– the story of a journey
A few years ago I had the opportunity to go through some old family papers. There I came across a letter written by my great, great grandmother, Priscilla to her daughter Eliza, my great grandmother. In the letter Priscilla wrote that the family had lived in a particular part of the British Isles ‘for time out of mind’ before they came to Australia.
It is unclear why Priscilla and her common law husband John felt the need to take a three month sea voyage to the other side of the world with all of their nine children. Further on in the letter she hints at some family trouble – some problem that forced them to flee their ancestral home. The details are very sketchy.
The letter is the only written story of my ancestors I have ever found. The rest of my forebears are silent. All that remains of them are a few tattered material goods and fragments of stories – stories that speak of loss and disruption – some sudden change in fortune that sent them across the globe to start again.
As their descendant I feel I carry these imprints of disruption, exile and wandering in my DNA. No doubt many of us carry similar imprints for so many of us can trace our ancestry back to another country, another culture.
When I went to south west Ireland I felt I was venturing back through my own familial history into time out of mind – that time where my ancestral roots are lost in the mists of myth and legend.
These experiences enriched me and gave me a sense of belonging to a people, an ethnic group, even to an ancient pre-Christian belief system I can only guess at but feel spiritually connected to.
Tomb of the crone goddess, Co. Cork, Ireland
Here in south west Victoria the feeling that I am journeying back in time still comes to me when I am alone in untamed natural environments. Here though I feel as if I am travelling back into pre-history. I walk past archaeological evidence of the Aboriginal people that have lived here for 40,000 years to ancient fossilized landscapes that date back millions of years.
As I clamber over the cooled lava flows that shaped this area or pick my way along the crumbling sandstone cliffs of the coast a sense of time beyond human time envelops me. I step beyond my ancestral roots into something far older – a sense of connection with the Earth that goes back through the very first humans that walked this land to the creation myths and the cellular connection between all carbon based life forms.
Standing alone in the primal landscapes of south west Victoria I feel myself to be a part of the Earth and of the universe itself. The life force that animates all living things pulsates within my being.
FOOTNOTE: On a personal note this blog post was one of those ideas that woke in the middle of night. I couldn’t get back to sleep last night until I had turned on the light and jotted it down. When I came online to write this blog post I saw a complete stranger had visited some old blog of mine I’d completely forgotten about and found a post I wrote about Priscilla 7 years ago. It seems she too is a descendant of this indomitable woman and would like to email me. Life is stranger than fiction.