I often start class by introducing myself: “I’m Sage Rountree. And yes, that’s my real name—it’s not a yoga handle. I got Sage from my parents and Rountree from my husband.”
A few weeks ago I ran into a friend at a coffee shop, and he recounted talking to someone who was quite sure I’d adopted the name for myself. Not so!
Today, I interviewed a lovely man who’s one of the country’s most senior Iyengar yoga teachers. (Talking to these masters as part of my writing is such a joy, as I said on Twitter today.) At the end of our conversation, he said, “Now let me ask you a question: Did you choose your name for yourself?” He was amused at my spiel. “You’ve obviously explained that before,” he observed.
It goes like this: my parents, not quite hippies, wanted a flower name, so they looked in the Burpee Seed catalog and came up with Sage. (I sometimes embellish here—”It could have been worse: ‘Hi, I’m Nasturtium!’—and when I do, I think of the lovely Kevin Henkes book Chrysanthemum, where the eponymous title character has a teacher named Delphinium.) When I married Wes, he insisted, “Don’t take my name, no one ever spells it right.” But twenty-three, headstrong, and in love, I did it anyway. No one ever spells it right.
Rountree is from Rowantree. Rowan is a type of holly. In England, the name is sometimes spelled Rowntree, with a w. Our elder daughter is named Lillian, but we call her Lily. If she were a boy, she’d have been Rex, because Rex Rountree was too cool a name to pass up. (Here’s where we laugh about how it sounds like a detective’s name: Rex Rountree, private eye. Or a soap-opera doctor, or a porn star.) My father said, “If you like the letter x so much, why don’t you name the baby Ilex?” She’s a Christmas baby, and Ilex is another reference to holly. We tell her that her name breaks down to “Lily Holly Holly Tree.”
I’d always wanted to name my daughter Ivy. With the last name Rountree, it was just too much. I waffled during the second pregnancy, swinging between being rational and loving the sound of Ivy Rountree. Lily finally put her two-year-old foot down: “Her name Vivian.” So it is. When the obstetrician asked where the flower reference was, I had no answer. He suggested Iris as a middle name, and it stuck. We love getting bouquets of lilies and irises, which complement each other sweetly. (At this point, the teacher said, “And what is your PhD in, botany?”)
Oh, and Wesley means “from the western field.”
My brother’s name? John.