The world does not need words. It articulates itself
in sunlight, leaves, and shadows. The stones on the path
are no less real for lying uncatalogued and uncounted.
Yet the stones remain less real to those who cannot
name them, or read the mute syllables graven in silica.
To see a red stone is less than seeing it as jasper–
metamorphic quartz, cousin to the flint the Kiowa
carved as arrowheads.
To name is to know and remember.
The sunlight needs no praise piercing the rainclouds,
painting the rocks and leaves with light, then dissolving
each lucent droplet back into the clouds that engendered it.
The daylight needs no praise, and so we praise it always—
greater than ourselves and all the airy words we summon.
excerpted from “Words” ~ Dana Gioia
39 thoughts on “The Importance of Names ~ The Stones”
Photographs matched well with quotations. The second looks like a red-beaked owl.
Even the stones can evoke images and story-telling.
Your linked article notes that Gioia is pronounced Joy-a. What it should add is that gioia is the Italian word for ‘joy.’
“Words” reminds me once again of this stanza from a poem by Francis Jammes:
On a baptisé les étoiles sans penser
qu’elles n’avaient pas besoin de nom, et les nombres,
qui prouvent que les belles comètes dans l’ombre
passeront, ne les forceront pas à passer.
[We’ve baptized the stars without thinking
That they didn’t need a name, and numbers,
Which prove that lovely comets will pass on
Into the shadows, won’t make them pass on.]
I remember that passage from your mentions of it in the past. It’s always appealed to me, and it certainly pairs well with Gioia’s poem. I smiled at this line from the Poetry Foundation article about him: “Jammes’s poetry counters French literary tradition, so often associated with highly rarefied, intellectual poetics.” Intellect is one thing: intellectualism can be quite another.
After your note about the Italian word gioia, it occurred to me that someone should compose an ode to Dana Gioia. Then I realized there’s already one of those odes, but I’ve only known it by its English or German titles.
“To name is to know and remember.” Simple, powerful, eloquent.
I agree. Pulling apart a poem to focus on one line can be dangerous business, but in this case, I have to say that line is my favorite: except perhaps for the preceding words about “syllables graven in silica.” It’s a wonderful poem.
What a beautiful series this is, Linda.
Thank you, Jeanie. Initially, I was only going to post Gioia’s poem with a photo or two, but the more I pondered, the more I saw a series forming. It’s been enjoyable putting it together; I’m glad you’re enjoying it, too.
‘It articulates itself in sunlight, leaves, and shadows.’ I love that line because it comes so vividly to life in my imagination. Lovely combination of pictures and poem.
One of the things that line brought to my mind was the constant movement found in nature. Even what we call a perfectly still day contains some movement: the ‘speaking’ of the sunlight, leaves, and shadows. As for the photos, they’re all from Texas. The middle one will appear again. I suspect no one — or very few — could guess where I found it.
There always seems to be a tiny bit of movement from the air when you’re trying to photograph flowers.
Great photos with great words.
Thanks! I’ve wondered in the past to what use I could put a couple of these photos, and now I know; I thought they worked well, and I’m glad you like them.
When younger I became very interested in geology and built up a very nice rock and mineral collection. I was always learning about some new mineral I’d not previously known or reading about some period in the Earth’s evolution and how that affected the layers below us. Living in Arizona helped as there was so much of that there. But over time I suspect I’ve forgotten much of what I once knew.
So you’re another rock collector! I’ve always enjoyed rocks as souvenirs of various places; they’re ever so much better than shot glasses or decals. Arizona would have been a wonderful place for someone with interests in geology, but I’ll bet your lakes and rivers have their own geological tales to tell.
“The stones on the path
are no less real for lying uncatalogued and uncounted.”
So true. Sometimes it’s easy to forget that.
It is true. I’ve often had similar thoughts about flowers that bloom unseen and unphotographed. For every one that we memorialize, there are uncounted others that receive no human recognition, despite being equally attractive.
That speech by Romeo about a rose. Rocks are like crowds. It’s the difference between a group of friends and neighbors and a mob
Your comment suggests a new collective noun for an avalanche or mudslide: a mob of rocks. Perfect.
Mob of rocks. love it.
I’m glad to have added that to my collection of collective nouns. It’s always fun to invent a new one.
Very cool, Linda. I love the naming of rocks (probably inherited that from my dad). And I love the way Gioia’s words seem perfect for your photos!
