Tuesday, August 27, 2013

A Different Planet

My two younger daughters and I recently traveled to Santa Barbara, California to visit their sister -- my oldest daughter, a college senior double majoring in Chemistry and Environmental studies. It was the younger sisters' first time on the west coast, first time dipping their toes into the frigid Pacific. (Fun fact I did not know before: the Pacific is much colder than the Atlantic!) We shopped and dined and hiked the dusty hills surrounding the city.

It's like another planet out there. None of the flora looks familiar, what with all the palm trees, cacti, eucalyptus trees and crazy flowers. We stayed on Isla Vista, a residential colony of mostly college students, including all the frat houses. Needless to say, on garbage day, bins are generally overflowing with red solo cups.

Early one morning, while sitting in the local coffee shop, I wrote a commemorative free verse.:

In a land of sun and palm
Avenues lined with Tri Delta, Pi Beta Phi and Alpha Gamma Chi
I flip flop along
In sleepy dawn.

Far from home
But near in heart for
My girls all are here,
Sleeping warm
Under rumpled blanket
And youthful roof.

Today we will walk the town,
cafe and beach,
Dip our cold toes in that other ocean.

This western sky --
Trimmed in palm and mimosa
Instead of pine and maple --
Seems strangely familiar

A whispering friend
After a long, long journey.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

What's In A Name?

When I was a kid, I tended to personify everything in my world. And since everything in my world was a person, with feelings, I gave names to everything as well.

Of course each member of my vast array of stuffed animals had a name. But so did our family car (Betty the green-and-black Chevy Bel Air), the Weeping Willow tree in the backyard (Wendy) and the favorite red chair in the living room that everyone took naps in (Robert).
I even named my hands (Alex and Sally, right and left respectively) and they were great friends who played together, hovering over my head like birds swooping and landing on my blanket (Blankie) as I lay in bed on sleepless nights.

Our house was Sherman (address 39 Sherman Drive, duh!) and I worried about how he felt having to sleep outside every night. And later, when I received a guitar for an eighth grade graduation present (the guitar I still play 44 years later) I named him Vladimir, a name he still goes by.

I cried when my parents sold Betty, replacing her comforting sedan-ish solidness with the sleek champagne-colored Pontiac Grand Prix interloper (Carmine). I even cried a little when my best friend Terri's parents sold their car, a green Rambler named Iris.

These were all friends in my world, companions who kept me warm, let me daydream in their branches, drove me places and made music with me in my moments of teenage loneliness.

Nowadays, I still tend to name things, albeit not every item in my house. My car, a red Rav 4, is Millie, and my lawn mower is Sam. I have two dogs and a cat, who, of course have names, as do my five children. They, in turn have taken to naming their most cherished possessions, a habit I swear I did not pro-actively impart.

This may sound silly, all this naming. A child's game making sense of a child's world. But I find there is comfort, even now, and a sense of connection with my world when I am able to speak directly to it, calling it by name. In the Biblical book of Genesis, God brings all living things to the first humans for naming. This simple event charged them with the care and nurturing of said living things. I like that.