There is a power in knowing the true names of things. Every Faery tale I ever read taught me that. Those who knew Ella’s real name controlled her. The Miller’s daughter wins when she guesses Rumpelstiltskin‘s true name.
As you may have noticed a few posts back when I told the tale of my secondhand cats, I have trouble naming things. I tend to call things by their classification first like Holly Golightly does with Cat in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. A cat is a cat is a cat.
If something comes to me unnamed, I wait for it to reveal its true name to me.
For every doll or bear that resides with me, their name took months (sometimes years) to become clear. This is why I hated to get new dolls at Christmas – everyone always wanted to know RIGHT NOW what their name was!
I own three bears. Their names are Zuzu, Clementine and Garbo. Only Garbo’s name was clear from the very beginning. I recently acquired another bear. Here she sits on her CD Tower throne, watching and waiting.
Her original name is Kanata. How very unoriginal is what I thought when I read her tag. She is a ty Beanie Baby, sold to represent Canada. This is not a name. This is a country – a classification.
I acquired her in October and over the last few months discovered (uncovered) her true name. It is Maple. Because, like the red maple leaf, she also symbolizes Canada. She is more than a classification. Now, she has a presence and a personality. Now, she is named. She is seen.
Names are powerful. Names need to be taken seriously. Things (people) can not be called out randomly. Knowing someone’s true name can still give you power over them.
Do you remember at what point you started calling your former teachers by their first name? I still having trouble saying Frank instead of Mr. LastName.
I still give them the power thirty years after I have finished with High School.
Places can have names as well. Half-way between where I live now and where I grew up there is a hill. It is called Hangman’s Hill. Here is the story as I heard it. In the 1950s, when power first came to this part of Saskatchewan, a power linesman working putting up poles slipped high up and hung himself on the line. The hill is said to be haunted. Did the hill get named because naming takes away the power to frighten and scare? If you can call something by its true name is it no longer scary? The hill is thus haunted only by a tragic tale and not by a scary spirit. Is this more a Halloween tale than a Christmas tale? No, there is a tradition of telling scary stories at Christmastime (see Dickens‘ A Christmas Carol).
Elizabeth of the blog On Tap For Today writes about the Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams: I remember this book sending me into a spiraling six year old frenzy, worried that my having strep throat would result in all of our toys being burned in the back yard, only for them to come to life. I think the coming to life part scared me more than the burning. Regardless, TVR contains one of my most favorite exchanges of all time:
“What is REAL?” asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room. “Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?”
“Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.”
“Does it hurt?” asked the Rabbit.
“Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. “When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.”
“Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,” he asked, “or bit by bit?”
“It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”
Is being real the same as being named?
There are times I wish to be unnamed.
I grew up in a small town where everyone knows you (or thinks they know you). I moved back to the same area and plan to be here for many more decades. I plan to create a herstory here. There is so much more to me than what (who) I use to be.
I have many names. Crone. Aunt. Sister. Daughter. Step-daughter. Spinster. Cousin. Her mother’s daughter. I have other names that I will not name here because only I should know them; only I should control the power in them.
I name myself now. But there are times that I wish to not be remembered. Times I wish to be invisible. Times that I wish to be still.
There are times I wish to be unnamed.
It has one word written on it.
That word is Expendable.
I wore the T-shirt, for the one and only time, on my last day of work in May. Sorta of an inside joke but I was the only one (geek) who got the joke.
I kept having to explain.
I kept trying to explain.
It got harder and harder to see the funny in it.
I work in a field that is 95% women.
You see, this also happened in May…UCSB May 2014 .
And again .
Yes, all women face these concerns and fears all the time.
And after a day of proclaiming myself as expendable, I didn’t like the joke anymore.
Nobody should be expendable.
Je me souviens … Geneviève Bergeron, 21; Hélène Colgan, 23; Nathalie Croteau, 23; Barbara Daigneault, 22; Anne-Marie Edward, 21; Maud Haviernick, 29; Barbara Klucznik Widajewicz, 31; Maryse Laganière, 25; Maryse Leclair, 23; Anne-Marie Lemay, 27; Sonia Pelletier, 23; Michèle Richard, 21; Annie St-Arneault, 23; Annie Turcotte, 21.
My previous words of remembrance are here.
