My birth name, when it was the only name I had, means precious as gold, though my family—and most of the people closest to me—rarely used it in its entirety. Sab, Sabi, Sabby all tended to make their marks on me more often than my full name, with its r I hardly know how to pronounce, its fanciful rina at the end, a tinkling glass I’d probably break.
The name Sabrina can be traced to a variety of cultures and languages around the world. In Welsh, I am named for a river goddess who was once a drowned child. In Arabic, sabr, for patience. In Bangla, princess, or white rose. In my family, a meaning of unknown origin, precious. As gold.
In the field where I slept three nights ago, a skunk moved less than silently amongst straggly ironweed, occasional thorny stems of multiflora rose, a chokeberry tree. On the other side of my tent, a stretch of goldenrod floated at chin height, shining under the light of heavenly bodies overhead—a half moon, Jupiter, clusters of stars.
I resent being named for a precious metal. My birth name is now my deadname.
In every photograph of the moon that has ever felt, to me, as if it conveyed the depth and power of the real moon, she is shown disproportionately large. Moon, fifty times larger than what I see in the night sky, framing a slackline walker between two cliffs. Moon, a massive white orb looming spider-like behind a mountain, framing a singular pine tree caught in her lunar net. Moon, who appears in our world only as a two-dimensional reflection of light. A photograph of the sun. And yet, powerful enough to pull whole oceans towards her.
Moon, daytime’s mirror, warping the weave of my past, present, and future.
A name is a photograph, and I am not a princess, a river goddess, a white rose. I disavow a value system privileging violent extractions from the earth. I am not gold, or as gold. Gold is not my measure. My new name means ocean.
When I woke up in my tent, the field of goldenrod was glittering with dew and not yet humming with honeybees. Several days later, my seven-year-old friend, height almost completely eclipsed by their tall stalks, ran towards the clearing where I sat with my sweetheart. He insisted the flowers were actually called goldenrob, which we accepted, and thought might be short for goldenrobin. Our etymology was approved by our linguist companion, and the goldenrobins shimmered, unchanged by their renaming.
Moon is a name, as is goldenrod, as is goldenrobin, as is Sabrina. As is ocean, as is Pacific. Name as is. Photograph, simile, reflection. Or, moon. Fifty times larger than moon appears. Which is thousands of times smaller than moon is.
Read more from Issue No. 31 or share on Twitter.