Saturday, August 1, 2020


At the Little Bighorn Monument, I was reading to the grandkids the words of Crazy Horse, Sitting Bull and a quote from someone named Rotten Belly. This deserved some explanation. So I talked to them about my understanding of Spirit names, of being named according to the signs of one’s character. Spontaneously, and wanting to make them laugh by the surefire method of potty humor, I said, “For example, mine could be Poop-on-the-Trail.”

Not only did they laugh, but my daughter Talia latched on to it and decided that this indeed would be my new name. For my recent birthday, she went so far as to buy a piece of fake rubber poop (amazing that she found it in the small town of Frankfort) and so it appears I’m stuck with it. So now my job is to make it mythologically meaningful.

In the cultures of hunters and gatherers, poop on the trail is the morning news, to be read to see which animals passed through last night, figure out what they ate and along with “tracks on the path,” conjecture which way they came from and where they went. So in one sense, my name has to do with a newspaper headline that’s announcing something important to attend to. 

Or it could be something on the hiker’s path that is to be avoided and my job is to announce it: “Watch out for the poop on the trail!!! Step around it or get a stick and shove it to the side.” Again, this has to do with the morning news, using my Denmarkian nose and eyes to warn people what to watch out for.

My real “spirit name” that I gave myself in high school (no cultural appropriation here, just an inspiration from Native cultures I admire to reflect on my own character essential to my destiny) is “Dappled Path.” I just found myself loving the play of light and shadow when walking in the New Jersey woods. Didn’t know why or what it meant, just trusted my intuitive sense of noticing and affirming what I effortlessly liked. If my later self (meaning this one now) needed to name the meaning, I’d say it has to do equally appreciating the light and the shadow and celebrating the mix that has them in conversation. This constant back-and-forth in my life between apparent opposites— classical music and jazz, children and adults, social responsibility and artistic vision, things like that. It is the equal embrace of grief and joy, daylight ambition and nighttime reflection, feeling heart and active mind. 

So if you ever encounter poop on a dappled path, think of me.

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