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The Family Homestead-stage 1This is the very beginning of a new drawing that I’m working on.  This is probably THE most special and magical and wonderful place for many of my cherished memories, and perhaps for many of my siblings (I have a brother and 4 sisters!), my first cousins, my father, and his brothers, and perhaps even their wives, as well.  I would go so far as to say that the majority of the most blissful memories from my childhood around this place.  That big old pecan tree on the left grew alongside 4 generations of our family, was the hub of our family gatherings, and was a favorite place to spend many an afternoon and evening, breaking bread together, sharing stories, and just experiencing life, each of us as individuals, and also with each other. 

I have long referred to that particular tree as “The Family Tree,” and I have done a lot of images and journaling around the theme of “family tree”.  The life of a tree is a wonderful metaphor for the life of a person or of a family, as there are a so many parallels between them.  Trees can can see all kinds of weather, both rough and beautiful; sometimes they can bend with the wind, and sometimes they break.  Perhaps all that gets broken is a branch or two, and sometimes the storm just rips them apart at the roots.  When trees break, they can cause damage to things that are close to them, and that damage can reach farther sometimes than we can imagine.  They can get diseased, twisted, contorted and distorted, they can be hurt, they can die, and they can be killed.  Something can be happening in one branch of the tree that may not appear outwardly to affect the other branches, but they are all connected, even when those connections are not apparent.  The same roots feed them all, though sometimes inconsistently or differently. 

Trees can make beautiful and delicious fruit, but sometimes fruit falls too soon and fails to ripen, or it rots on the ground, or it evolves into something else, maybe a wonderful concoction in a single delectable meal.  The event of a single meal that may be remembered and cherished for the rest of one’s life, even shared in stories, or it may be viewed as too “ordinary” to be remembered at all.  The fruit from the tree may be carefully preserved and eventually be enjoyed by many generations, and its place in family traditions passed along from one generation to another.  Or, this fruit might just be gathered up by a few sad souls, trying to fill holes in their spiritual buckets by hoarding the fruit, so that it languishes in some overstuffed cupboard, neglected and forgotten beyond that desperate moment of acquisition.  It instead falls rancid, benefiting only a few generations of weevils and a few rodents, and by the time that it is eventually discovered after the sad souls pass on, all that is left are dust, shells, disintegrating cocoons, a few moth skeletons, and trash.  But then, every once in a while, a bit of that fruit may just manage to become a young tree that just maybe—just maybe–might one day become the foundation for a new “family tree”, in some other place and time.   Or a memory of it may become the seed of inspiration for the future.

Look at any family long and hard enough, and you will see bits of these parallels.  But I have to look no further than my own family to see ALL of the parallels, almost to the point of being surreal.  All of the potential of the life of a tree that I have described above happened in the life of the “family tree” of this picture, and in the family that lived pieces or even the bulk of their lives around it.  However much time we passed in there, whether by choice or circumstance, we were family, and we were connected to each other, and whether we realize it or not, even though this tree, and this house, and this family is no longer physically there any longer, and we no longer gather here, and my grandchildren have never seen this place, we are still connected, and my life and their lives continue to be touched by what happened there.  When people and trees and special places like the place above die and disappear physically, only those who are left behind have the potential to tell the stories that enable us to learn about—and from—the histories of our family trees.  When we shut away ourselves and our children from those connections with people, places, and their histories, we deprive them and ourselves of important cumulative experiences and perspectives, and leave future generations without important context, and connections with others that might help to ground and secure them through the storms of their own lives.  Those who have experience with this, and manage to gain insight and wisdom with age, experience, and reflection, realize just how true this is. 

To the extent that I have managed to glean any sliver of wisdom from this whatsoever, it is important to me personally, to not let that fall away from memory.  I have family members who have died, and though now gone, their lives as they lived them had significance.  We are all connected.  Their stories held meaning and lessons for me.  I wish I knew the stories of those who lived and died before my time, but who were, nevertheless, a part of my own family tree.  But in many cases, there is no one left alive who remembers the stories, or they did not share them with those who are still living, or if they did, they have not shared them with me.  But I have stories and I will tell what I know or have been told.  Some of them are about my life and my families’ lives that took place around the family tree, in and around my grandmother’s house (center), the workshop and shed situated to the right, and the surrounding areas just outside the image area above.  I am striving to write and render these images that are my collection of stories, first and foremost for myself.  If you’ve read my blogs here, you know how many ways this is beneficial to me, at every step of the way.  If there is anything in these images and stories that might someday be of benefit to someone else, whether they are a part of my family tree or someone else’s famil tree, well, that is icing on the cake.  If anything from my stories ever proves to be helpful to my children, their children, or their children’s children, or subsequent generations that I will never meet, and who will never meet me, except through my stories, even in the smallest way, that for me will give this effort value beyond the measure of my own brief and fragile mortal existence.

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