Landing in LA we made our way directly to the docks in Newport where our borrowed boat awaited. It was one of my early sailing adventures and my first on the great Pacific. I was full of childish excitement anticipating a true adventure seldom experienced in modern America. It would be one of sailing the ocean, visiting islands, seeing new ports, sleeping, cooking and eating aboard. With great anticipation I remember parking the car, arms full of gear, rounding the building with my close friend and having him say, “She is down there, pointing to a crowded dock…C-21”. Loading that moment we left in a ‘small craft warning’ for the Isthmus of Catalina Island. The experience was everything I anticipated. The wind blew hard as we crashed over long rolling Pacific swells, tops laced with angry white caps, just the two of us battling the wind. Tucking a reef in at one point, the boat was being pushed to her limit. Leaving so late in the day we made the mooring field, tucked on the other side of a great white stone called Bird Rock, as the sun set. Wind and sun burnt to our bones, every muscle aching, but successfully navigating to our evening rest, nestled safely in the lea of the island, some 30 miles from our start…a dashing first day of adventure. We dined onboard that evening exhausted soon sleeping like the dead.
The next morning still seeping great satisfaction we woke late preparing the tender for a jaunt ashore. Both desperately needing to wash off the salt-spray from the day before and to get some long anticipated huevos rancheros. The crusty little café sat ashore overlooking the moorings; I sipped my coffee, nibbled at my breakfast and with heightened pleasure took in the scene. Picking through the boats, I identified our good steed gently tugging at her rode. The stern slowly swung into view. In a second the romance of my adventure was stolen. I sat stunned, robbed, forlorn. Such a great ‘first’ across a small piece of sea and exploration of a beautiful desert island instantly taken from me. For what dawned the transom of our vessel was her name…C-21. I thought C-21 was the slip number she occupied in Newport. I only assumed she was named: Carpe Diem or Courageous. I was too busy in the moment of youthful seamanship to take notice. But, C-21? This was no name for a boat. Boats names are fundamentally important which embody the vessel and owners as a whole, making statements for the larger world. Polyandrous, Pursuit, Albatross, Flying Cloud, Invader, Tuesday Morning, Honu, these are names of fine ships not C-21! And for some strange reason this weighed heavily on my experience. How could I adventure across the ocean in something called C-21?
Early use of the name Garth was Protector, Defender, and more commonly Garden as in the place. By about the 1700 and 1800’s as the name moved to people it was commonly seen given to the caretakers of gardens and thus was most understood as ‘keeper of the garden’. I didn’t realize this fact until I was well on my way into the field of Horticulture and quite honestly it still seems a little fantastic. My wife’s name, Healani, is from the Hawaiian meaning ‘Beautiful Heaven’. Our own boy’s names were a cognitive workout to gain just the best one. A name truly can shape the perspective of both the user and the observer. Name a child Maximus or Xavier and you have built clear expectations for the future. My brother-in-law has a theory about the name Chris, which has been spot on 90% of the time as to who and how a ‘Chris’ acts. When driving school buses if a little boy is acting naughty and he doesn’t know his name he yells, “Chris”. More times than not the child looks up shocked that this strange driver knows his name and sits down embarrassed. How many people since 1998 have called their little girl Monica? How many republicans use the name Kennedy? We use Peter, John, Paul, Abraham, Issac…why not Judas?
Names must be the one or two words that carry more weight than any other words we use. My guess is that this is as universal as the emotion of love. At the Gardens we name our cars. Gail, my truck, is named after the strongest woman I have ever met in my life, a nurseryman (woman) no surprise. Our work trucks each have names as well. Somehow they take on that personality. We treat them differently and morning directions have a better roll off the tongue, “Take Michelle out to...”. Plants, not surprising, come with names too. If you grow eggplant it’s one thing, but if you grow Violet of Florence, wow! You can grow tomatoes or you can grow Mountain Princess. And, we do. We grow over 100 varieties of different names each with a powerfully tacit meaning. Most of all, they are all lovingly gown by about eight named students with not a Chris amongst them.