Wednesday, February 04, 2009
look and learn
When I was a Brownie, when I was a Sprite, * I managed to pass my Tree Badge, which required reciting the roll call of exotics and being able to identify a tree from its leaf in front of a judge, who was the rostered neighbourhood expert in the field. In this case the judge was my father.
I passed by memory skills, with no help from the family green thumb, which I did not inherit.
While I may still know my elms ok, I think I have rested on my Brownie laurels.
Recently I was trying to describe a tree I'd seen to a professional expert in the field and fumbled clumsily for words, non-latin words to boot. In fact it was akin to struggling for language in a foreign land, busted for not doing your homework, for not being sufficiently tree-lingual.
Then days later I was still trying to put a name to the tree with a search directory, one of those uses of technology they once lauded in ads for printers. I was eliminating varieties of banksia and grevillea when I stared out of the window. My eyes rested on a tree and I said "That's it!" - life imitating TV, the tropes of sitcoma.
Anyway, the embarrassing confession is that this tree, for so long anonymous and invisible to me, is a very common species. Naming it has summoned it into existence in sudden profusion. It is everywhere in the urban environment.
It's as if I had said to this expert: have you ever heard of a rose?
Still, a fortnight ago, when it was unknown and exotic, I saw the tree in question forming an avenue of striking colour in a dry landscape. It was a temporarily remarkable first contact.