A rose by any other name might remind some people of a pickle. Whether it’s a person, a house or the street on which they stand, a name is an opportunity to make a statement. Maybe it’s the screenwriter in me, but I think names are important symbols. I have a reputation for anthropomorphically naming everything in sight. Take cars, for example. My car is The Blue Goose. The one before that was Portia Fay. Before that, Scooby-Doo Subaru. Just as people with green thumbs talk to houseplants, I find that my car runs better if I talk to it and call it by name. And it tells me much about a person when she or he has named a car. I have used it as a litmus test in more than one relationship.
Someone said people make big money coming up with the actual model names of cars. Whoever named my Blue Goose “Honda CRV” should be washing cars instead. I should have that job, or one naming paint colors–native organic periwinkle, sagebrush compost–I could so do that job. Busstop bench maple…food co-op bubblegum…global warming sunrise…
Truthfully I connect deeply with the tribal idea that the names of people should have meaning and evolve or change with us through our stages of life. Of course, my moniker here is a midlife invention:
Wren [ren]: a small, unassuming bird with a loud song
Mika [mee-kuh: the wise little raccoon
Tuatha [2-ah-thuh: tribe, children of, people of; new meaning: she who is followed by goats
Clearly I’m guided by my love and identification with animals. My own pets are saddled with the names Tuatha, Echo, Wicca and Niabi. In case you’re worried, I would not do that to a human child. I just appreciate the opportunity to make meaning. Wouldn’t it be great to be known as, “flower planter,” or “she who brings the best dishes to potlucks?” Before I changed it, my legal name meant, “she who’s name is a list of her mother’s ex’s.” Oh joy.
Anyway, my obsession with the sounds and meanings of names is passionate and long lived. I’ve had a library of baby name books from various cultures for nearly thirty years. Even as a kiddie poet in school, I tried on a succession of pennames, each with it’s own accompanying persona. The most famous one among my family is “Phoenix.” I have no memory of why I wanted to be called Phoenix, but it is legend.
When I was three, I was adopted by my stepfather and my last name changed to his. My mother tried to explain the change to me and made the mistake of asking what I’d like my name to be. The story goes that I replied, “If it’s all the same to you, Mother, I’d like Theresa!”
Now when I begin a script I spend days pouring through my baby name books and online resources to pick a weighty and meaningful, if pretentious name. Wren Mika started out as a character in a script. Others I’ve labored over include Persia, Cricket, Nia, Simone and Caprice. There may be a recovery program somewhere but I’m unrepentant.
So when I moved to Heathcote, my Intentional Community, and the buildings had such generic designations as the mill, greenhouse, carriage house, springhouse, cabin, farmhouse, hillhouse, I had to take leadership. If not
I moved into a cabin long called the hillhouse. Blah. After days of scouring the internet and keeping pages of scribbled lists I chose Hina Hanta, Choctaw for “path of peace,” and the chosen name of a Choctaw scholar whose article about the vegetarian history of American Indians I’ve posted previously on this blog. I proposed to Heathcoters that my home be renamed Hina Hanta and that the residents of each building make intentional choices reflecting what they intend to communicate when they utter the collection of sounds that designate their homes. “Cluttered but contented.” “Place of perpetual pie.” “Homestead too near the skunk den to have a dog.” “Warmth and rest in beloved arms.”
One home already had the thoughtful name Shanti, meaning “peace.” The new straw bale grouphouse got christened Polaris–”north star.” Most have stayed their plain jane names–mill, farmhouse, greenhouse, etc. An income sharing subset of Heathcoters called their group shantagani, “peaceful tribe.” So one group member has declared his home ShantaHinaHantaGani…As the mother of Tuatha, Echo, Wicca and Niabi, I can say nothing.
What does your name tell us about you? Have you outgrown it? Who are you? Where do you live? And what’s the name of your car?