Tabula Rasa

May 30, 2012

‘Tabula rasa’ means ‘blank slate’. It’s commonly used to describe what the Europeans thought they found when they came to America …i.e. “nothing”. Which translates to:  anything outside of what they were familiar with in Europe simply didn’t exist.

Same goes for the changed perceptions of moving from city to country.

Think on it.

In the City there are: sirens, concrete, buildings. Amongst other things.

In the country there is: silence, grass, green stuff. Plus assorted animals.

It’s only when you live with your environment a bit more that you discover there IS no such thing as ‘tabula rasa’. In our case, our initial perception of ‘silence’ eventually translated to a variety of subtler sounds: mooing (cows), chittering and humming(birds), crowing (roosters), etc.

‘Grass’ eventually led to identifying particular  types of grasses. And ‘green stuff’ – well our neighbor taught us something about that.

Real dialogue our first Spring:

Neighbor K: So, how do you like country living?

Us Cityfolk (idealistically enthusiastic): Great! No sirens, no engine roars…just peace and quiet!

Neighbor K (conversationally): Sooo …. When are you going to do something about the thistles in your field?

Great silence.


Us City Folk saw no stinkin’ thistles. Instead we saw …. Green Stuff. Two acres of it, to be exact. Benign, quiet Green Stuff. Were we SUPPOSED to ‘do something’?

                               ‘Overgrown’ or ‘alien’. U pick.   

                                 (…guess what I picked??)

Neighbor K. filled us in quite handily. Here in our neck of California Cow Country, thistles run rampant. If not cut down in a timely manner, they spread like wildfire. And speaking of fire – they are very flammable when they die back. So everyone mowed their fields before thistle breeding season took place.

Far from being ‘tabula rasa’ – or even ‘green stuff’ – we apparently owned a field packed with issues.

The Peanut Gallery then went off and discovered botanical literature emphasizing that certain kinds of thistles were key for butterfly habitats – but he never assembled the expertise to identify one thistle from another.

Being a San Francisco native, I figgered we had done GOOD just by identifying ‘thistle’, and was more than willing to just quit while I was ahead.

Our fields were duly mowed, the neighbor pacified that our thistle farm wasn’t about to spill over fence lines to invade her own carefully-tended field of Green Stuff, and Bill sobbed about the ‘destruction of butterfly habitats’ the entire time.

Tabula Rasa: it really doesn’t exist – except in the mind of the beholder who hasn’t lived in his home long enough to know da joint.

And its issues.

Ah – I mean ‘green stuff’…

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