September 30, 2008

You CAN go home again. Part 3

Awoke feeling uncertain, kind of aimless and (for the first time in this journey) unmotivated to charge onward in search of ancestors. The thought of searching through Portland for evidence of the Tanners seemed unappealing, so I decided, instead, to head to my favourite beach: Parsons Beach in Kennebunk. I just wanted to walk a beautiful stretch of beach and let my mind wander. On the way, I stopped for breakfast at the Maine Diner – poached eggs on corned beef hash with hash browns and endless (weak) coffee. I reached Parsons jut as the sky was beginning to darken with storm clouds., but it felt wonderful to be there . Along the way, I picked up a beautiful pair of smooth granite stones that seem to fit perfectly together. Though the beach was every bit as beautiful as I’d remembered and walking it did me good, I still felt uncertain about my direction. I decided to head south – to Wheaton College in Norton on the Massachusetts/Rhode Island border where I hoped to have the chance to meet up with Patrick Dougherty and participate in the installation of one of his artworks.

I drove all day in heavy rain through heavier traffic in a kind of suspended state. Still unclear about where to go next in my ancestral search, catching up with Patrick Dougherty seemed the best thing to do.

The next day I woke to a computer with what seemed to be a fatal illness: It struggled to open and when it finally did, all my files seemed to be missing. I immediately called Max (my computer guru) and he helped me find my files which now (for some unknown reason) were tucked neatly away in the recesses of my C drive. Regardless, I was elated that they were still there at all and decided to stay with my plan. I went to meet Patrick. First thing he did was to put me to work, which in my unusually inarticulate and muddled state, was the perfect thing to do. I worked for a couple of hours and then we went to lunch and talked a bit about his work and mine. I told him that I was trying to understand the relationship between the landscapes of our ancestors and our own sense of belonging He said that he thought that the landscapes we are born to imprint on us in much he same way that a mother duck is imprinted on her offspring and told me about his father, who came originally from the prairie and never quite felt at home in the mountains of North Carolina where they’d moved. I went back to work for a few more hours along with several other volunteers: some students and some, like me, just fans of the work. I enjoyed the sensation of working collaboratively on a piece that felt to me like a shelter, a tribal longhouse. I asked Patrick if anyone had ever taken up residence in one of his pieces. He told me that it had happened only once: he was installing a work in Chicago and a homeless woman decided it would be a good place to sleep. That would have been fine, except she urinated there, too. Patrick finally asked her to (please) not pee on the work, so she peed in bottles instead and left them lined up for him inside. Back in the hotel, I called Kathy and told her about my computer woes. She told me she’d had a similar problem and had discovered XP’s sytem repair tool. I tried it and Halleluja! it worked. My computer was back to normal!
Next day, I went to say goodbye to Patrick and arranged to meet up again in Colorado in November. I hope to be able to interview him while he’s installing a work at Colorado College. I headed next to the National Archives in Waltham, Mass. where I found the original naturalisation records for George Tanner. I’d hoped also to find the passenger list listing their arrival in Boston, but had no luck.

I got back in the car and drove through towns I’ve known all my life: up route 60 through Arlington, Medford and Malden and then up route 1 and 128 to Beverly and the first home I remember – my family moved to Beverly when I was 9 months old and it’s where I knew what it felt like to be part of a tribe: my grandparents were always around, so were my aunts, great-aunts, uncles great-uncles & cousins. When I was 9, we moved away in the first of many moves that would take us further and further away. Part of the mobile corporate generation, my family moved often as we followed my father’s job promotions. It was an adventure I enjoyed, but one that left a legacy of disconnection: When we left Beverly, we also left tribe behind. I’m not sure quite how, but I found the house. It didn’t feel familiar, nor did the community: it felt small, provincial, conservative and very,very white. I felt grateful for vibrant diversity of Fremantle.

I continued north and found myself driving along the New Hampshire coastline from rye beach to Portsmouth at sunset. The ocean was bathed in a kind of beautiful, golden light I’ve only ever seen in New England and along the way, I passed some favourite stretches of beach - Odiorne Point and Wallis Sands.

I found a hotel and was greeted by an Indian desk clerk who, when he learned I was from W Australia, immediately started to talk enthusiastically about Ricky Ponting, Andrew Simonds and Aussie Cricket. I mustered all the sports talk I could think of because he was clearly desperate for it and for the first time in my life wished that I knew more about cricket!
The next day began with a walk along the rocky coastline at Odiorne Point, but I was kind of wondering what I was doing there. It has no real relationship to my ancestry, but I love the place and felt connected and at home. I was scrambling around some large rocks and rockpools, when I found a giant vein of quartz running through a granite ledge. I began to gather some pieces when it suddenly dawned on me that the quartz was my reason for being here and that Odiorne might provide the quartz I need for my work with the ancestors – just as the quartz found at Newgrange and Knowth had come from far away mountains. Excited and energised, I picked up several chunks.

I went next to Wallis Sands – a great stretch of fine sandy beach, where I thought I might draw another practice glyph in the sand. This one felt surer that the first and I felt like I was finally back on track. It occurred to me that I should record the sound of the surf, so I drove to Rye Beach. I got out of the car and was walking down the beach towards the water, thinking about the ideas that had been flying through my head all day (about the quartz, the glyph, the sounds and what it all means; about what I was doing in relationship to the ancestors) and wondering if I was on the right track with any of it when I looked up and saw 4 crows in the midst of a flock of gulls. And thought ‘”Okay, I get it. I’m on track”. Thank you, crows.

1 comment:

Katie and Emir said...

ooh i like that glyph. very appropriate :>