In winter, on my daily walks, I always enjoy seeing the bushes with white berries. At this time of year, the bushes have long ago lost their leaves. The creamy white berries -- which are the same size and shape as blueberries -- tend to grow in bunches out on the tips of the twigs that extend from branches. The newer branches range in color from rusty brown to red. The older branches are grey, and are often covered with moss.
On a gloomy day, the white berries seem to gather in all of the available light.
What name do these bushes go by? I don't know. I've been looking at them for years, and I've been content to call them "the bushes with white berries." Mind you, I greatly admire those who know the names of all things. And as for those who can rattle off the Latin binomials for every flower, tree, and bird they come across: I envy them their curiosity, diligence, and knowledge.
But I am content with "the bird with the yellow head, black beak, and yellow-striped wings" and "the tree with the big, dark-green leaves that fall first in autumn."
And "the bushes with white berries." The berries that, on certain days in winter, gather in all of the light.
1,800 Feet Up
The flower -- it didn't know it --
was called dwarf cornel.
I found this out by enquiring.
Now I remember the name
but have forgotten the flower.
-- The curse of literacy.
And the greed for knowing. --
I'll have to contour again
from the Loch of the Red Corrie
to the Loch of the Green Corrie
to find what doesn't know its name,
to find what doesn't even know
it's a flower.
Since I believe in correspondences
I shrink in my many weathers
from whoever is contouring immeasurable space
to find what I am like -- this forgotten thing
he once gave a name to.
Ewen McCaig (editor), The Poems of Norman MacCaig (Polygon 2009).