What is in a name?

download.jpgI have been reading two books – a fiction book and a memoir of sorts by Felicity Hayes-McCoy. Both of these books take me back to the “old country”. She lives, works and greatly enjoys Ireland. (No, I am not Irish. It is not my old country but you get the idea.)

These books share the history of a people, and the land they live on. You quickly learn the importance of working with your hands – the art of working the land, making tools, repairing and building your home with the help of your community. You also learn the importance of the art of music, sculpture, drawing and most importantly storytelling. This is a land that helped/ helps people to survive but also a land that helps them hold their history and culture close to their hearts.

All of this connection comes from a community where people gather to share stories – new and old. Stories that explain the language, stories that explain why things have the names they do. The story of the house you might live in and its name. The story of the mountain or the road you travel over to get to the next village.

While reading these books I realize how much we have lost here in the United States as each generation moves further and further from their roots. We live further from  grandparents, from the old ones who hold stories. The making of things slows us down and allows us to share deep conversations and stories with each other. This is something we just don’t do now.

We have little time for making things, repairing things or spending evenings by the fire with the “village” to sing, play instruments and tell tales. We are a society that rushes from place to place. We are a group of people who focus on our digital devices. We have lost the art of telling stories to our children, to each other, to our neighbors.

Think about it – when was the last time you sat down with family or neighbors to chat and tell stories? When did you share stories that gave people a sense of history or understand of the world you live in? Do you know the story of your name, your family name? Do you know the story of the town you live in or grew up in? (large or small each city has a story about how it began and your place in it – again large or small)

For me I have been interested in the story of the plant names in my yard. Where did their names from from? Who named those plants or who did the cross breeding to develop this wonderful bush that blooms with bright yellow flowers each spring?  Or have I shared the story of this bush that I dug up from my Grandfathers farm and moved it here to the far north to bring a bit of early spring joy?

Stories, places and names – these are some of the things that hold a family or a community together. I fear they are slipping away from us. I find it important now as my adult children are having children to find a way to bring stories and the importance of names back into our lives. I will be looking for ways to sit by that fire (real or imaginary) to share with this next generation the names and the tales that tie us to our community, our family and our history.

I am finding that names and their stories are important!

Felicity Hayes-McCoy –

  • The Library at the Edge of the World 51mgykDyFRL._AC_UL320_SR212,320_.jpg
  • Summer at the Garden Cafe
  • The House on an Irish Hillside




About Joanne Toft

I am a retired Minneapolis Public School teacher. I walk, garden, care for my Grandson and write. Life is good!
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3 Responses to What is in a name?

  1. arjeha says:

    Kathy is Irish and I am sure these are books she would enjoy. I will tell her. It is a shame that people are moving farther away from their roots. Sure sites like ancestry.com might give a person their background, but it cannot tell the personal stories that family members can.

  2. Ramona says:

    Love this post and the fiction books. I haven’t read her memoir, but will be looking for it.
    “I will be looking for ways to sit by that fire (real or imaginary) to share with this next generation the names and the tales that tie us to our community, our family and our history.” These are words dear to my heart I’m putting them in my writer’s notebook.

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