We adopted three cats from a local shelter, and the
quest for their names was in full swing. The shelter gave them perfectly good
names, but we had to re-name them. It was as if they needed to be “re-born” at
their new home, and heaven help them forget who they were before, and, please,
may they remember who they are now.
You can tell from my tone that I would have left their
shelter-names in place, though two were kittens who will likely accept their
new identities. The older cat had a name before she was found, but no one knows
what it was. So everyone gets a new start at the Breens.
The discussion for who should be called what was
rather revealing of the humans who dwell here. Considering that the older
female wound up as Clara Schumann and one of the youngsters is now Sokolov,
named after the great pianist Grigory Sokolov, you get a pretty good idea about
this musical home. The felines, by the way, show little attraction to the piano
when it is played, which it is, for hours, every day. But one can always hope.
The third cat got away from the classical scene with
the name Monk. Our favorite television show’s detective is nothing like his
name’s sake. Kitten Monk is the most social and gregarious of the bunch.
I read that William E. Boeing, who founded United
Airlines, named his pet Pekingese General Motors. I don’t do revenge-naming, but
I applaud a good one. Our little Monk almost seems like a sarcastic naming, but
it was shortened from his shelter name, Monkey, which was a far better fit for
I’m only glad my brood does not get to name my
fictional characters. I follow the Old Testament and name for qualities or
themes. The Hebrew Bible has the resonance of a fable because every single name
is symbolically meaningful in the original. It’s lost in translation, where,
for example, the name “Ruth” no longer sounds like “companion/friend,” an
allusion to her being the first convert who expressed loyalty to her adoptive
family. How many would name their girls Leah if they heard the meaning,
“weary/tired?” The biblical matriarch was just that. With eleven kids and being
almost blind, who can blame her?
I focus, and find my way to characters’ names. Names
can be trendy, and accrue connotations over the years. I think and feel my way
to a name, and know when I've got it. When the name is right, the character
begins to speak.
Monk, Sokolov and Clara Schumann are too busy chasing
a string to be talking much.
Where did I leave my
For as long as I can remember I had a tendency to put
things someplace, then forget where. Having made this statement, you’d be smart
to wonder if I can be trusted to remember whether I have always been this way,
or it is a sign of my all-around feeble mind.
I also remember being thought of as smart. But why?
Says who? My report card?
I read that squirrels can remember up to ten thousand
hiding places where they squirreled away their nuts. Squirrels are more then
smart. By this measure they are brilliant.
I pity the researchers who sat and counted ten
thousand different nut-hiding places. I wonder how smart they had to be to know
the places were all distinct. They had to be smart at counting, that’s for
I’d settle for finding my pen.
I know, I know. You’re thinking medals can be many
things: heavy, beautiful, or pointless. But funny?
Today they struck me as funny. I read that between
1928 and 1948 twelve Olympic medals
were awarded for… Town Planning. I need to investigate that one. Did they run a
Maybe I’m a bit giddy because my novel for middle
grades recently won a medal. No, not the Nobel or the Newbery. Here it is:
A Moonbeam Bronze medal is lovely. You can see my
book, THE VOICE OF THUNDER, beaming
back at it, can’t you?
Actually, the book doesn't care, and I can’t see its
author walking around wearing a medal. It didn't make a good book better, nor
is it likely to improve sales. But the day I got the notice was a nice day.
Bet those town planners liked getting theirs, too. I
hope they thought it was a wee bit funny, too. If we can’t laugh at the way we
make and give value, we’ll take ourselves entirely too seriously.
I must have inherited my parents’ dislike of “so what”
purposeless or banal writing. A story, a blog post, heavens- even a comment on
another’s blog post from me- must have some point. That hard-to-define thing called value.
It was easier for King Edward the VII, who was reputed
to weigh his house guests after house parties at his Sandrigham estate. His
majesty wanted to make sure they had eaten well. It also helped that he was a royal highness, because none of my house-guests would be so obliging.
But how to evaluate value? How do you know if what you
put out there, whether a poem or a pie, has a point and a purpose? Is it
entirely subjective? Completely personal?
I don’t know how to answer this in a way that won’t embarrass
me tomorrow. I only know that I try to do it. And that value is, to me, some
Edward the VII had one answer that could be literally weighed
and measured. I’m always looking for mine.