I fell in love with the poem when I found it. As for rocks — they’re one of my favorite souvenirs. I’ve gradually culled my collection, but I still have some special ones, picked up at special places I visited. One of my first art projects involved using water colors to paint some driveway gravel; my dad kept a set of three (red, yellow, and blue)on his desk for a while.
I was looking at one of the books I brought with me this afternoon, Linda, titled “How to Read the Landscape,” by Robert Yarham and thinking there is so much to know. about geology and rocks. Its always been a fascination of mine. Even as a child I would go out for hikes and fill my pockets with rocks until there wasn’t any room left and my pants were about to fall off. I’d then bring them home where I could study them with a magnifying glass and break them apart with my hammer to see what was inside. I wanted to know their names. I even had a little book on what scratched what. –Curt
I just pulled one of my favorite books off the shelf: Reading the Landscape of America, by May Theilgaard Watts. There’s an introduction to the book here. One of the nicest things about the book is that she covers quite a number of disparate areas, so as you move from dunes to mountains to prairies, there’s always something of interest in the book. Watts’s book was published in 1957, and it seems the first edition of Yarham’s was published in 2010. I’d be willing to bet that Yarham knows Watts’s work.
Do you have a Texas chert nodule? The next time you roll through, I’ll give you one.
Wow, a Texas chert nodule.
I am a fan of the roadside Geology series because it always gives you a mile by mile description of what you are seeing. I only have around six states, however. I jumped on the intro for Watt’s book. It sounds interesting. I’ll have to check it out. Thanks. –Curt
Some people describe others as “dumb as a box of rocks,” but in truth, rocks have a lot to say — if only we’ll listen!
Indeed. They talk about billions of years of history!
Our high school science teacher was a geologist who spent summers exploring the southwest. His rock collections sparked my interest and I always tried to put names with the rocks I found. Coincidentally (?), our son received his BS in geology from the University of Texas.
Your wonderful photographs remind us of camping and casual rock collecting in Big Bend, Lost Maples, Davis Mountains and innumerable back roads in west Texas.
Thank you for giving us the gift of yet another poet to enjoy.
Like father, like son — and perhaps even like some grandkids! From what I’ve seen of the southwest, your teacher would have had some fine summers; it sounds as though he was willing to share his experiences and his rocks.
I suspect you’ve been around the places shown in all three photos. The first is from the Willow City loop between Fredericksburg and Enchanted Rock, and the last is a view into Love Creek Ranch: part of which has become a Nature Conservancy site. You may have passed right by the middle photo at some time. I’m going to use it in another post, and I’ll provide more details then. Do you have any thoughts on the smooth, caramel-colored rock in the center of that photo? I think it might be some sort of Jasper, but I’m not sure.
I took geology my first year at college. That drawer in every desk that had the tray of rocks we were supposed to be able to identify on sight was daunting. It was much more pleasant to pick up a rock or four and hold them on river trips. Quite a few made it home with me.
I’ve never had a geology class — lucky you! On the other hand, I smiled at the thought of your tray of rocks, and the distinction you drew between those and the ones you plucked from the river. Study and admiration belong together. You do both, which is part of the reason your glass pieces are so appealing; you know whereof you create.
There’s so much interesting texture in that second shot. Of course, me being me, I expected shots of Mick, Keith, Ron, Charlie, and Bill.
That’s funny. I never thought of ‘those’ Stones, but of course you would. I’m glad you did, since a little nosing around revealed a live performance of “Midnight Rambler that I’d never seen. Good gosh.
It really is worth holding on for the whole twelve minutes.
That second shot’s interesting. I suspect the rock that looks like caramel being poured might be jasper, but I don’t know for sure. I’m going to use the photo again and share where I found it — every time I think of it, I laugh.
I hadn’t seen that video before either. The boys were inspired.
A wonderful post! Beautiful images.xxx
Thanks! I do love the rocks, and I especially like to see them used in houses, fences, and such in areas where that kind of building makes sense. Of course, rocks can be prized solely for their beauty, too. Gems are obviously beautiful, but other formations can be just as lovely, like that middle photo.
Beautiful and meaningful verses! Nature’s landscape never sits silent. Pause to listen with purpose.
We’re used to babbling brooks and whistling winds, but the stones have things to say, too. As you suggest, we just have to listen more closely!