Sunday, October 16, 2016

following the trail...

Trail of our Ancestors-Jan Oliver-Schultz



When I saw the painting, I was so moved. How wistful to see the backs of the ancestors as they slowly drift away like leaving spirits.The colors whisper to me ; the blue and green, of calmness and acceptance.The dark trees witness. Is that fire or the setting sun which signifies the end of their era ? Their backs are straight. I feel like running behind them and asking about their lives, their wisdom.

For six years, I was addicted to family research.I have a book called " Collecting Dead Relatives".The yellow cover still makes me laugh. It shows a cartoon drawing of an old red haired lady with big sloppy red boots running through a cemetery with a huge butterfly net.I recognized her instantly. As I ran through graveyards in person and on-line, I gleaned quite a bit about the Irish, Scots and English who walked this path before me.Here is a litany to honor some of them.

For Hannorah, my Irish grandmother, who died when I was two.I have no memory of her but I do have a story.There was a terrible thunderstorm that ripped Long Island in the '20s when her husband was away. Alone with her 5 children, she took out a bottle of holy water and sprinkled each of her children for protection.She awoke the next day to find that in her hysteria, she had grabbed a bleach bottle.A woman of faith.I have the crucifix that she left behind, which I treasure

For William Carpenter, who left England and landed at Plymouth in 1638 with a  wife and 4 children under the age of ten.I am trying to imagine starting over in the wilderness, thousands of miles from home. What courage.These were not snowflakes.One of his ancestors was John Carpenter who served in Parliament in 1303.I saw the street that is named after him when I was in London a few years back.When William died, he left a whole library of books.Did my love for the written word come from him?He is buried in a Rhode Island cemetery and, poignantly, his grave stone simply says " W.C."

For Great Aunt Amanda Knowlton, who looks at me from an old sepia toned photo.She had a baby snatched from her arms by a tornado in Minnesota in the mid 1800s.They never found the child.Imagine.Somehow she survived this terrible blow. I have several of her pencil written letters after this tragedy.Amanda, I would like to have known you in your black satin full skirt with billows of fabric and a white bow tie at our neck, your dark hair pulled back and parted in the middle.Your penetrating eyes.I will never forget you and your child.


For Charles Phillips, Amanda's brother, who served in the Navy during the Civil War.My great-grandfather,.who never came home from the war but disappeared after changing his name.What hole did you leave in my grandfather's life ?Who knows your reasons ?Your well written letters penned in 1864 and 1865 speak of love for family and faith.May you rest in God's arms.

The blood of all of these flows in my veins and I honor them.




4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Powerful! The maturity of your expression is evident. Did we love Indians as kids? I am always so sad when I think of they were treated by we 'cultured, educated people'.
Recently on a nighttime guided "graveyard walk" in the oldest cemetery in Nova Scotia, the historian told of the terrible treatment of the native Mik' Maw Indians and the Acadians who lived peaceably with them. The British and French came in and took their lovely cultivated valleys and towns because they wouldn't declare allegiance to either of them. They deported them on ships to die at sea. Horrible!
And still we never learn respect and love for brothers that God has put in our way to help. We say "this land is MINE and you must get out. Have we forgotten how God led us here to freedom and peace so long ago. All is God's, not ours. Will we ever learn to see others through God's eyes?

Sharon Graham said...

Wonderful,powerful expression of truth.I thank you and yes, we did play that game.

cjm said...

I followed you into the woods, into the words.

Sharon Graham said...

And who would CJM be?