More than a shady spot to think
I love language! I find the etymology of words (the journey they have taken to get to where they are now) fascinating. When I taught a Laneway Learning class on sociolinguistics, I illustrated how the English language has changed over the last 1000 years using the example of the 23rd psalm:
King James Bible (1611)
The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures.
He leadeth me beside the still waters*
MIddle English (1100-1500)
Our lord gouerneth, and nothyng shall defajlen to me.
In the sted of pastur he sett me ther.
He norissed me upon waters of fyllyng.
Old English (800-1066)
Drihten me raet, ne byth me nanes godes wan.
And he me geset on swythe good feohland.
And fedde me be waetera stathum.
Ref: The third chimpanzee: the evolution and future of the human animal
It's incredible to observe how unintelligible Old English is to present day English speakers. I am also proud to report that young women are the key agents in language change over time. It seems the legacy of my generation (Millennials) are words that demonstrate our love for our pets. My personal favourites are "zoomies" to describe a pet's frenetic random activity periods, "boop the snoot" as the action of affectionately touching the tip of your pet's nose and "floof" to refer to a pet with a particularly voluminous coat.
Given my interest in language, you can only imagine the thought I put into naming my practice! I pictured sitting under an oak to engage in quiet contemplation and reflection; somewhere peaceful, where there is time to process the busyness of everyday life.
I also wanted to highlight the nurturing nature of my work and felt that under an oak, the acorn (of an idea, of confidence, of mentorship) could develop and grow. In his book The Soul's Code: In Search of Character and Calling, James Hillman describes his "acorn theory" - that all people already hold their potential inside themselves just as an acorn holds the "blueprints" to becoming an oak.
Oak trees also resonate with me because they are found in my ancestral countries of Eastern Europe: Lithuania and the Czech Republic. In Lithuanian pagan mythology, oak trees that were “touched” by Perkūnas (the god of lightning) were considered sacred. I was fortunate enough to visit the oldest oak tree in Lithuania in 2009, while traveling with the Melbourne Lithuanian Folk Dancing Group Gintaras (which translates to Amber - the Lithuanian gold of the Baltic Sea).
Standing with Stelmužė Oak
“Oldest oak in Lithuania, height 23m, girth 3.5m and age 1500 years”
Next time you connect with a word or an oak tree, I encourage you to spend some time with it. The internet provides a plethora of etymological information about most words but for particularly niche words, I recommend contacting a librarian at your local or state library (for me this is the State Library of Victoria). As for oak trees, they can be identified by their lobed leaves, acorns and small, scaly bark. Some will have a plaque to identify them or a website page about their history. Others will remain a mystery. That being said, I've never met an oak tree I didn't like.
Join me in the next blog entry, where I will explore familial connections to oak trees.
*Also the theme tune for the TV show the Vicar of Dibley
If you have any cultural connections to oak trees or stories of how you chose your practice name, I would love to hear. You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org