I pawed the ground. My life had changed, dramatically. There was no one to tell me what to do, and no one giving hints. Except that everything was a hint. My husband left. I wanted him to leave. I loved him. Or, there was love between us, liquid and vital as love is, but there was no dance. No inter-play. We wanted different things. I was studying spirit, that is, the thing-ness that makes our universe tick. And he was, well. It doesn't matter what he was.
Eight years ago I was skiing on a frozen lake at night, deep in the northwoods. My husband then was inside the little cabin feeding the wood stove and watching our little girl Ava, not yet a year old. Each night when he returned home with his parents from work (for it was their cabin and their hospitality that created an environment for sweet disequalibrium in me) I would bundle up from head to foot, and ski over the deserted lake to the white pine crowned island and beyond. Me. My breath. The shrewd darkness of subzero winter night. The north slanting wind. And words.
We're all in some kind of conversation with the restless inspiration-ready universe. We call it different things. Some call it a "career." Some call it "thought" or "idea." I call it "the conversation" I am having with every sliver and shard of life, moment by moment, if I can muster the presence, and I do. Often. And in this conversation I am listening a lot of the time. Hearing what people are saying, synchronistically, in proximity to me. Seeing what kinds of signs are showing up. What the birds say in their dash through air above the parking lot. What news appears streaming through the radio. A book someone recommends. The voices of my daughters channeling ancient wise advice ("Mom, don't take it so personally," Ava, age 8, remarking upon my frustration with my laser jet printer).
So as I was saying, skiing across the lake, I heard a voice that said, "Meridian, you don't need to worry about that..." and "Meridian, keep going, don't turn back just yet..." and "Meridian, we love you and support you."
In the creative world we all hear voices. Elizabeth Gilbert, famed author of Eat, Pray, Love says that we cannot be fully responsible for everything that comes to us through our writing, through our creative life. We are "sourced" by other means, beyond our limitations of ego and identity and daily thought-patterns. Art comes from a muse, from something bigger than us.
And so, when I heard a voice speaking to me and calling me "Meridian" I stopped where I was on the ice, where a week earlier I had watched, with adrenaline skipping and rattling through my body-system, a timber wolf chasing a deer across the lake under the nearly full moon's light, and said, out loud, "Who? Me?"
And I heard, "Yes, Meridian. You."
It stuck. The name. I skied the entire length of the lake, white shimmer of snow under the quarter waning moon. I pushed hard against the north wind. I returned to the cabin and everyone was sleeping. I brought my notebook to the living room and wrote under the small light above the kitchen sink. I spelled m-e-r-i-d-i-a-n in a notebook.
That night I dreamed about watersheds. The flow of water over the earth. I saw a map of where the basins meet. A perfect accurate map of the way water spills and spreads across our planet Earth. A hint.
I took the name, as if into my mouth. Tasted the implication. Felt the dance of new sound in my mind. My ego said, "What the hell?" My muse said, "Yes, Meridian."
And so it was, that in the midst of these changes. Divorce. Leaving my apprenticeship. My name changed me. And so I changed it consciously. A act of dancing with what is mysterious. What has always called me forward from beyond.
I have loved who I have been as Stephanie. She was a sweet curious thing. But I cannot pretend to know what will become of my commitment to listen to the muse. I am not a material all of my own making. Life is making me too. The night is crafting me. Words are heroes and heroines helping me to surrender to what wants to happen.
If you listen closely, maybe some new sound or word calls to you in a name you think is not your own. A poetic call, leaning into you from the night air and whispering to the "you" who is becoming. This is one way that a name can change.
(Thank you, Stephane N. Johnson, for the beautiful journey in sound and identity.)