~ from cats, dogs and nature to the flowering of body, mind and spirit ~

Monday, May 15, 2017

Its Home On Its Back

This little box turtle (wish I had a good telephoto lens because he or she would tuck its head inside every time I tried to get very close), trudging along with its home on its back, reminded me of travel, the meaning of home, withdrawal when in danger, being hard on one side and soft on the other, and the ancient fable of the tortoise and the hare. Just to name a few imaginings that came up.

And those musings recalled how everything I read, most of which is non-fiction, seems to inspire a story line. Books about our planet like The Dream of the Earth by Thomas Berry to A Tear at the Edge of Creation by Marcelo Gleiser; on society and religion as from Age of Anger by Pankaj Mishra to Evolution of God by Robert Wright; from Reasons to Stay Alive by Haig to Waking the Tiger: Healing Trauma by Levine. Not to mention the variety of books on history, psychology, and spirituality.

Then there is the basic review of my own life experiences from divorce to single living, from competing in dog shows to hiking on mountain trails, from moving across the country to making new friends, from learning about natural remedies to falling in love later in life.

Most of the abundance of ideas or themes can be woven into tales that could take place within my fictional series, except that the first book isn't even finished yet. I've dozens and dozens of possible tales. How will I ever get to all of the stories? I guess the simple answer is that I will get to the ones that I'm meant to write. And that will have to suffice. My Muse will have to offer the rest to other people, although I hope she waits until after I've officially discarded them.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Celtic Family Roots

Carnac in Brittany, 1909

I have ancestors with Celtic connections on both sides of my family tree. Most Americans whose families have been here for 350 years probably do as well. Of my ancestors who I’ve been able to trace back to country of origin, there were 59 (at last count) who emigrated from the Celtic locales of Scotland, Ireland, and Wales, alas none from Brittany (in context, there were 208 from England, the clearly predominant country, with a smattering from countries on the continent including Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland, Denmark, and France, plus a few drops of Native American mixed in for good measure).
My primary fascination with the Celts is due to their visceral and spiritual link
to the landscape, one that I resonate with, as well as their belief in a mysterious parallel dimension, referred to as the Otherworld, inhabited by fairy-folk. On the other hand, the Celtic aspect completely alien to me is that they were renowned as a warrior culture; I definitely didn’t receive those genes. I also try to extricate Celtic women’s past out from under the heavy weight of the patriarchal times and mythologies (since the 1970s, thankfully, many other women have been absorbed in this effort as well so I have plenty of guides). Unfortunately, most non-mythological records focused on battles and wars; that’s what interested most men and they wrote the histories, so one has to peek between the lines to find cultural nuggets beyond those limitations.
The Baker family tree on my mother’s side reveals a robust blend of Celtic lineage. My great-grandmother Rosetta Jane Baker’s line contains 10 individuals from Scotland, 5 from Wales, and 7 from Ireland (possibly Scots-Irish, based upon the time period of emigration; further research would be needed to verify), a few of which I’ll mention here.
© Trustees of the British Museum
According to an online genealogy resource for the Baker family, it is said that, “The dark rolling moors of the Scottish/English border are home to the notable surname, Baker. Its ancient history is closely woven into the rich and beautiful tapestry of the border chronicles” and that the family motto is “Dum spiro spero. (While I have breath I hope.)” The theory is that the Baker name and family descended from the northern mix of Scottish Picts and Angles (about 400-1000 CE). That adds in the intriguing history of the Picts, current theory emerging that they were the “indigenous population,” the original inhabitants, for that part of the world.
My 4th-great-grandparents were James and Rebeckah (Small) Baker; their families were from Kentucky, and previous to that, Virginia in the 18th century. I am still trying to unearth the definite direct link for James Baker, but it was recorded in 1889, in a county historical tome, that his wife Rebeckah Small was of Irish descent. This statement is a curious puzzle, however, since most of my research points to the Small ancestors (plus the Burnett and Henderson wives in that family tree) as being from Scotland; immigrant John Small was born in 1716 in Kilmarnock, Ayrshire, Scotland (southwest of Glasgow, though he could have Irish roots) and the others in the northeast lands of Aberdeen and St. Andrews (both are northeast of Edinburgh). James and Rebeckah’s son Hiram married Clarisy Maddy, and her family line brought in some Welsh through the Morris lineage.
This indomitable Celtic family line gradually traversed America from Virginia, then to Kentucky and Tennessee, before finally arriving in Missouri in the mid-19th century. There’s a generational story here, one of many, just waiting to be told!
My husband doesn't really understand my recent interest in ancestors and cultural family history. I tell him it's not that I think this knowledge will change me--life is good and I like who I am--but rather that it does seem to help me understand myself a bit better. Plus, I've always been curious and a seeker, learning is fun for me, and "visiting" my ancestors or ancestral cultures is also a way to honor their journey.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017


I just love it when these bloom! Such joyful flowers!

Amethyst Falls Wisteria

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Theories of History and Pre-History

As I get further into researching Celtic history, for both my family genealogy book and a future novel, there are contrasting theories (I mentioned a little of this in an earlier post HERE). Lo and behold, in an older (1975) book titled The Celts: The People Who Came out of the Darkness by Gerhard Herm, the author doesn't even pretend to have all the answers. Refreshing!

Herm states at one point, referencing an amateur being derided by experts, that even those so-called experts "have had to admit that they were themselves guilty of bias" toward the amateur who, they said had "a tendency to tailor pieces of prehistory to fit his own ... theory."

Herm then goes on to explain that:
"This practice [of tailoring] is not, however, uncommon, even among reputable scholars. Indeed, used in moderation, it is quite legitimate. It is rather like trying to do a jigsaw that refuses to come out by starting at a different corner. If it works, so much the better. If it fails, the attempt should not be condemned out of hand but should be classed among the many models that have, over the years, been set up only to be knocked down again. Indeed many useless hypotheses belong among those sorts of wrong answer that must be given so that we can know why they are wrong." 
Further, Herm states that:
"The existing facts have grown into such a mountain that a survey would take a whole lifetime, without guarantee of result. Hypothesis has to be our core-sampler: with it we can probe the mountain, in the hope of being rewarded with unexpected insight. I have in what follows had occasion to use such methods, and studies whose arguments, though plausibly founded, cannot be conclusively proven. At best the result will be a picture that ought to be looked at with caution: this is how it might have been. If it was not, no doubt we shall one day find out."
I would personally step back from even the optimism of that last sentence. For one reason, because the "facts" used are often not facts themselves but interpretations and theories. Secondly, I do like his cautionary approach, but would view the theories as likely to remain in the realm of "this is how it might have been." Herm doesn't address this once, but regularly throughout his book, like when trying to find the answer to a particular question, he writes that, "to answer it we must persist with hypotheses and the sparsest evidence." I truly did find his openness to possibility delightful.

I'm glad that I've placed Herm's older book at the top of my reading list, for it more easily lends itself to later thoughts and ideas.
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