#LockdownDiary – One of many – Day 79

#LockdownDiary – One of many – Day 79

Day 79

Hêtres in English I type into my phone search engine. Beech the reply comes.

Hêtres is beech,’ I tell my partner. ‘It’s so different from French to English.’

Next, I look up frênes and learn it is ash. I return to the book about trees I am reading. It is written in French, a language in which my vocabulary of trees is small, much smaller than my slowly growing list of names I know in English.

‘It’s like birds,’ I add. ‘I know the names of more and more in English but I have no idea what their French equivalent is. They are just oiseaux to me in French. In fact my entire vocabulary of the nature is so much bigger in English than it is in French.’

My partner nods, only half listening as she is reading her own book. I return o my book but soon find myself back on my phone to check the names of other trees. A chêne is an oak, that I knew, but I didn’t know that a whitebeam is an alisier blanc. ‘The whitebeam is an alisier,’ I tell my partner. ‘I would have never guessed.’

‘That’s a pretty name,’ my partner comments.

‘It is, isn’t it. Alisier.’ I think of the whitebeam outside of our garden fence. Whitebeam fits it so much better. I am unsure what I would have pictured an alisier to be, but it certainly wouldn’t have been the tree outside our fence.

Bouleau is birch, I know that too, and saule pleureur is weeping willow. I know that one from countless hours spent reading under the weeping willow in my grand parents garden in France.

Hêtres is beech and frênes is ash,’ I mumble to myself trying to cement the names in my head. I am unsure why I want to know the vocabulary in French and English. We never talk about trees in my family but in this instant it feels important to be bilingual in this vocabulary. I want to understand this book I’m reading, to picture the exact tree for the exact word. I should learn the scientific names, I think. It would make it easier to cross the language divide. The only one I know is Platinus hispanica, London plane. This tree I do not know the name of in French and I do no want to know. They are London planes, of London, of the city that welcomed me in the UK. I cannot remember ever seeing them in France, but I know I wouldn’t have noticed them there.

I turn my head to the bedroom window. The curtains are closed now but I know the view outside well enough. There is a birch tree that makes my partner sneeze in spring, a whitebeam that guards the laurel hedge by our parking space, and another tree beyond that I have not yet found out the name of. There is no rush though, learning about trees can only be done at the pace of trees. Seasons will change and with them so will the trees, losing leaves, gaining fruits, changing colours, becoming skeletal, growing again.

I return my attention to the book and read, going over sentences a couple of times, trying to seed the information in my mind until my eyelids droop too low for too long and it is time to turn the light off.

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