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a forest of things

December 19, 2009

Landscapes IV © Levi van Veluw

Reading over at The Sister Project, I came across something I knew the practice of, but never the name: commonplace book, a place to collect poems, quotes, lists, anything you don’t want to forget. Wikipedia calls them “scrapbooks filled with items of every kind: medical recipes, quotes, letters, poems, tables of weights and measures, proverbs, prayers, legal formulas. Commonplaces were used by readers, writers, students, and humanists as an aid for remembering useful concepts or facts they had learned. Each commonplace book was unique to its creator’s particular interests.”

The Polish called their version, in Latin, Silva rerum, a forest of things. Since we’re big tree fans around here, this name suits me better. There is not much gardening going on in these northern latitudes but there is a plenty to look at, think over, talk about, and remember. To help make sense of the 40-odd tabs open in 4 different Firefox windows on this laptop, here’s my December forest of things.

Sibley has written a guide to trees! I’m hoping to find it and that it will help finally reveal the identity of the mystery tree, among so many others in the hills I’d like proper introductions to.
Thanks to Dry Stone Garden for letting us know about it.

I’ll also be reading two new tree blogs I found,Exploring the World of Trees, and Trees & Forests.

It’s time to order my choices from the NARGS seed exchange!

Go on a “romp through the kingdom of fungi” in video with Cornell’s very funny and wise Kathie Hodge. Then check out her excellent Cornell Mushroom Blog. Never was mycology so fun.

Nan at Gardening Gone Wild is building an omnibus of ideas for how to get more fun out of your garden blog in the GWW Garden Blogger’s Idea Gallery. And there I think I’ve found the meme for me: Gardening Oops Day–GOOPS for short. Who doesn’t need to come clean once in a while?

Next to last, a very funny Roy Blount, Jr. article over at Garden & Gun on lawn ornaments (and dogs). Don’t know Garden & Gun yet? You haven’t lived. Seen while taking in Christmas lawn decor over at Grow Where You’re Planted.

Coming full circle, last weekend at Ithaca’s artist’s market, I got to see my friend Jenny Pope, and her print of the hummingbird migration myth reminded me of a poem that stuck with me from the Sister Project story.

© Jenny Pope

Wild Geese

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting–
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

© Mary Oliver

17 Comments leave one →
  1. December 19, 2009 10:53 pm

    Thanks for the GOOPs shout out. Looking forward to reading one of your gardening oops on January 1.

    • December 19, 2009 10:55 pm

      My pleasure, Joene. Since I’ll be on a plane on New Year’s day, I’ll need to plan this in advance. hmm…

  2. December 20, 2009 2:34 am

    i like your forest of things, especially the mary oliver poem and how it complements jenny’s print. how fitting that it also complements our recent conversation :)

    don’t forget to give a shout out to jenny’s website, JPOP Studios:

    i think a print of hers is coming home with us after we see her in florida…!

    • December 20, 2009 10:46 am

      I thought the same thing about those wild geese :) That I did not put a link from Jenny’s name (only from the image) was one of the things that kept me awake last night. That, and that I did not put the beans out to soak. You can get out of bed on a cold night for only so many things ;) Cool you’ll see her in FL!

  3. Barbara Nogales permalink
    December 20, 2009 9:07 am

    ….a forest of things. I like that. I need to come up with my own little “bosque” for all of the little treasures I find such as your ….forest of things.

    • December 20, 2009 10:47 am

      un bosque de cosas. Me gusta mucho. Thanks for the sweet note, Barb :)

  4. Kylie permalink
    December 20, 2009 10:49 pm

    Wonderful. I just love this post. It’s what the inside of my mind looks like. Lots of little wonderful things percolating away in there. I love that you managed to capture it so beautifully with the “bosque de cosas.” I’ve always kept notebooks like that but never gave them their due as they tend to get ratty and forlorn about half way through being filled. I’ll be up in Ithaca in a week-but it sounds like you’ll be off somewhere. Where goest thou?

  5. December 21, 2009 11:05 am

    Thank you for all my new tabs, a new name for my book of random quotelets (I might have to go French though – foret de choses?) and for ‘Wild Geese’. I used to have a broadside of that poem (from Black Oak Books in Berkeley!) but lost it so many moves ago. Makes me all kinds of wistful to read it again… And I’m adding that hummingbird print to my list of Desperately Wants.

    • December 21, 2009 12:28 pm

      My pleasure :) Forests of things are multilingual for certain! & thanks for the new meaning of “broadside.” Makes me want to make some. Check out this notebook feature if you want to try an online forest of poetry:, and check out Jenny Pope on FB (I’m a fan)–she posts her art show whereabouts. I believe there was one in Boston not too far back. Hope some of those Desperately Wants make it under your Christmas tree!

  6. December 22, 2009 12:19 am

    Silva rerum! What genius…I, too, think I prefer the idea of a forest of things to that of commonplace, but whatever we all choose to call our nets to catch the bits of beauty that speak to us, I love your version, as expressed on this lovely blog. So happy to have found it and you, and can’t wait to come back…

    • December 22, 2009 12:44 am

      Welcome, Paige! And thank you for your inspiration. We love the Sister Project over here.

  7. December 29, 2009 9:06 am

    I’m going straight away to hunt up a journal to write down my forest of things! Thanks for sharing a great idea.
    I’ll also check out Nan’s GOOPS idea. I like it!
    Thanks also for the references on trees. I’ve spent many an hour fruitlessly searching for an ID on a particular tree.
    So hummingbirds don’t really hitch a ride on the backs of geese, eh? ;)
    Love the poster.
    Thanks for stopping by and saying hi. There’s another anemone bud preparing to open within the next few days. I’m so glad I brought the pot inside.
    Winter is in full swing outside today. I wonder if you have these same strong arctic winds down in Ithaca. Hope not.

    • December 29, 2009 10:01 am

      Glad it was inspiring, Kerri :) My honey got me the tree book, and I’m already trying it out–good stuff! We’re out in Colorado, so there are different arctic winds and a lot more sunshine than upstate NY. Hope you’re staying warm & comfy inside with your gorgeous flowers!

  8. December 31, 2009 2:04 pm

    Thanks for the mention. I hope the book works for you. I know that feeling of having a mystery tree or plant that you want to identify. It can be pretty frustrating.

    • January 2, 2010 5:31 pm

      Hi Ryan, and thanks. I read a good deal of it in the days after it appeared under the Christmas tree. Now I know what Junipers I was looking at. Wish I’d had it on the ski lift to ID the conifers in the Rockies. Happy New Year and new trees!

  9. January 3, 2010 7:16 pm

    i think that might just be where i have been the last few days
    in my own forest of things
    collecting, organizing and preparing
    to plant the new seeds
    watch them grow
    Happy New Year

    • January 4, 2010 12:52 pm

      Happy New Year, Margie. Looking forward to planting and watching what grows this year.

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