November 03, 2010

Hello, what's your name?

by Brandon

Asher Blake Mesle.

For a few days it stayed strange, to hear your name, and awkward.  I remember feeling that way before.  But at some point we suddenly forget to find it strange, what we've done -- that we've named someone.  So now I look at you and I feel that it has settled around you.  That it took.  That it's good. 

Asher because of no single reason -- but a good sound, above all.  We passed over many, many names (me especially) to find something compact, but something that would ring, something that would read.

Asher is two opposite elements passing through each other and fusing somehow.  That strong, voiced, open throat A, a singer's tone, an upstanding tree, an assertion.  And then it's swallowed by the hush of the wave receding.  Those two elements paired without a seam.  (See the Hokusai picture on the fridge?)  We took a tree name for you -- Ash -- a piece of the living wood; but we also gave you ashes.  We gave you, in other words, the tree and the end of the tree.  The beginning and the end.  You'll need both.

Asher is also an old Biblical name, though that's a book I try to avoid relying on, as a rule.  It's got a tribe of Asher in there, and some arrangement between Jacob and his wife's maid.  I haven't looked up the passage.  For me, the name might as well be cut straight from the tree in the mountains, where there are no books.  But the fact that it IS in a book is probably what suggested it to us.  In the end, it's hard to go into the mountains and cut down a brand new name and get it all the way home again, intact, so we had assistance in this.  We have to admit the limits of our powers.

The Hebrew 'meaning' of your name, 'happy' or similar, is not a bad 'meaning', as far as name 'meanings' go.  Maybe it will prove some use as well.

Blake for Blake, a printer.  And of course a poet.  But he worked for a living and handled money, lived with ink under his nails, even as he bent the larger arc as well.  He lived a long time.  He was a visionary and also a student, a tinkerer, an inventor.  Sarah likes him well.  Honestly, I know less about him than I should, and your name can remind me to keep at my studies.  I'm glad to have old Wm. Blake along with us for this ride. 

If some of this name-baggage has no utility for you at all, then it hopefully won't be a weight upon you either.  Partly your name is a prop for us folks, you know.  Something to tell ourselves, a tune to whistle while we go past the birthyard, the place of raw newness and inchoate novelty, the nausea of a new world -- that is rapidly sweeping us right out of the picture.  There it is again, the certainty of our own march to the hush, the shhhh of Ash.  You're a signpost of how far we've come.  And that is hard to take. 

Mesle, an old French name; because this is America, after all.  We're working toward a more perfect union, exactly as the man says.  You my sons are equal.  You and I and your mother are equal.  If we are equal, then why is it, again, that one group is asked to erase their names?  It's something I would have a hard time explaining to a Martian who just landed, and you, my friend, are a Martian who just landed. 

Of course your last name, being different from your brother's, is, among other things, a story about how equality is a tough and uneasy practice.  You're equal, but you're not the same.  There probably isn't equal at all, says your name, just effort on the scales, pushing now this way; now that.  There's a hope of equal -- which we carry.  And then there's the actual seeds we have to scatter, the varying seeds.
There's an idea of a horizon where things are actually equal, but it's out in front of us.  We have to live in the here and now, with you two boys who have an unusual (but not that unusual, frankly) gap in your labelling.  We did struggle with the idea of giving two boys different last names.  We felt it to be vaguely absurd.  But we didn't have a better idea.  We know people who have combined their two names; some who have composed entirely new family names, or resurrected and rekindled old family names and taken those.  The parents as well as the children have gone through the act of naming together, that awkward and strange event.  But nothing came to mind in that direction, for us.  Hypenating has (in our case) no poetry, only legalisms.  And it's always bothered me, as a systems thinker, that it simply doesn't scale beyond one or two generations, and defers the hard part to someone else.  The hard part is this: entropy increases, and information is lost.  The names all get erased soon enough anyway.  The shhhhh of the wave receding.

Sarah and I came into the world as Mesles and Harveys, and we will send some more forth. 

Asher Blue, it will become quickly obvious to you that America is a work in progress.  Maybe if you have children -- and I hope that you do -- you will have the courage and Yankee ingenuity not to name them Mesle or Harvey or anything backwards-facing at all.  Maybe you'll have some new idea.


Michelle said...

A solemn task, this naming business is. Beautiful rumination, beautiful name, beautiful boy.

Nico said...

Congrats on your new little boy!

This is totally random - I just checked my email for my blog at noperiodbaby, which I don't do that often, and there was a comment from Sara - I went to respond, and it turns out it was from 2007??? Bizarre. So I randomly decided to click through, and look what I found - a beautiful new addition to the world! I'll go to bed happy with that one :-)

I love that you chose to give your boys two different last names. Love.