I think it was Pope Francis who said that religion is a relationship - it is not really about the words, or the rules, but about coming together with God. (Or Gods, Goddess, ancestors, faeries, universal harmony, Love, life, as the case may be.) Some people do it with communion. Some with drumbeat and song. Some people kneel beside their beds every night, murmuring prayers they were taught as children. And some people stand in the misty, pearlescent poetry of wind with their arms open and their eyes shut.
Which is why I write a lot about the weather.
I am reading Robert Macfarlane's latest book, Landmarks, which is about lost names for nature. It's beautiful, of course. I am a devotee of his. But I find his wild and lovely names slipping from my heart. I guess this is because, although I passionately denounce the removal of words like dandelion, willow, acorn, from the dictionary in favour of blog, broadband, and celebrity - and although I grieve the shift in culture which leads dictionary-makers - I am not anxious about the loss of specificity in our language. Perhaps it's just because I am not a verbal thinker, myself. I have written before about this. With familiarity comes a loss of the spirit of loneliness, and of groping towards something that is at once precise and insubstantial ... For that matter, do we even have a term for the poignant, dream-inspired groping through silence? For the wish to pinpoint an exact word and yet the fear that we will, thereby turning magic into something mundane?
While I agree with Wendell Berry that, when we name something and become familiar with it, we love it and will fight for it, I also believe there is so much in this world that we reduce with our imperialistic naming. Don't give me a word for sodden shadows on a hillside one afternoon. Describe it like a song, like a touch along its soft and blurring edges. Shape it for me with your word-picture of its lush body, so that I know it, and feel it, and appreciate it as a unique individual, and not merely weather. Say the shadows eased down, ripe with rain-dreaming, to the hip of the hill, where they lay as if sleeping - a lover safely sleeping on his lover, and her breathing slow, gentle, so he does not wake - and all the shadows' dreaming suffused the grass, so that, walking it barefoot, you felt like you were treading through a cold, wet, torpid sky, an imagination of clouds.
Familiarity isn't really a matter of putting our word - or set of rules - on to something. It's about meeting it, experiencing it for the self it shows you, all the while being your own real soulhood, so that each meeting will result in a different description, whole new words, unique creeds, but that doesn't mean each one isn't true in itself.