“In every conceivable manner, the family is link to our past, bridge to our future.”~
I had a totally new experience last weekend. I am a world weary traveller, been travelling since I was young. My first trip to a foreign land was at age seven, when the whole family took a car then a train then a ship and visited many foreign ports on our way from England to Jamaica. Even earlier than that, each year my father would pack us all up in whatever vehicle he had (one was called the orange monster!) and drive overnight from England to a camping ground in North Wales. Over the years I have done road trips, airplane flights, made crazy connections as I moved from point A to point B, yet never have I had the experience of my suitcase not arriving with me.
It was a surprising part of a surprise trip, a trip to celebrate (a few weeks early) a significant birthday for my sister Rachel. And although I was this seasoned, experienced traveller, I had not anticipated losing my luggage. I had not packed a change of clothes in my carryon. But, family to the rescue! My brother provided his address for the delayed delivery of the tardy suitcase (which later had to be diverted, since my luggage was lingering in Amsterdam!). My sisters provided items of clothing, toiletries, an adapter for my crucial electronics, so I didn’t miss my stuff too much.
A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, so said Lao Tzu many centuries ago. My trip to the area of North Wales where my birthday sister lives (another sister whose birthday is even closer, lives here also) takes me back in time and place as I revisit spots from my pre-Jamaica childhood. But most of all it provides the opportunity to sit with my mother, surrounded by pieces of her past, artwork from Jamaica, photo albums spanning many years, mingled with more recent family curios. On her refrigerator is a magnet I gave her some years ago “I am because you are”. We are all here because of those who came before us, whether we know them well or not at all. And part of what makes us, is the lives they lived, the choices they made. So while I have been recalling old places, I have also been reflecting on family, on people, on those who have gone before.
But we don’t have to be stuck in the past, for the present gives us the opportunity each day, to rethink the present. A trip through the mountains with a stop for browsing through shops, sipping lattes in an old hotel lounge, overhearing tourists speaking diverse languages, permitted an encounter with a new and interesting person, an artist who makes beautiful ceramic objects. He had lived in Paris, New York, England, working with disadvantaged and marginalized people. Through pottery he had helped people with mental illness and addiction. And his work was beautiful. He connected his pieces with the people he had met; he tried to reflect their stories in his art. On a flyer that he gives out with his pieces he describes his act of creation as being an act of meditation, of appreciation, a way of giving back.
Although I brought my work with me (one course to wrap up, one to prepare for); although I had classwork for the next courses I am taking in my ongoing educational aspirations; although I had to finalize the magazine and keep in contact with South Florida chapter members in the lead up to our annual Fundraising Dinner Dance (Erika, show some respect!), I have been given plenty opportunity to reflect on the past, and prepare for the future, while totally relaxing in the now: this moment, right here, spent with family, in the land of my antecedents.
I was asked this week if I felt as connected to Jamaica as I do to Wales, and I had to respond that in truth the question should be: do I feel as connected to Wales as I do to Jamaica! Although I have roots and connections in Wales, Jamaica was where I spent my formative years; I grew up surrounded by the people and mountains of Jamaica. That is where most of my childhood memories reside. But what a blessing to have two such beautiful places to feel connected to. And what a glorious life, that I am able to retain my connections to such beautiful people and places.
We ended one road trip this week with a visit to our father’s grave, and felt at peace; there couldn’t be a more tranquil resting place. In a green field, with a babbling brook nearby, an ancient abandoned church keeping watch, and the mountains in the distance there is a sense of being removed from the worries of the world.
Have a fabulous weekend Family! May you be given the opportunity to reflect on your own blessings, for family and friends and all that you have. For those who are planning to join us in South Florida on September 5th, don’t worry, we ready!!