When I was growing up, my father and I would spend most Saturdays and a number of Sunday afternoons paddling down the creek that flowed out of one end of White Rock Lake. Even though we were well within the bounds of Dallas, when you made the first bend in the creek, it was as if we were entering another world, one far removed from the frantic pace of city life.
Once, in the young willow tree hanging over the water’s edge at that first bend, we saw the brightest green snake that either of us had ever seen. From that day on, that tree was known as “the green-snake tree,” the first of many places along the creek that we named together.
There is a power in naming things, in believing that your eyes are the first to behold some sight and that your word-invoking breath brings it to life in the truest sense. Perhaps other fathers and sons had named those places before us. And who knows what names others have given them since. That doesn’t matter. What does matter is the time we spent together–time spent speaking words that not only named the things around us but that also named us, that brought us to life as well in the simple conversations between a father and his son.
I can’t help but believe that even today, so many decades removed from our last float along that quiet creek, some whisper of our breath still sounds, waiting perhaps for another father and child to take it in and speak things to life once more. And, if it still stands, the branches of that weeping willow which once held the florescent green snake surely rock in gentle thanksgiving each time our naming breath blows past. Its branches sway and rustle in the breeze in grateful response for having been noticed and named.
I will be forever grateful for that mystical time spent naming things with the one who named me.