èit: practice of putting quartz stones in moorland streams so that they would sparkle in moonlight and thereby attract salmon to them in the late summer and autumn (Gaelic, Isle of Lewis).How amazing is that? How long would it take to relearn that practice of placing quartz if we lost the knowledge of this term now? Are there even salmon still in the Isle of Lewis?
This makes me think about British Columbia, the salmon here, and all the vocabulary around hunting, fishing, and gathering contained in Indigenous languages. I wonder how much has been lost. I wonder what is still known.
Robert Macfarlane, in his book Landmarks, hopes that his European word lists about place "might offer a vocabulary which is 'convivial' as the philosopher Ivan Illich intended the word – meaning enriching of life, stimulating to the imagination and 'encouraging creative relations between people, and people and nature'.
"To celebrate the lexis of landscape in not nostalgic," Macfarlane writes, "but urgent."
'People exploit the what the have merely concluded to be of value, but they defend what they love,' he quotes American essayist and farmer Wendell Barry, 'and to defend what we love we need a particularizing language, for we love what we particularly know.'
My friend John just finished writing a novel set in California. He uses particular language. It shows love.
I feel so poor in language for the landscape around me. Coast. Kelp. Tide. Narrows. River. Island. How basic. Only recently did I begin to understand 'watershed'. As for 'doing in landscape' words, like èit, I can think of almost none. I wonder if this will change.