28 September 2011

Where I'm From

I wanted to explore this topic and found this format as a means to say "Where I'm From" in a more specific, tangible way. It has taken many weeks to finish but I deeply appreciated the process.

I'm from a balcony in Italy these days, from a land where south and west horizon meets in mountains frosted with clouds, and the sea beckons from the east with its sunrise sparkled water, a balcony of lavender that scents the air and reminds me of embroidered pillows my mother gave me to perfume dresser drawers and forever encode that fragrance with her.

From an apartment scaled to cocoon that wraps me, but spiced with the reds and golds of this peppery land, a home faced south with granite tiles that cool my feet in summer and warm them in winter when sun slants in. Books flood this home, sorted into topics that tell my story: celtic lore, poetry, women's studies, travel books, children's tales, indigenous spirituality, historical novels; words that witness a journey.

I'm from begonias, a terrestrial species that collude with this warm climate to grow showy flowers of pink and scarlet in the perennial cycle of thriving, dying and waking back that plots my course, too.

From McLellan's and Harvey's, Tierney's and Donovan's, Scottish and Irish who forged strong women, made  strawberry-rhubarb, mince meat and apple pies, grew tomatoes, rhubarb and concord grapes for jelly and jam, read, argued and held strong opinions.  

          I'm from the bossy that struts in when strong is expected in a child, from you don't air 
         your dirty linen in public, from good girls don't get angry, from staunch Catholics on 
         both sides, awash in Catholic doctrine, from family secrets, subliminal, not yet understood.
         I'm from Massachusetts, from corned beef and cabbage, potatoes and turnips.

From the aloneness of grandmother's first born with raging fever at ten months on a remote farm in Nova Scotia while grandfather was out at sea. He felt a strange heaviness in his arms, unable to row, said to his friends that he must go back. The baby boy died in his mother's arms before her husband reached. Grandfather carried the tiny, white casket in his arms for the funeral, the weight just as he had felt it.
From the grandmother born in Irish South Boston who found and married the only protestant around and converted him. From the great grandmother who came from Ireland, lived with her daughter, doted on her only grandson, wanted only to dance at his wedding and died two days later.

I'm from boxes of photos kept on the shelf of mother's bedroom closet, taken down at holidays to remind us of our family story, photos I fought to claim after she died to pass on to my daughter and grandchildren, the record of  ancestors, all who existed to produce these two Dear Ones. 


  1. Ohhh, this is such a beautiful and poignant post!
    It brought tears to my eyes!! Just beautiful!!

  2. You are so many things, so many people. Wonderfully written and very moving, I enjoyed it very much. It's always easy to pick you out of a family picture, but looking at everyone up close is very satisfying, somehow. Thanks for the lovely post.

  3. Gabriele, That happened to me when I was writing it, too. It was a tender experience of recognition, gratitude and forgiveness.

    DJan, It took me a while to find the right photos for this post. Yes, so many influences shape us. I felt great admiration for my young self negotiating these family waters.

  4. What a journey you are on...so beautiful.

  5. Lauren, It's quite a journey - I'm trying to get more aware of it at this stage.

  6. So profound, so beautiful. A loving tribute to all that formed you. Truly, beautiful writing, Mary.

  7. I loved this, getting a glimmer of the layers that were formed to shape you. I'm so keenly aware of how a person is formed, thinking about the coming grandbabe. It's beautiful to become more and more conscious of what has made us who we are, and know we can impart some of it at least to our progeny.

  8. Lisa, I'm glad you liked it. It was a opening up process for me to look at those influences and write about them.

    Ruth, Those grandbabes call to us- to finish our family business in order to be more present to them, to tell them the stories of their ancestors to help ground them, to stay conscious in our own lives so that we can model that for them and recognize and prize it in them. The task of grandparent love.

  9. How ever did I miss this post? And thanks goodness I found it... I love hearing where you're from because it reminds me that we're all from the same place. And not just because we're family! Families are the same, the world over. And we keep coming out, towards the light :)

  10. Judith, I love that we share a history and that you're interested in it. We came from strong women and we keep walking this ancestral path. It's been quite a journey.


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