fun, if you’re five, fifteen or fifty. Creative experiments. And a way to connect with things. Noticing, considering and wondering at them.
This thing was a buttercup, and these are my Kennings.
Now try writing a Kenning for a word like ‘email’ or ‘attachment’, or ‘spreadsheet’….
Over at The Wild Network, Director Mark Sears has been championing a response to the recent decision by the Oxford Junior Dictionary (OJD) to drop nearly 50 nature words from the latest edition. Buttercup was one of them, as was acorn, ivy, willow, bluebell, beech, kingfisher, dandelion, nectar, heather and a load more.
Making way for new words like ‘attachment, email, broadband, blog, bullet-point, celebrity, chatroom, committee, cut and paste, spreadsheet and voice-mail’.
According to a former head of OJD, these words were dropped because…
“The dictionary needs to reflect the consensus experience of modern day childhood - these are words no longer felt to be relevant to modern childhood…..in older versions of the dictionary many children lived in semi rural environments and saw the seasons. Nowadays the environment has changed”
Robert Macfarlane whose awesome new book ‘Landmarks’ was in part inspired by these changes says…
“There is a realism to her response but also an alarming acceptance of the idea that children might no longer see seasons, or that the rural environment might be so unproblematically disposable.”
“The substitution made in the dictionary - the outdoor and the natural being displaced by the indoor and the virtual are a small but significant symptom of the simulated life we increasingly live.”
‘Simulated life’ - that sort of nails it for me.
The increasingly mechanistic and technological way of life vs the organic, emergent, spontaneous and more creative ways of nature.
The Wild Network’s response is not a pop at the OJD. It’s about speaking up from the heart.
“Sentiment without action is the ruin of the soul” : Edward Abbey said.
But perhaps the best thing anyone can do who cares about this stuff is to keep these names alive.
And that means spending time outside. Becoming interested in the more than human world.
Because if you don’t know something you don’t care for it and you certainly don’t love it
And we can’t know what we can’t name.
We’re living in a moment in time where there has never been more urgency for humans to fall back in love with the natural world.
The whole earth community.
To know it intimately, through experience. Not simulation.
Ironically in the pursuit of 'bettering' the lives of the human community.
Doubly ironic is that technology is helping us to monitor all this destruction.
Bonkers isn’t it ?
The more we increase our technological capacity the more we need to increase our awareness and capacity to engage with all life.
To boost our spiritual capacity. Our love for life.
What if we made habitual practice to get off email and spreadsheets, to turn the internet off, and actively said ‘enough now' ?
If we unplugged, went outside and looked up more regularly, what might happen? I reckon profound things could happen from small behaviour hacks into our tech saturated lives.
Random acts of everyday wildness. Daily doses of wild time.
Richard Louv’s ‘Nature Principle’ work suggests that the more technology we have in our lives, the more nature we need.
He’s championing ‘nature rich’ lives.
'Hi-tech and Hi-nature.'
Perhaps the issue therefore is not about substituting one word for another, screens for the outdoors or the internet for the woods…
But about integration and balance.
Technology and nature co-existing.
A deeper more respectful relationship.
Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh said in a talk he did for Google that ‘the horse is technology’
“The horse is supposed to carry us to a good destination, as is technology. But, so far, technology has mostly helped us to runaway from ourselves at the cost of our own life and happiness, and the happiness of our beloved ones and the beauty of Mother Earth.”
We need to start getting off our tech horses more often, or we risk missing so much and losing out on the real gift of life happening right now.
And avoid trashing it for future generations.
Interestingly the new Apple watch appears in some part to be a response to our tech-fatigue, according to their design team…
” Your phone is ruining your life. Like the rest of everyone at Apple we are subject to the tyranny of the buzz — the constant checking, the long list of nagging notifications. “We’re so connected, kind of ever-presently, with technology now “
I’m glad the smart Apple folks think that, that’s a very strong signal that things have definitely gone mental.
But it also sits uncomfortably with me - that we need more, even smarter technology to help us medicate our technology addictions.
To keep extracting massive amounts of finite precious metals and materials from the earth.
To continue to use vast amounts of resources and energy to turn them into ‘consumer products.’
To spend more money we don't have on more tech, this time to wear on our wrists, next time to strap somewhere else.
All of this to help us manage our 'technology obesity' crisis.
Maybe we could just turn off the internet, unplug and go outside more often.
Maybe we could put away our smartphones when we’re sitting outside and look up.
Maybe we could even acknowledge each other. Like in real life.
Maybe we could not put our phones on the table when we eat together.
Maybe we could walk down the street once in while without headphones on.
And really listen.
Maybe we could make it easier for our kids to play outside by going out and playing with them.
Maybe we could substitute 10 mins of daily internet distraction with 10 mins listening to the birds.
Maybe we could lie on our backs and look at the sky or sit silently under a tree. With Spring bursting through, there is no better time to re-wild than now.
Maybe we don’t need technology to help us do these things.
Then again, maybe we do.
Technologies that function in deeper and more respectful relations with the earth.
Now there's a creative challenge.