Creativity for the Rest of Us

In the Steps of the Ancestors – The Story Continues


Last weekend I participated in the Way of the Teacher – the concluding weekend in the four part, yearlong series of the new Four Directions program. Developed by Patrick O’Neill – long time student, collaborator, and friend of Angeles Arrien – the new program builds on and deepens practice in the pioneering work of Angeles’ Four Fold Way.

We began the Way of the Teacher work by calling in our ancestors through declaring our tribe and the land that we come from. We were invited to bring an ancestral object – something that has meaning for us from our lineage.

As I stood to share mine – a gift from my grandfather, Murtagh Corrigan, to my grandmother, Mary Lennon, on their wedding day – the words “I come from a long line of love” flowed out of me. I was more surprised than anyone to hear these words, as if they were spoken by a voice from the beyond.

Though the Irish are verbally gifted as a race – great storytellers and spinners of a good yarn – they were not ones for speaking about feelings or much of a personal nature. My family did not speak openly about love. In the past, when I thought about my lineage, it was usually a story of suffering and loss – poverty, famine, persecution, emigration, and alcoholism. I have been drawn to the darker side of the Irish experience in the stories told about my tribe.

In reflecting on this I was reminded of the beautiful and compelling TedTalk, that I never tire of listening to, by the Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie in which she cautions us to beware of a single story.

I come from a long line of love is a new story about my family. Love was not something anyone was comfortable talking about out loud in my house. It took me well into adulthood to realize that my parents loved through their actions. While they didn’t know how to deal with (and thus teach us about) feelings, my parents worked hard to provide a safe and comfortable home, education beyond what either of them had achieved, and a common sense view of the world. I learned to love nature with all my being, extend a hand to those less fortunate, and a deep faith in the Divine. They sacrificed a lot to give us a better life.

Whenever we went back to visit family in Ireland, the first stop was Aunt Katie’s. A sturdy hug, hot pot of tea, fresh brown bread still warm from the oven, and a bed to refresh ourselves after the long flight were her welcome. She wasn’t demanding in her hospitality – come and go as you wish – yet she was always there to greet us after a day of wandering about with a cuppa and an eager ear to hear about our adventures.

My grandmother saw four of her seven children emigrate to America and England in search of better lives. I met her only once when I was five shortly before she died and don’t remember much about her. I never met my grandfather. He died just before my Dad came over on the boat to Boston before making his way to New York then out West. My Dad was torn about leaving his mother at that time. She encouraged him to go. I can’t even imagine what that took for her or the loss she may have felt.

I come from a long line of love has opened my heart to a new story of my ancestors. When I am feeling the loss of my little girl who is now making her own life and decisions as a young adult, I can call on my grandmother for help. The wise Mary Lennon knows a thing or two about letting go.

I come from a long line of love is the legacy that stands behind me. When I meet the mystery of frightening change and transition in my life I can trust and call on that.




One Response to “In the Steps of the Ancestors – The Story Continues”

  1. Jennifer says:

    Thank you, Mary, for the reminding.

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The Mystical Wells of Ireland 2017 COME TO THE WELL