Galen Pearl

Galen Pearl

Galen Pearl


I was sitting by the creek last weekend watching the light play on the dancing water. When I looked downstream, there was a beautiful cluster of snow white flowers blooming on a tall stalk leaning out over the creek. As I got closer I could see that the cluster was made up of tiny star burst blossoms.

In that first moment of sight I experienced a sense of wonder and delight, a gift of exquisite loveliness right there, offering beauty to the trees, the water, the birds and insects…and me. I felt humbly blessed.

All that took place in the nanosecond gap before my thoughts kicked in. My first thought was “What is this flower?” What I meant was the flower’s name, its label. I didn’t know. Not knowing gave me a subtle feeling of unease as my mind searched for what it might be. I made a plan to take a photo and circulate it to see if someone could tell me. As I got caught up in my thoughts and plans, the initial experience of enchantment quietly faded. It was almost as if the flower no longer existed if I couldn’t discover its name.

When I realized what was happening I was amazed by the rapidity of my shift from a receptive state of gratitude to a restless state of thinking. It happened so fast I barely noticed it. But I did notice it, and felt the loss of that moment of pure enjoyment.

Names are not bad. They allow us to function in the world and communicate with each other. But names are a step removed from what is named. If we jump too quickly into our thoughts, we miss the direct experience of what is happening in the moment. We miss the miracle.

Let’s try to watch for that fleeting gap before we shift from experience to thought, and appreciate the gift that each moment generously bestows.

The name that can be named is not the eternal name. ~Tao Te Ching

PS–If you know the name of this flower, don’t tell me!

16 thoughts on “Naming”

  1. In the breath of a moment, from blessing to thought . . . Yes, Galen, that shift can change our perception and experience of the here and now.
    And yes, I do know the name of the flower, but won't tell unless you ask. 🙂

  2. CW, your comment reminded me of a talk I heard a Buddhist monk give years ago. He talked about looking at a flower and how we can gradually release all the labels–Ah, a beautiful yellow flower–Ah, a beautiful flower–Ah…. And then he dropped the "Ah" and just smiled.

  3. Martha, I'm am laughing at myself right now because knowing that you know the name of it makes me want to know even more! That urge to label something so that it "exists" in our thoughts is so compelling. I think it is good for me to tolerate, if not embrace, the unknowing. So no, don't tell me. Argh!

  4. "That urge to label something so that it 'exists'…" Is that what all the urgency is around googling everything on the latest iphone is about? And all the picture taking? What, if there's no picture, it didn't happen? If there's no post on facebook, it's not memorable? Argh!

  5. I know! I went to a wedding. At the end of the ceremony the bride and groom were handed their phones and they changed their FB status right there. Apparently they weren't married until then! Thanks for commenting, Mona.

  6. I really enjoyed your post on your visit to one of your happy places. I remember well some of your posts on the peace that you find there.
    The flower is really lovely. I know that the things you have studied has helped you become more aware of what was happening in that moment.
    I do think that I need to take your thoughts and work more on enjoying the moment and not go into the thinking mode. Yes, we all need to stop and really smell the roses. I need help in this area for sure. We must slow down and savor the precious and sweet minutes of our lives.
    Blessings and hugs for you!

  7. We all need help in this area, LeAnn! Every moment is an invitation to enter the present reality of what is happening right now. So if we miss one, there is another one right away.

  8. Thanks for the reminder, Galen!! I recall reading the works of a guy who lived and worked at Walden Pond back in the 1850's. Remember when he said that his compunction to name the Creations in his workspace diminished the beauty that he once valued?

  9. And thank you, CD, for the reminder of his wisdom. So true. Makes me think about God giving Adam the power to name all the animals. (Sorry for the delay in posting your comment–I was at "Walden Creek" up at my cabin for the weekend.)

  10. I was jokingly referring to the creek in front of my cabin as Walden Creek. And yes, the photo of the flowers in this post as well as the photo of the "rock turtles" was taken at the creek in front of my cabin. Weather permitting, I spend a lot of hours sitting in my special spot on a flat moss covered rock on the bank of the creek. Like a big turtle myself! Glad you liked the poem.

  11. This post was quite interesting. I was a bit of an artist and sometimes people would ask me, “Oh, that’s a great scene, or flower or wagon wheel etc… Why don’t you paint that!” I will usually get out my phone or camera and take a shot. I’m now asking myself why I do this? One reason is that the scene would look nice as a painting and maybe, when I get home I will find the time to paint it. (Highly unlikely!) Another reason is the Art of photography. Because painting is so time consuming, I have found I’m much happier taking pictures and editing them in the comfort of my home. The third reason relates to your post. I will take a quick shot (Maybe to please someone or to cover my bases) then sit back and relax with the scene. Anyway, I’ve done alot of thinking on this. My brain hurts! ?

    1. Ha! Give your brain a rest, Betty! That is an interesting reflection on your engagement with photography. I know you take a lot of photos! You do have a good eye, but I understand what you mean about the mixed motives for taking so many photos. Thanks for commenting.

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