Mariah or Mary is still the number one name bestowed upon newborn girls in the United States, and the wind is called Mariah according to an old ballad. It’s remained popular in western cultures since the Angel Gabriel brought astonishing news to the young virgin, Mary and her mom, Ann. People seem to fit with their names. Most friends would agree that my personality is more in sync with the name Jeri than it is with the name of Mary’s mother, even though it is my middle name. My identity changes with the company or tribe who count me as either one of them or one among them. I’ll answer to “Dr. Levesque”, “Dr. J”, “Jer”, “Mom”, and “Mimi”. In fact, one friend calls me Hugo, but being nicknamed after a hyperactive kid on a delayed flight to Orlando is a story that doesn’t fit here. Names are an integral part of each person’s unique identity and the internal compass that helps us to navigate the life journey.
Every boat afloat, once it is properly named, is recorded in the Ledger of the Deep. This is far more serious than the description of the vessel by “birth year” and length that appears on personal property tax assessments. The Ledger is kept by Poseidon /Neptune, the “mighty and great ruler of the oceans and seas”, the ageless god of the Sea (small g but long known in legends and myths). When a boat is named, according to tradition, the owner asks for Neptune’s protection from the wrath of the sea and the whims of the four winds.
Yesterday we welcomed new sailors to our dock and took part in the de-naming and christening of their recently purchased older boat. The ceremonies involved a chieftain, a sailor’s ritual, many libations offered to Neptune and rulers of the four winds, and a general celebration of fresh members in the Sioux Harbor tribe.
Sailors are a superstitious lot. To change a boat’s name is said to bring about bad luck. Really bad, for instance, to skip the ceremony and have lightning seek out the Ex Libris’ mast in a crowded harbor. Only the foolish would change the name of a boat on Neptune’s Ledger without asking for him to erase it from memory and then reintroduce the same vessel with a new moniker to the Ledger.
At high noon, every sailor on our dock huddled around the newcomers’ boat and accepted a flute of champagne. We took part in the ritual of calling forth Neptune and the four winds and beseech each to protect the sailing vessel when it is at port or sea.
We solemnly asked for protection from the overwhelming scourge of the frigid breath of Great Boreas, exalted ruler of the North Wind. Turning to the west, we sought the grace of Great Zephyrus, exalted ruler of the West Wind to spare us the overwhelming scourge of its wild breath. To the east, we pursued the defense of Great Eurus to spare us from its mighty breath. And then perhaps a tad disoriented from the blazing noonday sun and champagne, we asked Great Notus, exalted ruler of the South Wind, for permission to use his mighty powers in the pursuit of lawful endeavors, to ever spare us from the overwhelming scourge of his scalding breath. When the high chief completed the ceremony, cheered and toasted, then tucked away our cameras, returned the plastic flutes, and went back to our own boats. We felt comfortable with the new neighbors and were confident that the winds recently honored would be favorable. We set sail with our friends on the Sandpiper.
One cannot be identified as a sailor without admitting to being somewhat superstitious – although until yesterday – I would not have listed superstition as one of my personal character traits. That changed when the memories of the moment we named our four children stood tall in my mind. Each name appears to have foreshadowed the distinct personality that evolved from birth as it was set on God’s ledger.
Perhaps it is the sailor in me who upon rising every morning whispers the name of each of my children and grandchildren while asking God to protect them from harm. They are evermore central to the name that bears my identity as simply; “Mom” and “Mimi”. We are part of a very small tribe of kindred souls charting a lifeline and sailing together. We are a crew of twelve not bound by proximity. We are sealed together by name and love. Take a moment – say the names of yours – it’s almost impossible not to offer a humble prayer for protection and of gratitude for their lives. Mizpah.
 “The Lord watch between me and thee, when we are absent one from another.” Genesis 31:19