Okay, so I know it’s a bit odd, but I love signs. Buildings. Posters. Road signs. Especially, Arizona road signs.
Last week as Toby and I sped through the desert, we were captivated by the mystery of the scenery. Rolling, cactus covered hills. Flat, scarred plains. Brilliant red rocks climbing upwards and piercing the burnt sky.
But my favorite were… the road signs.
The names were captivating. Better than Jones Boulevard, or Winston Highway, these signs didn’t beat around the bush or pretend to have it all together. They were raw and honest, and told a story. They were markers in time, whispering the stories of what once was, or perhaps hinting a glimpse of adventures to come.
It was impossible to pass by and not instantly conjure up visions of the stories: horses, outlaws, showdowns at high noon. Was it history? Was it a memory? What it prophetic?
These unpretentious titles captured reality and announced life in a way that was poetic, mysterious, and blunt. I couldn’t help but think about how awesome life would be if we all had names and life seasons titled like Arizona road signs.
Instead of our “forties”, we would head into “finally getting it together”. The year “2013” would become “the year of the dream job”. The “teens” could be “life sucks, but at least I’m are smarter than everyone else.”
As I grew to love the idea, I thought about how the people of this desolate land tended to capture the same concept with their own names. There were no dodgey, concealed identities like “Sue”. Instead their names illustrated who they were: Wild Bill. One-Eyed Joe. Two-Step Thelma.
Maybe the rest of us could get descriptive names like this. We’d get a heads-up if we met “Take Everything Out of Context Tom”, “Watch Your Back Susan”, “Big Bag of Crazy Clarice”, and “Overly-Sensitive, Exhausted, Mom Mandy”.
In Donald Miller’s book, “A Million Miles in a Thousand Years”, he tells the story of a woman whose husband affectionately refers to her as “Sweet Maria”. When I read this passage, I loved the idea. I wished Toby would have a nice description of me, but as soon as I mentioned it to him, I knew it was the wrong idea. Sure enough, his loving sarcasm got the better of him and he went off on a tangent of ridiculous names, none of which captured what I was hoping for: Agreeable Ellen. Too-Busy-To-Sit-Still-Ellen. And Ellen-Where’d-I-put-my-keys?. (Apparently, his image of me isn’t at all what I see in the mirror.)
As I digested this genius idea further, I began to wonder if the warning and promise of descriptive names were worth it. Sure it’d be nice to know which roads and people lead to chaos and potential bloody messes, but not at the cost of losing out on life’s mysteries and wonder.
So, I suppose I’ll stick with my plain and simple, mundanely named world: Smith Lane. Ellen.
Sure, there aren’t any flashes of excitement that strike when you hear them, but at least there isn’t a predefined future and there is the draw of the unexpected joys that lie beyond.
And that simple adventure is always worth exploring a new road.