Eight-year-old Katie loves the pond. She always has. She loves the striders and other bugs that congregate there. She’s especially intrigued by insects, but everything in Nature will do. She can spend hours on her own just watching, observing.
On this recent visit, she named the three fish who’d managed to survive four winters and summers, despite endless raccoon attacks, and called them Miss Meredith, Mrs. Hannigan, and Annie.
In fact, Katie names everything. “Look! I found a snail. I’ve named it Slimey!” “A lizard!!! I name you Feisty.” She’s a bit like Adam in the Garden of Eden.
The naming of wild things is the first step toward possession. It can mean attachment (if we name someone or something, we are presumably prepared to love it), but with attachment can come ownership and that’s something else entirely.
When Yahweh gives Adam the power to name the creatures in the garden, he is giving humankind dominion. Nothing is said, that I recall, about stewardship, not enough is demanded of Adam, and therefore humanity, to care for and love the soil and sentient beings. Rather, it seems to be permission to exploit. Apparently only Adam was made in his creator’s image, not elephants, mice, blue jays, spiders, goldfish or anyone other than Man.
Happily, Katie is a natural little steward and will, I’m absolutely sure, become ever more so as she grows up and her relationship to Nature and wildness evolves and expands. I’m sure, because this true love of Nature is the greatest of her many gifts.
It took Katie many patient repetitions to teach me to recognize which fish was Mrs. Hannigan, which one was Miss Meredith, which was Annie. But before she left, I had them down. (Annie was easiest to remember, because she’s silvery white.)
I don’t know how to tell Katie that Mrs. Hannigan is no more.