pitch

A word with manifold meanings as a noun alone—in music and song, in printing and mechanical engineering, in baseball and golf, not to mention retailing—pitch usually has a bucolic cast as a landscape term. A section of grand lawn stretching down and away from a mansion might be characterized as a pitch. Essentially, it is a strip of land bounded in some way—by forests, by fields, or hills, or water—that rises upward or downward from the viewer’s point of view. Like a reach of river water, a pitch of land has no strict measurement, but it is almost always loosely bound, the way a British playing field is or the Sheep Meadow in New York’s Central Park, where people sunbathe and play catch. A climber, of course, who might refer to the severity of a wall’s angle as its pitch, will also demarcate the section of the wall to be climbed as a pitch. And, haunted by the thought of a fall, recall one of the word’s older, and now obsolete, meanings—the highest point, a geometry that prompted Milton’s line in Paradise Lost, “Down they fell Driv’n headlong from the Pitch of Heaven, down into this Deep.”

Barry Lopez