Saturday, January 14, 2023

Living in an Occupied Country


My husband and I watched the movie, The Banshees of Inisherin this week. The story is set on a fictional island off the coast of Western Ireland and filmed around County Mayo, which happens to be the homeland of the Callan family.

As the legend goes, my Great Grandmother left County Mayo at the age of fifteen, and traveled alone on a ship to America where she arrived at Ellis Island and after this, she refused to call herself Irish. From the moment she stepped onto American soil, she was American and wanted nothing to do with The Auld Country.

You probably already know about the Great Famine during the 19th century and how the farms of the Irish people were taken from them, but you might not know how this history—this sorrow--was carried along with her people even after they arrived in the new country and how this sorrow is seeded into the very psyche of her people—even after declaring their fealty to America. The unseen wound tends to reveal itself in small, indiscernible ways.

In fact, my Great Grandmother refused to ever wear the color green. 

My family in Ireland seems to have disappeared and so finding relations that come before my Great Grandmother’s arrival in New York is challenging. I do believe this means I will have to visit Ireland, specifically County Mayo.

Creative Friends--is there some unfinished business in your family's story? Do you have ancient wounds that refuse to heal? Do you carry a mysterious trauma that is not your own, but feels familiar as if it has been living within you for hundreds of years, unexplained?

Here’s your creative assignment for this week--imagine you live in an occupied nation. There are all sorts of injustices and cruelty around you. It’s a hard-scrabble life.

Now, ask yourself how will you tell your story anyway? Yes, you can write it down, but for this exercise, I would like you to tell your story using some kind of code. This code could be in music, song, dance, or an embroidered sampler with a secret message. This code could be an ingredient in a family recipe that came down from The Auld Country.

Or this code could be embedded in the large stones you place around the field to protect your home, in remembrance of a past when you were forbidden from owning your ancestral land.

And have fun with your assignment, because readers, Papa Callan would have wanted that. 



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