Travelling through time and space, in a tardis camouflaged as a 2017 Kia, it is inevitable there will be familiar and unfamiliar moments to greet me.
This week my pilgrimage has taken me back in time to meet relatives I didn’t know I had and to join some dots on the family tree. Once again the nature / nurture theory is being cross-examined at close range. Rebecca Sohnit says “branches are hope, roots are memory” and these words seem to be helpful.
In the roots, I find more generations of music, lilts and tilts towards the Emerald Isle. The wind instruments echoing and haunting wild landscapes, that somehow contain untamed mysteries. The endless pattern of call and response, the syncopation of clapping and stomping drives home the familiar. (All we were missing was a fiddler.) There was dancing and drinking.
Many branches of hope from these roots across generations uprooted, pruned, cut off, abused, neglected. Faded photographs, snippets of stories, incomplete threads – all have a way of being woven together as the soundscape holds us around the table. Bread broken, wine poured, a powerful eucharist and toast to the common ancestor, a woman Alicia who bore a generation of children that found their way across this country.
You can travel for hours and still be in the same country. That is what grief is like for me – always being in the same country even though I travel far from home. There is wailing on the songlines of this journey and my tears join with the other branches, where loss and being lost has been the status update of other pilgrims. Around this table, I witness resilience from these hardy roots. I experience solidarity without explanation. I offer song without fear. Roots are deep and branches are wide.
Hope is invitational and promises the ability to change the narrative, without denying the history. Memories serve as humus, transforming by decaying into food for the branches. Whatever caused the break is unknown and now irrelevant, as another chord is played and toe is tapped.
I ache to be on The Burren and to have the west wind in my hair. There is a grand disturbance once again making me unsettled and joining with revelations of who no longer longs for me. I am taking instruction from the roots in County Tyrone so these branches can push out power and hope from the dark, blessed and blessing.
By John O’Donohue
Blessed be the longing that brought you here
And quickens your soul with wonder.
May you have the courage to listen to the voice of desire
That disturbs you when you have settled for something safe.
May you have the wisdom to enter generously into your own unease
To discover the new direction your longing wants you to take.
May the forms of your belonging–in love, creativity, and friendship–
Be equal to the grandeur and the call of your soul.
May the one you long for long for you.
May your dreams gradually reveal the destination of your desire.
May a secret Providence guide your thought and nurture your feeling.
May your mind inhabit your life with the sureness with which your body inhabits the world.
May your heart never be haunted by ghost structures of old damage.
May you come to accept your longing as divine urgency.
May you know the urgency with which God longs for you.