August 28, 2008

from the windy place

We get asked about Guthrie's name a lot. From the moment she entered the world till now, if not every day then at least every other. People have mixed opinions. Obviously. It's a weirdo name for a little girl. But, I've noticed that people my grandparents' age look at her differently after we've told them her name. Nodding and smiling. Younger people, well, it usually just depends on what kind of music they're into. I've talked about how we're a family of comparisons before, but I haven't really gotten into why we chose her name. And maybe it's just because I'm still swelled with pride from yesterday and am looking forward to tonight, but it seems like an ok time to tell you why Guthrie is Guthrie. And hence why it's so important to us that she be at least aware of the decision makers and decisions in her world.

So, yeah, it's Guthrie, after Woody Guthrie.

In 2004 John and I went camping in Joshua Tree and kind of out of nowhere he says, 'what about the name Guthrie?' I was not a huge fan. I don't think we'd decided on the patterns of our last names yet (1st one to be a Hulse, 2nd one to be a Gillette, etc.) and well, let's be embarassingly honest, I'm not a fan of G's. They're hard to write. So then I thought about it. For like 2 years. And it grew on me. A lot. I looked up the meaning of the name and, among other things, it means "from the windy place" that seemed appropriate as we live in Iowa and prairie wind whips around a lot! After she was born though it was even more appropriate as she is always in motion, always changing.

It's important to us that we give our kids names with a history. Either by their meaning or a more personal history. To us, Woody Guthrie represents an incredible portion of American history. An activist working toward the betterment of the working class. Giving voice to the voiceless. Compassionate and empowering for the suffering. Through music nonetheless. He helped move music from the concert hall to the campfire, thereby making it accessible to virtually anyone. The lyrics he wrote were patriotic in a way that doesn't really happen anymore. Writing about unions, fascism, farmers, work, and America in a way that hadn't happened before and opened the door for other musicians to write about their context; their passions and the world around them. It wasn't just about love songs anymore. Here is a person able to comment on the human condition from a place within it and at the same time impact it in a positive way. I think that is activism at its best. My personal opinion is that it's also American activism at its best.

I guess my hope for our Gus the Bus is that as she's going through her life she knows of the country that birthed her. It's personal history and the dramatic impact one person can make. I realize I'm pretty high up on my soap box right now and I don't want Guthrie to be burdened by her name. One of my favorite quotes about Woody Guthrie is the following:

"just change the moment. Just change one little moment… and moment by moment the world seems to change on it's own."

So, here's to changing the moments

and thereby changing the world.

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