Fellow blogger, Traci York of www.traciyork.com, spotted the anniversary even before WordPress sent me a notification. Four years ago, I started this WordPress blog on the back of an amazing opportunity to travel and learn and write at Lumb Bank, Yorkshire and in Manchester. I was travelling with a company of strangers cum creative colleagues and tutors; the whole travel package was courtesy of Cavan Arts Office and the Cavan Office for Social Inclusion through EU funding programmes. (If anyone bad mouths EU funding projects, I passionately defend them because this one certainly renewed the lease on my creative life and mental health. ) Living in a remote rural area I had had a few of my own creative wilderness years. That trip and blog changed everything. So was born Sojourning Smith, sometime tour guide, writer and creative writing tutor. Exploring the world one word at a time. For within a word, there is a whole world. And some are being lost. You might think it odd then that the title for this anniversary issue is Lost Worlds, when what happened for me personally was a world regained.
A couple years back I was reading the weekend Review in The Guardian. The article reeled off a list of words that had been deleted from the Oxford English Junior Dictionary. Having been brought up as a seven year old who had to lug her Junior Dictionary home every night to do her homework, I have a certain fond attachment (and a slight stoop to my left shoulder) to all lexicons. So did Emily Dickinson, who became my woman poet shero when I discovered her in the stacks of the Berwick Public Library when I was eleven years old.
Despite my bookishness and lack of sporty outdoorsy panache, I am passionate about nature and the environment. In that article I was appalled that all the words being trashed from the Junior OED related to the nature. This was my response at the time.
Glossing the Junior Dictionary
Outside my window words like atoms dance.
Outside are living things defined,
by Oxford University Press no less,
expunged as being
“irrelevant to modern childhood.”
I look out and the pasture disappears,
buttercups supping underneath the melting snow.
The willow catkins tickling a bee’s chin
Never will arrive this spring, nor their nectar.
What use the fun of conker, of acorn?
Do away with dandelion’s sun,
poison the price of a pretty lawn.
How yawn-making a woodland walk must be
among the ash, hazel and beech trees,
ivy-clad trunks and limbs
an honour guard to the bluebell dell.
The weather lore of heron flying inland – gone.
Along with kissing under the mistletoe.
Who will remember that cygnet
is what you call a swan’s awkward offspring?
All lost to the lexicon of childhood.
A glossary from the latest edition gracing school bookshelves:
celebrity, chatroom, bullet point, cut-and-paste.
Definitions for a 21st century child’s proper preoccupations.
Blog your nameless panic at world’s unmet.
© Bee Smith 2016
I feel particularly mournful at the thought of childhood denuded of knowing the name of the tree on your street. I grew up on a Chestnut Street, but I knew that a black walnut littered our front path each autumn with large olive green nuts that gradually blackened as the days got colder. It feels like children are being exiled from nature and frog marched into a world that is tightly controlled by technology and fear of the dark.
Again in The Guardian Review section I found that others shared my concern. Robert MacFarlane and Jackie Lemmon collaborated on the award-winning book Lost Words.
I am not alone in wanting to preserve the Lost Worlds that are contained in words. I am not alone in wanting to bequeth a guide for our younger generation to enter the natural world without fear, but with awe and joy.