I love trees. Especially oak, redwood, birch, and this amazing stand of I-don't-know-what-kind-they-are trees in Golden Gardens Park in Seattle. It bothers me that I don't know what these trees are, their name, and I just spent half an hour on the internet trying to find out. So okay, I don't know their name but here's what I do know: Every time I went to visit my daughter during the two years she lived near Seattle I headed west, across Lake Washington, all the way across the bustling city to Puget Sound, and this lovely park, and once there stood mesmerized by them, just right there, growing up out of the sandy beach, next to the water. Tall, commanding, beautiful. In every season I saw them, bare, just leafing, in full leaf, in their fall outfits. If I were to visit Seattle today, the first thing I would do would be to get to this park and partake of these trees. It matters not that I don't know their actual name... to me what they are is glorious, magical, sacred even, and they move something in me.
I read recently that when we name things, we take something away from our experience of them. No, not just something, we actually alter our direct experience; when we name things, we no longer see them innocently, or as the miracle that they are, or their very essence. We miss the marvel of birds actually flying, the wonder of waves curling in on themselves as they meet land, how silent and invisible wind is, the phenomenon of a cat's purr, what we feel when we gaze into the eyes of another...
Once I sat with a spiritual teacher who said to me, "Without all of your labels, who are you?" My mind went completely blank. Who was I, he was asking, without all of my names, who was I beyond Debby, woman, wife (well back then anyway), mom, daughter, friend, sister, teacher, seeker, writer, volunteer, wounded, confused, and insecure one? I was silent for what felt like an eternity, my mind totally befuddled, and then told him simply that I had absolutely no idea... To which he smiled.
This morning I hugged a tree. That's what I set out to write about before I got sidetracked. I wanted to write about what a strange experience it was; how it felt at once completely awkward and yet amazingly natural and wonderful. How intimate it was; how afraid I was that someone would see me. How relaxed I became when I felt our warm bodies touch, how it felt like home, that tears welled up.
Sometimes when I walk in the mornings, I just call everything god (you'd have to know me well to know what an incredible thing this is...). But as Shakespeare's Juliet said,
What's in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet
Exactly. And while I still don't know who I am apart from my names, any more than I know who/what that beautiful, wild, gnarled oak tree was that I hugged this morning, the years between then and now have brought some clarity, some parting of the veils, some new experiencing of what/who it is that actually lives here in this body... and oh my goodness, holy shit! whatever that is, it's exactly the same that lives in the tree, the bird, the dolphin, my cat, every person; in the air, the sun sparkling off the ocean, the night stars, every part of life, pre-name, pre-language, that thing, that whatever it is (NO NAME!) that animates, that gives life, that lights up, that IS.