Invention by Naming
Not all rain has a name.
Language has power not just to describe our experience,
but to create our experience.
Therefore, most rains are forgotten.
Tourists returning home from Ireland
tell us they saw more greens than they ever thought existed.
Except for downpours and drizzles, the rest blend together
like a summer of sunny weather, generic as daylight.
But all they can tell us is that there were many,
unless they named one toasted salamander, or mint popsicle.
Yesterday the rain fell at intervals all day long. Walking along the bank of the pond, the dogs and I found ourselves in a quiet shower of big drops widely spaced, the type we have all been in countless times without noticing.
But most of the pond was still. There was no rain by the bridge. The center of the pond was flat as glass. Only on the far bank, and where I stood getting rained on, were the fat drops falling.
The situation was the same across the pond. Along the other bank, the same rain fell like handfuls of pebbles making ripples that widened and crossed one another.
I had come to the pond during a dry interval after a day of rain. Water that had fallen on the trees by the banks was draining down the branches until fat drops gathered and fell, some onto me, some into the pond. The opposite of what happens early in a rain when we can shelter beneath the boughs was happening now. The tree was raining. ,
Since I was first to notice this form of secondary rain, I get to name it. The phenomenon is Leaf Drip, and I call it my invention because it didn’t exist until I took enough notice of it to call it to your attention. Now that it has a name, Leaf Drip is more likely to be recognized and remembered. You may not think of it again until you’re standing in a leaf-drip rain, but when it happens, you’ll recognize it and know what it’s called.
As I write this, I’m reminded of a conversation I had last week with one of your classmates. I didn’t invent a term during that conference, but now that I think back on our chat, I have decided to call the animals we discussed “pity dogs.” What do you suppose they are? “Oh, I see you’ve adopted a pity dog.”
Invention by Perspective
This famous “Blue Marble” shot represents the first photograph in which Earth is in full view. The picture was taken on December 7, 1972, as the Apollo 17 crew left Earth’s orbit for the moon. With the sun at their backs, the crew had a perfectly lit view of the blue planet. It’s so common now that students born in the 21st Century have to trust me when I say that in 1972 it changed how we thought about earth.
Where we stand changes our perspective about everything.
All Text is Argument
That bridge on the pond is narrow, just wide enough for two to pass, certainly too narrow for people to cross with their dogs on leashes if others are using the bridge to fish with their tackle boxes open on the deck and their bicycles leaning against the rails.
But that didn’t stop kids from fishing from the bridge before the signs went up. Dogs on leashes more than once got their noses into the tackle boxes and came up with hooks baited with hot dog pieces. Dogs don’t lie still for hook removal, but owners have no choice. They have to get them out of their dog’s lip before they get swallowed.
Now that the signs are up, dog walkers can demand the right of way, and the kids with their tackle might grumble, but they leave when they’re told to leave.
The signs are a Proposal Argument that persuades its readers on the basis of some authority of law. The question is, did the author of the signs have the authority his argument presumes, or is his argument rhetorical, a construct of language and presentation that only pretends to legitimacy?
Did he attach a label to something that was already universally recognized, or did he create a new thing by naming it? Arguments change the world.
Another Lame Story
Recently a student commented in my Instructor Evaluation that “homey likes to talk A LOT, and most of his stories are lame.” I suspect he was talking about a story like this one, but there are plenty of others he might have meant. Leave me a Reply, please, if you agree with my favorite student’s assessment, or if you think it might help you remember something important. Or both.