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Monday, August 24, 2009

The Joys of Naming Things – CREDO LXXXII

It must have started in 1927, when my parents and I began traveling the world. With our constant separations, they had to cable directions about luggage, so each suitcase was given a name. A typical yellow folded telegram would arrive, and my mother would unfold it and read typed on the white strips such words as HAVE CHECKED DRAGON AND PLATYBUS PARIS GARE DU NORD STOP PICK UP FOR ROME LOVE REG. I remember Mother got in trouble with the Egyptian government when she wired SENDING DROMEDARY BY BOAT TO PIRAEUS LOVE PENELOPE. She was told she could not ship an animal without a permit! I had the Camel because it humped when full and the Kangaroo (pockets in interior) and my beloved Spy Bag, an over the shoulder strapped leather pouch. So naming things came naturally.

Walter, my beloved husband, the Polar Bear, understood immediately. He had the Moon in Gemini. When we married in 1980, having met on the ship cruising the Mediterranean that I was teaching on, he lived in La Habra, California and I on Long Island in New York. So after the wedding, he went back west and bought a bigger house, and I traveled shortly to a whole new life.

Walter showed off our new home but was very apologetic about the garbage disposal in the kitchen sink. (I had never seen one!). It seemed he had put three orange remnants in it and they came up in the washing machine! So I named it Prokofiev, for the composer who wrote “Love of Four Oranges.” Happily, we took to “feeding Prokofiev” and he would go growlrowlgrowl from then on. When we moved east, I actually felt terrible at parting from him! I had brought Brother Lawrence, the new brown plastic garbage bin that held our ice at the wedding. I think I have mentioned the connection before. Brother Lawrence was the monk who wrote The Practice of the Presence of God in Paris and felt closest to God in the kitchen. He is still with me in mine.

When we came to Rosecroft in 1983, we purchased a freezer. Walter called it Niflheim and explained, as a Norseman himself, that this was a reference to the Norse myth of creation. It seems the world was covered with ice and given that name. Then a heavenly cow licked the first man and woman out of the ice, which is the origin of our “cowlick,” the first thing to show at our birth! Then I pointed out that the geometric whirl is the same spiral as that of a nebula in the heavens or the whirl in the water flushing down a toilet, or the way a chambered nautilus grows. So Niflheim is still a fixture in “Switzerland,” the laundry room that is neutral territory between our house and the house of my daughter Beth and her family next door. My icebox is the Igloo, and the bathroom downstairs is Tivoli, named for the child’s wallpaper featuring toy wooden soldiers in red/blue and ballerinas. For me, Tivoli is Copenhagen’s original nineteenth-century fun park plus the Royal Ballet the city is famous for. My daughter Beth disapproves of the wallpaper, but I chose it because when my clients come for a reading of their chart, they first often are apprehensive and go piddle. One sight of that wallpaper clues them in –that there must be some humor in this house – and there is!

Upstairs, we had a group of stuffed animals that turned out to be archetypal. After my stroke, I could no longer make my bed, so Walter made it and took to arranging the critters in different ways every morning. The very last time, I came up to find the wee hedgehog, Dr. Zweistein, on the baby pillow with a bottle of my “Stinkum,” my Grandma King’s name for perfume. The two bears, Rosie and Rofty (a polar bear); Oxo, the bison; and the two camels, Camille and Kahlil, were all in a circle around the pillow paying close attention. At my look of inquiry, Walter explained: “He’s giving a lesson in aroma therapy!”

Camille, the smaller camel, deserves special mention. On the ship, there were a number of middle-aged single women who all liked the handsome white-haired widower. To make them happy, he would joke with them and promise their fathers ten to twenty camels if they would become wife Number 3,.7, 8, etc.! But at 9 o’clock pm, I was No.1!! He kept us all in stitches. So at the wedding reception, the cake was brought in topped by a foil pyramid, and Roger Woolger, a Jungian analyst and the Best Man, explained that at the church wedding I had been only a proxy bride. The real one was under the pyramid. Ta dah! He lifted it to reveal Camille with a little bridal veil. There she was and, believe it-or-not, she traveled with us everywhere for eighteen years, went to the hospital with Walter each time, and was tucked under his arm on the gurney as he drew his last breath!

So even on his Aberduffy Day, Walter conveyed a smile for comfort, and today Camille presides on a shelf next to my new bed in my new bedroom downstairs.

You can imagine the whoop of joy I gave when I read in one of Jung’s biographies that he also gave names to his pots and pans and spoke of das Tuecke des Objekts, the mischief of objects, if they are not treated with respect (read affection?). If you have read my The Beejum Book, you can surely see that he was a Beejum himself!

lovingly, with a fond smile,
Just remember that nonsense is every bit as important as sense, because sometimes it’s the last resort to help people come to their senses!” Lonesome, the rabbit psychopomp’s advice to young Teak, The Beejum Book, p.47. A sensible consequence to this Credo follows in Part II .Be sure to read it!

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