What’s in a Name?

By Tracey Horan, Burren Study Week Participant
August 4, 2011

Tracey Horan

“So from the soil God fashioned all the wild animals and all the birds of heaven. These he brought to the man to see what he would call them.” Genesis 2:19

Here in our second full day at the Burren, I find myself starting to make sense of what our field guide and presenter John Feehan meant when he said that “Naming is an invitation to relationship.” I had never intently considered my direct relationships with plants to be anything similar to those with my upright-walking peers, but the metaphor is beginning to translate.

For example, knowing someone’s name is the first step to calling on them for help, to being able to look them in the eye, to asking them the question, as Feehan put, “Who are you really?” As relationships are built among the group of people gathered here from all corners of the earth to share an ecological passion, so too my reverence for the intricacies of flowering plants grows. The awe I feel listening to the trials and travels of others here flows so organically into the wonder I experience realizing that a yellow pea flower too has a rich history – through the years it has evolved to be a perfect deliverer of pollen whose parts are orchestrated just so that when an insect visits, one stamen gingerly pushes the other and pollen is placed on the insect’s back for transport. Can you imagine the history that led up to this amazing adaptation?

Getting to know any “creature,” you might say they become their name or that it takes on new meaning. Just as a new friend might evolve from “Ryan” to “Lay Missionary,” to “Wise Teacher,” to “Loving Father,” to “Advocate for Justice with a Heart for the Poor,” so a flower might start with a name like “Valerian” and become, “Zygomorphic,” “Friend of Long-Tongued Insects,” “Healer” and even “Sacred Expression of the Divine.” Yes, I have had my share of experiences “in nature.” I would say, though, this is the first time I find myself sitting eye level with God’s ground dwellers saying, “Hi! My name’s Tracey. What’s yours?” On Burren Week Day 2, I can already feel my “new eyes for God’s creation” developing. I am beyond ecstatic to delve deeper into this immersion and experience the spiritual gifts God has in store.