Monday, June 16, 2008

The Words for Honeysuckle

It is mid-June, and along with the foxgloves and campions and the froth of white cow parsley, there is honeysuckle everywhere. Its scent fills the lanes. Every morning walk I take is a feast for the nose as well as for the eyes.

The honeysuckle bloomed early this year. On the first day of the month I noticed it already in flower in several places. Excited by my discovery, I was looking forward to getting home and sharing the news.

A few moments later, I saw a pleasant-looking couple coming around the corner, striding briskly towards me in in their hiking boots, knapsacks on their backs, almost certainly heading for the Coast Path that runs along the clifftops close to here. They smiled as we drew close. And as is the custom in these parts, wished me a polite "Good morning". I responded in kind, adding eagerly that it was a lovely morning and "Look, the honeysuckle is already coming out, just up there."

The man and woman had not broken their stride till then, so were almost past me before they paused and the man said "I beg your pardon?"

I re-burbled my happy news item. At which they smiled again, albeit tentatively, nodded slightly and went on their way.

Only after I was well around the next corner did it dawn on me that they obviously had not understood a word. And only then did I connect that with the careful, phrase-book English of the "Good morning" and the "I beg your pardon?"

As I walked on, I began to think about how easily I could have conveyed the message about the honeysuckle in a just a few simple, wordless gestures: my hand as an unfolding flower, held to the nose, a sniff, an expression of delight, a finger pointing towards the hedge they were soon to pass. Clear. effortless. They would have understood perfectly and watched out, perhaps, for the sight and scent of those first flowers. It would have been a shared moment, a moment of relationship, bypassing the artificial boundaries of language.

It had never occurred to me not to use words. It rarely does. I am a writer. Each day of my life is crammed to the ceiling with words. So that morning's encounter reminded me that although words can build bridges of understanding to connect minds and hearts, they can also build walls of bafflement to separate them.

Watching a young mother whose child was crying so hard he could not tell her what the problem was, I heard her say "Use your words, Joe. Use your words." That wise young woman knew that only by learning to name his chaotic feelings would Joe ever be able to control and understand them.

But there are so many things - like the development of the ego itself - that once learned and mastered need then to be unlearned. Or at least labelled 'optional'. Our automatic turning to the use of words may possibly be one of them.

I hope that couple noticed the honeysuckle anyway, and stopped to smell it. Even if they never did connect it with my message in a foreign language.


Ted Marshall said...

Beautiful photograph, I can almost smell it myself.
Perhaps the couple did realise, after your words had sunk in. Perhaps after their trip the only non-standard English word they will have learned is 'honeysuckle'.

Anonymous said...

I love honeysuckle, Elderwoman. I don't see much of it here on the island but I'm sure there's some out there somewhere. How nice for you to devote a blog post to something so wonderful. I remember sucking the nectar out of the flowers as a child. Doesn't everyone do that?

julochka said...

what a wonderful post! i often think about words myself. language. translation. conveying meaning and whether it's truly ever possible... perhaps we should just all drink the scents of the world and not worry about words. however, i'm glad you shared yours.

shara said...

I am so very pleased to have stumbled upon your blog. honeysuckle, mountains, slowing down. like music, the words, the way you string them together, I love surprises like this! I searched for "don't do something, just sit there" because of a friend's email, and there you were, much to my delight.

One Woman's Journey - a journal being written from Woodhaven - her cottage in the woods. said...

Honeysuckle, it was one of the first plants I planted in my new garden.
Placed it at the base of a wooden
pole. Thoughts of it climbing and covering it.
Their aroma is delightful.
What interesting bloggers have commented on this post.
I have visited each one.

Cheryl said...

I have honeysuckly all over my garden....climbing arches, scrambling up trees, growing through the hedges. Its fragrance draws the moths into the garden at night.....and on a warm summers evening mixed with the scent of roses, it is wonderful.

Sharon J said...

We used to have honeysuckle in the garden but sadly it died. Next door have some though that's flowering its socks off at the moment and looks absoloutely stunning. I really must get some more.

Rain Trueax said...

I grew up in a farmhouse with honeysuckle outside the utility room door. I bought one to plant here at this farmhouse as soon as i could and it's appreciated every year when it starts to bloom. There is something so sweet about it between the beauty of the blooms and the fragrance.

joared said...

Language through gesture is quite fascinating, I think. We should all spend a set time period during which we communicate only non-verbally, just for the experience. Then, there is that game, Charades. Lovely photos.

LadyLuz said...

Hello Marian

yes, how true that we forget the power of non-verbal communication. I've had to remember this frequently here as I struggle to find the Spanish words when talking with neighbours. Hilarious at times and I've learned so much.

Anonymous said...

Greetings Marian--I found your blog via a dear friend of mine. I feel deeply connected to your wise woman words and am most grateful to have found you.
Many blessings--Rue