I am the eldest daughter, of the eldest daughter, of the eldest daughter of another eldest daughter.
And so it may not surprise you to learn that I am the keeper of both my maternal and paternal families’ past, keeper of the keepsakes, the objects that mean “family,” “tradition” and “memory” and even “love” have mostly all passed to me.
I have not always wanted or appreciated these items or the task of “keeping” them.
The responsibility of continuity, the weight of time, I didn’t want it. So I pretended for many years that it didn’t matter, my long, winding Scottish/Welsh/Irish ancestry was not important, the family I was born into was irrelevant. I wanted to be modern, to look forward, to shed the outmoded traditions of the past.
In my desire to walk my path unencumbered by the weight of so many people, old ideas, old outmoded expectations, judgments, and memories – I forgot that there was love and strength flowing to me.
I forgot to be humble and honor the great trust that was being handed to me, I forgot what it meant to be the eldest daughter of the eldest daughter.
Over the years I packed up these items and the stories that went with them – stories of war and love, hardship and loss, and joy. I stored them safely away, agreed to hand them down to the next generation – perhaps unused, unappreciated, by me. Never brought into the light, the flame of memory, of love and continuity.
But I see things differently now.
The strength in the bone and love in the blood of this lineage, my lineage, it matters.
It deserves so much more than my offhand acknowledgment, my casual care.
And so does yours, your lineage matters…because you are here now, singing its future into being, it matters.
“When you proceed on your course, never forget you are not alone. You have friends and family, but you also have your ancestors. Your ancestors sing in your blood. Call to them. Their strength through the ages will come into you.” Patti Smith
I have called upon the deep ancestries of others, I have cherished and practiced the traditions of other tribes and I have found there profound healing and grounding and I have felt rise up in me a loving connection to this land I call home, the forests and fields and hills of the sweet piece of earth I live on now.
But the question was asked: what about your own ancestors?
Are they not the medicine of your bones, is your own being not also rooted in the long line of people from which you spring?
All the ones who came before you in order for you to exist now, as Shona.
Do not dwell only in the borrowed wisdom of another family, dwell also in the sacred ground of your own blood and bone.
And from that moment on, I was able – for the first time – to truly see and cherish my own ancestors. I was willing to root down in to the truth and the customs and the love that was theirs.
I can hear them singing in my veins now…they have suddenly come alive in me. The flame of love and gratitude and reverence has been lit.
What is the story you hold in your being that longs to be told?
Can you let yourself be the bridge, the arc, that binds the past to the present and the light of an unknown future?
Can you, through your own healing, through your own understanding of who you truly are, light the way for all those who came before you and for all those still to come?
Can you call on them in times of need, find yourself and your way forward by resting into the arms of the ancestors who carried you here?
I know now, that to find my way forward, I will need to sing the song of the earth – who is mother to us all, our most ancient ancestor, the song in my very body that is my ancestral past, and the song in my heart that is mine alone to sing, and is the future of my lineage.
We all hold that sacred, fragile and potent potential within us.
I am the eldest daughter, of the eldest daughter, of the eldest daughter of another eldest daughter… it is a burden I take up willingly now and with joy. It has become a privilege.
Blood of my blood and bone of my bone, deep river, bounding deer, black earth and ancient rock…bring us all together in all our divine diversity to live again in love…bring us back to the love that carries us forward forever.