“Ownership is an entirely human construct.” (p. 26)
High Tide in Tucson: Essays From Now or Never
by Barbara Kingsolver
N.Y.: Harper Collins, 1995
“The end of the world does not impress cats.” (p. 271)
by Sheri S. Tepper
Toronto: Doubleday, 1991
I have for you this weekend a simple post because LIFE has become (once again) overwhelming. Enjoy these pet pictures of my previous pets that were mentioned in last week’s post on Secondhand Cats.
First, he is a very blurry picture of Willie, probably taken with a point & shoot camera. Extreme close-up for the win. I think the photo may have been taken when we were under the bed. He was a very patient cat. :-)
This next picture was the one I mentioned trying to find last week. It is Willie and Joey on my bed. I can just hear Willie saying to Joey; “Did you wash your face yet, young man?”
The white stuffed cat in the background is a pajama pillow. Yes, I kept my pajamas in it.
The next picture is of Truce, again taken on my bed in my second bedroom.
The room, to me, screams 70s. The colourful pillow was made by eldest sister, there is a jewelry box and radio in the headboard and the pillow to the right is a souvenir pillow I stole from my grandparents. This picture fits right in with Alisha’s weekly travel theme which for this week is colourful.
See you next week for Book Quote Sunday #11.
Lulu came out of hiding today.
I acquired a cat last week. She was a bit cranky at first and spent most of this week hiding. Which is understandable; she spent a day in the car to come here to a house where she had never been to live with someone she has never met.
She was my niece’s cat and now is mine.
We had a rocky start. I got bit. The bite hit bone and thus left a bruise (see picture below).
Nevertheless, today Lulu has come out of hiding. She played with me and sat on my lap. She ventured out of her safe room and started to explore her new home. Perhaps we’ll be friends after all.
However, I remain optimistically cautious.
The thing is that I seem to keep acquiring second-hand cats that never seem to stick around.
We had family cats growing up. The first one I remember is a smoke black cat named Smokie. There is a picture of her with her kittens in one of my mother’s old photo albums. I think I remember the picture better than I remember the cat.
The cat I remember best is Willie, a big white tomcat who always felt like mine more than anyone else’s in the family. He slept with me. He hid with me when I would read under the bed. When we got a puppy, Willie adopted it as his own and taught him how to behave. I have a picture somewhere of Willie and Joey sleeping tight together (if I find it I will post it later this week).
We moved the summer I was thirteen. Willie didn’t like the move. It probably didn’t help that Joey had died that summer as well. The move was just one change too many for my old cat. Willie kept running back to our old house. Eventually he didn’t come back. When we couldn’t find him we assumed he died that winter; he was a very old, cantankerous tomcat. I miss him. I miss his warmth.
After that, the family got another dog. Well actually, my absentee divorced dad, without asking, brought us a new dog that he had named Trudeau after the prime minister (another story for another time). We shorted the dog’s name to Truce and he lived with us for many, many years.
Towards the end of my time living under my mom’s roof we would catsit my eldest sister’s cat over the winter. When my eldest sister was in university she acquired a pregnant street cat that came home with her and moved out to the farm with her when my sister married. The cat’s name was Mom. So Mom would move into town to our house for the winter. When I was at work she stayed in my mother’s basement. I would come home from work , open the basement door and meow and Mom would come to talk with me and sleep on my bed till morning. If I wiggled my toes, she would attack them. Sometimes I wiggled my toes on purpose. Mom was a very smart cat. She knew where her food was and if she felt she was not being fed enough she would climb into the cupboard, knock the box over and help herself.
My sister’s cats have always known me. As have their dogs. I go away for years at a time and when I come back the animals still know me. The animals still love me.
The first cat that I had that was all mine was one of Mom’s kittens. He was called Tomcat or Kid or Son depending on what mood I was in. He was just mine and didn’t really fraternize with other members of my family. He ran away the weekend of my High School graduation (there were too many people around – I totally understood where he was coming from) and never came back.
After that, no more cats. No more pets for me. I got married (we had hamsters for awhile), got divorced, went back to university and moved and moved and moved again and then moved some more. I was a nomad. No time for cats. No room for cats.
I catsat for a month one summer at university when a friend went home. The cat’s name was Erasmus and he loved to have the tangles combed out of his fur. He was a street rescue and when my friend graduated university, Erasmus (potential scholar) moved out to her parent’s farm. I wonder what he and the farm cats conversed about on long winter nights. Someone needs to write a story about the homeless city cat who was rescued and his country farm cat cousins!
