Friday, June 09, 2006

Al Tum.. The Twins... Tom

You could begin with the crab that scratches in the sand. The name of the animal is the action or sound it makes, or its colour. The name parents other like meanings belonging to other things, leaving the animal behind: grapho (Greek - to scatch, and so, to write), gramma (the scratches), graph, grammar, grab.
As I walk along the shore of the Red Sea at dawn a hundred pale pink crabs scuttle carefully back across and into the white sand. Behind a sharp crust of coral a rock crab, seaweed-green edged with red, pries the back of a sand crab and feeds. It is not so easily frightened and merely watches me. There are tiny porcelain-blue crabs in the mangroves a few mile south, popping out of the dense muddy quicksand like living jewels.
In this harsh environment life itself is a gorgeous miracle, coming out of the barren desert, out of the bitter sea: hals, the sea of salt.
Above the tide line the sand is crusted over with glass, hard-surfaced and brittle like frosting sugar. It snaps into square panes of rock. Rocks flecked electric blue-green with what became copper here wash down in the mountain floods. Walking in these hills I am looking at visual puns. I can see how readily the creatures translate, were translated long ago, into thought and language. What is lost is a sense of their intense beauty, that they are alive.
Words begin as description. They are prismatic, vehicles of hidden, deeper shades of thought. You can hold them up at different angles until the light bursts through in an unexpected colour. The word carries the living thing concealed across millenia.
- Susan Brind Morrow, The Names of Things

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