The Illuminating Task of House-Naming by Christina Knowles

SunflowerRecently, my husband, Randy, and I decided our house needed a name. Why not? After all, lots of homes have names: Tara, Downton Abbey aka Highclere Castle, Wuthering Heights, Pemberly, and, of course, Manderley, to name a few. But we don’t live in a castle, a plantation house, or a seaside mansion, so why does our house need a name?

The British seem to have started this tradition of house-naming when wealthy landowners named their manor houses, country homes, and castles. However, the idea caught on and quickly spread through the middle classes and commoners. Before house numbers as addresses, there were house names. So it is not completely without precedent that my husband and I decided that our simple, middle class home of the past six and a half years should finally be given a proper title.

This seemed a simple enough task—but that was before I realized that there is a certain psychology behind the naming of one’s home. There really is, at least, this is my theory. I sat down to make a list of choices. I thought I would come up with some ideas, show them to Randy, and we would eliminate the ones on which we could not agree, compromise, and choose one which we both liked. Simple.

As soon as I started my list, suddenly it seemed so important to get it right. I mean, we couldn’t go around calling our house something ridiculous like Shady Acres or ostentatious like Knowles Manor. It would be embarrassing. The name should reflect who we are and the way we like to live.Hollyhocks2

That’s when I realized that naming has a lot to do with psychology, and, in fact, the house we choose to live in and the way we decorate it reflects what’s important to us, who we are, or how we want to depict ourselves to others. More than just reflecting it, it reinforces what’s important to us, and what we want to focus upon.

Think about it. Is your house sparse with a large piece of exercise equipment in the living room, or a bike parked in the dining room? Is it elegant and aloof? Is it warm and cozy? Inviting? Covered to the ceiling in art? Filled with souvenirs of adventures and maps covered in pushpins? Is it sleek and modern? Tasteful?

My husband and I are homebodies. He is a musician, a composer, and I am a writer and an artist. Our house reflects our lifestyle. It’s on the small side, warm and cozy. It’s filled with books, art to the ceiling, and music gear everywhere. It has comfy furniture, a fireplace, and lots of fuzzy blankets. Outside, there are flower and herb gardens, vegetable gardens and berry bushes. There are stone paths and wild flowers. We like to spend time at home, and our home reflects this. Our home reflects us. We couldn’t just name it anything. Talk about first world problems.

Nothing seemed right. Still, I made a list:                    Chacho

  • Serenity Hall
  • Haven Hall
  • Meadow Muse
  • Artist’s Haven
  • Melody Muse
  • Poet’s Haven
  • Peaceful Gardens
  • Hollyhock Chalet

I ran them by Randy. “Hall” was pretentious and implied big. He also wanted to eliminate anything that was specific to just one of us, so we struck from the list anything to do with music, art, or poetry. So, we ended up with this:

  • Hollyhock Cottage
  • Hollyhock Chalet
  • Hollyhock Place
  • Meadow Muse
  • Serenity Cottage
  • Serenity Haven

We couldn’t make a decision of this importance quickly, so we waited. The more time that went by, the more the name Hollyhock began to resonate with me. In the summer time, we have huge hollyhocks that tower over our fence. They grow beautiful and huge each year, and every summer they seem to bloom in different vibrant colors than the year before. Also, our house reminds me of an English cottage on the outside, so finally, we chose Hollyhock Cottage as our home’s name, and this summer we plan to plant hollyhocks in the front yard and put our house’s name on a little sign.

HollyhocksIt was Hollyhock Cottage that said what we wanted it to about us—a simple cottage with a beautiful wild flower that grows enthusiastically and strong, even with little pampering. It stands up proud and tall, but is not grandiose. It’s a little ragged around the edges, but still lovely. It’s tenacious. Hollyhocks last all summer and struggle to survive even after the first snow falls. It comes back new and resilient every year. Just like us.

It reminds us that we are regular people with extraordinary dreams; we have purpose, we are persistent, and we ardently embrace each season of our lives. So, in the end, naming our house was astonishingly difficult and strangely enlightening. I highly recommend it.—Christina Knowles

Book Review: White Walls by HMC

51bx1tkoTmL._SS300_White Walls, a suspense-thriller, by HMC drew me in instantly with an assortment of interesting characters. As the book opens, we get a peek at the possibly paranoid delusions of a very disturbed man, George Barter, an artist who won’t leave his home even to purchase art supplies. I knew I liked this book immediately when I could easily picture George arguing with the store clerk on the phone and then, in an angry tirade, tearing up his own art with a pair of scissors. Each character has a definitive voice that comes through in HMC’s artful and realistic dialogue.

HMC alternates the third person viewpoint skillfully to give readers a glimpse into the minds of several characters quickly. We meet Samantha Phillips, a young woman and daughter of a notable psychiatrist with a personality disorder, Dr. Jade Thatcher, the main character with issues from her own past, Anne, a light-hearted and friendly nurse, Freddie, a patient who has childlike tendencies, Dr. Clancy Green, a crotchety stickler for the rules, and Morty, a kind easy-going nurse, just to name a few, who will all have one thing in common, the mysterious Rowan’s Home Psychiatric Institution.

Without giving too much away, I will say that Jade Thatcher finds herself in a great deal of trouble, which she did not anticipate when she came home to Fairholmes, Australia to make a fresh start after her divorce. With the best intentions, she is soon immersed in Rowan’s shadowy past, unsure of whom to trust, and struggling to survive long enough to uncover the secrets that will allow her to finally help her patients to heal.

The more I read, the more intriguing the plot became. This book made me speculate about what was really going on and to challenge myself to figure it out before the end of the book. This book was great fun to read, and I didn’t want to put it down. HMC has a degree in psychology, which adds to the realism of the novel, but is also the source of my only complaint. I wish she would have given more details regarding the psychological aspects in the resolution of the book. Nevertheless, a great read, and I highly recommend it. 4 out of 5 stars. –Christina Knowles

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