I always looked forward to the day I would settle down enough to have a cat of my own again.
When I first bought my house I almost got a cat. My sister’s friend’s cat had recently been relocated to my nephew’s farm and it was looking like that might not work out. But it did. The cat has adjusted; she is happy on the farm chasing mice and running free.
Than two of my step-dad’s cats had kittens (see second picture above) and I was going to take the black one once my Fall settled down. This was just about to happen when my niece needed to relocate her indoor only apartment Siamese cat. I’ve always wanted a permanent cat of my own. I’ve always wanted a Siamese even though they are very particular! It seemed fated.
Thus Lulu came to live at my house.
I’m that cat lady. I stop during my walks to chat with strange cats on the street. I wonder how much work a secondhand lion would be. For one, I’d need a bigger place before I acquire one of those. If I’m not careful I will end up with thirty cats or more.
We’ll see. Maybe Lulu will decide to relocate herself like all my other cats have.
Cats, after all, can be very peculiar.
Remember me when I am gone away,
Gone far away into the silent land;
When you can no more hold me by the hand,
Nor I half turn to go yet turning stay.
Remember me when no more day by day
You tell me of our future that you plann’d:
Only remember me; you understand
It will be late to counsel then or pray.
Yet if you should forget me for a while
And afterwards remember, do not grieve:
For if the darkness and corruption leave
A vestige of the thoughts that once I had,
Better by far you should forget and smile
Than that you should remember and be sad.
By Christina Rossetti
Let me remember you, voices of little insects,
Weeds in the moonlight, fields that are tangled with asters,
Let me remember, soon will the winter be on us,
Snow-hushed and heavy.
by Sara Teasdale (1914)
Travel theme: Autumn via Where’s my backpack?
“You be careful. People in masks cannot be trusted”
Fezzik to Inigo
The Princess Bride
“And I will show you something different from either your shadow at morning striding behind you or your shadow at evening rising to meet you; I will show you fear in a handful of dust.” (T.S. Eliot)
I was a Cemetery Girl. This was before goth was a thing. As a child, my best friend and I use to wander the local graveyards exploring and reading the gravestones. It was peaceful. It was quiet. It was a pleasant way to spend a coolish Fall afternoon.
It was usually Fall when you would find us in the graveyard. Leaves would be falling and the world’s axis was spinning into winter and long, cold days of nothing to do. Fall is my favourite season. It is cool. School is starting. There is a quietness in the air. Halloween is just around the corner.
Most of the cemeteries we haunted were country cemeteries; the closet one was a block outside of town. The other one we visited regularly was a mile out. We hardly ever saw anyone else there. It seemed a shame. There was so much beauty and peacefulness there and everyone else was missing it.
We come upon an old woman in black, holding an umbrella against the sun, sitting in front of her husband’s grave on an overturned bucket. She speaks to us in her own language, pointing at the face on the black headstone, crying into a hankie. Lisa gives her a fresh bottle of water. (p. 244)
Curtains: Adventures of an Undertaker-in-Training
by Tom Jokinen
Toronto:Random House of Canada, 2010
I still haunt graveyards. I’ve taken pictures of cemeteries all over Saskatchewan, in Scotland and recently in Anchorage, Alaska. I’m always going to regret not being able to get to explore the historical cemetery at Skagway.
Death intrigues me. No, how we process death intrigues me. No, the history sitting around in graveyards entrances me. I am an explorer of the past. I like to explore what use to be.
I also wonder about what is beyond – beyond the shadows, beyond death. What is the next step? Knowing the plan calms me. I like to know the steps, what to do, what ie expected of me at each turn. Don’t surprise me. I hate surprises!
I delight in exploring cemeteries and graveyards. Did you know the two terms are not interchangeable? A cemetery is an area set apart for or containing graves, tombs, or funeral urns, especially one that is not a churchyard. A graveyard is a burial ground, associated with or beside a church.
The latest funeral industry book I bought is Caitlin Doughty’s book Smoke Gets in Your Eyes. Caitlin oversees the blog The Order of the Good Death that I regularly read and has a series of videos about death and the way we (as a society) deal with it. Scroll down this page for the book video.
I am a cemetery girl. I haunt graveyards. Death is my familiar. I fear not.
because my scans didn’t work,
because my house is in disarray,
because i haven’t had a moment to myself for over a week,
because i am tired and cranky…
boom crash boom!