A STUDY ON NAME
The word Hydrangea Otaksa follows the Latin nomenclature of new species. Hydrangea is a genus, and it is the hybrid of two Greek words—hydro refers to water while ongeon refers to vessels that store water. Perhaps the person who coined the word imagined the hull of a seed as a drifting fleet that transports water. Dissenters argued that this explanation made no sense, for hydrangea was not a plant inaccessible to water; therefore, the more convincing etymon should be hydra, a multi-headed sea monster in Greece whose gargantuan snaky heads bore a strong resemblance to the hull of a seed.
Otaksa is a member of the hydrangea family, i.e. blue hydrangea. It is the nickname by which Philipp Franz von Siebold called his wife Kusumoto Taki. In the year of 1823, Siebold went to Nagasaki to practise medicine. Six years later, his ship struck a reef in the storm. The officer who embarked to inspect found a map of Japan in his luggage that was banned by the government. In this famous affair, Siebold was accused to be a Russian spy and sentenced to permanent banishment from Japan. In the end of that year, Siebold transported tens of thousands of specimens of animals and plants together with two thousand living plants to the Netherlands; Kusumoto Taki and their two-year-old daughter Ine waved goodbye at the harbour of Nagasaki. People knew from later correspondence that Ine had a high nose, deep eyes and red hair, and that she followed her father’s path and became the first female doctor in Japan.
Names of people, plants, objects and locations adhere and transfer to each other while traveling along unexpected route. “Hydrangea Otaksa” was transported across the ocean from Nagasaki to Europe then carpeted Faial Island; nowadays, the name of a Japanese girl is blooming in all the gardens around the world. In the spring and summer, arriving in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, I searched for her name and a mist raised by it: the names of locals’, travellers’ and the traces they left behind. Before they sail into oblivion transforming into ink on forms and inscriptions on stones, I wish to draw all the attentions to the sparkling images of their lives as if breathing silently the names of saints between lips: one hundred and forty six St. John, ninety-one St. Peter, forty-three St. Paul, twenty-four St. Dominic and one Saint Ronald.