The Thingness of Things

Today’s posts inspired by Robert Macfarlane’s book, Landmarks, and there will be more to come. Landmarks is about language and landscape. It contains wonderful glossaries and a great deal about the naming and thereby conserving the natural world.

Children love to be outdoors and so this is a chance to write outside, to look carefully and to

learn the names of things. It is another listing activity and could be a list in connection with a

map. The idea is simply to make a list of plant, animal or insect names. You could do this at

your desk, There is much fun to be had in looking through an identification book. The names

of grasses, flowers, insects, birds are in themselves a joy to the ear and the mind.

How about moths? The hummingbird hawkmoth; the white ermine; the goldtail; the vapourer moth; grey dagger, large yellow underwing;  the old lady and the mouse moth

You may just like to identify the flowers and plants in your neighbourhood. You probably know

dandelion and daisy, but what about the scarlet pimpernel, fleabane, chickweed, commonfumitory, primrose, cowslip, groundsel and shepherd’s purse?

Or you may love near a meadow where there are snake’s head fritillaries. There has to be a story there!

You may think that this is an activity for country dwellers. Think again. Most urban dwellers 

are near parks and gardens, not to mention grass verges. And there are pavements! In

Hackney, London, there is a group called ‘More Than Weeds’ who identify the plants growing 

in the streets and chalk their names on the pavements. I love the idea, though, sadly, not 

anyone can do this as it may be against the law where you live and regarded as vandalism. You

can still go out to find and name the plants. You could take photographs, draw, or just make a

list. Have a look at the More Than Weeds website.

If you really, really can’t make a list of plant or insect names, you could always make a list of 

kitchen implements or car makes and models or … Choose something that is in your 

environment; things you see every day. This list will be unique to your landscape and you have

to admit that ‘ragwort’ or ‘least lettuce’ is more interesting than ‘yellow flower’.


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