Becoming Real

December 14, 2014 at 8:15 am (Faery tales) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

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.

Lulu Sleeping

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).

View of the Hill

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.


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Death Is Your Gift

October 19, 2014 at 10:22 am (Book Commentary) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

“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)

Mount Pleasant Cemetery_SC

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

Country Cemetery (Dahlton)

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!

Anchorage Memorial Park Cemetery

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.

I also delight in reading books about the death industry. I enjoyed the television series Six Feet Under and always wanted to live in a large, Victorian funeral home.

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.


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