Remembering Through Nature

There’s this guy named Frederick (couple variations on the spelling) Kiper, who was my family’s first ancestor to travel from Germany to America. From what I’ve been reading on many ancestry forums, he’s the ancestor of just about ALL America Kipers. How amazing would that be if he could have a giant family reunion now? He came here in the 1700s and now there are thousands of us, almost all directly related to him. What would it feel like to know you created such a large family that still to this day mostly live in the same area you settled in, that still keep your name, that still look back at you as their first American ancestor?

I can’t even begin to describe how much pleasure I get from history, especially my own family history. There is so much I want to know, so much history and knowledge and tradition that has been lost, I’d give anything to be able to talk to some of my ancestors. Especially now that we live in a time when so many people are going “back to the roots” so to speak in terms of eating, and living. Trying to get back to the earth, to the old ways of doing things.

I am an appalachian girl through and through. Although I was born in what would probably be considered more of the foothills of Appalachia (Cincinnati River basin, technically not part of appalachia but it’s own geographical area but in terms of culture and landscape, nota lot different) most of my family came right off the boat to settle in Western Appalachia,and there is something about these foothills and the culture and everything about this part of the U.S. that just absolutely moves me. It gives me so much pleasure to walk around and look at the bull thistle and phlox and jewelweed….listen to the screaming of a mommy fox…watching for those first robins to appear in spring….sitting by the creeks edge and squishing the gray Ohio clay in my toes….standing on a hilltop and looking out at rolling hills, bundles of trees, and rocky outcroppings…and knowing that members of my family have been doing this for hundreds of years before me. They may not have the same culture, or the same “modern” problems, or the same lifestyle, but the Earth around us has given the same joys, the same pains, the same feelings, provided the same food.

I’m not sure I can even really explain what my surroundings mean to me, what my ancestors mean to me. I don’t know a whole lot about them. Only a few names, a couple of stories. Mostly I live through other people’s stories. It’s funny how culture and behavior canbe passed down from generation to generation without anyone even realizing it. I’ve always loved reading stories about the British Isles. The characters and situations were so enchanting. When I was little I dreamed of moving to Scotland. The landscape was so pretty, breathtaking in a way no other place was. So when I discovered almost all of my family is from some spot along Great Britian it all seemed to connect for me. I found English novels so enchanting because they reminded me of the people I knew best, I loved the Scottish landscape because my Scottish ancestors were so attached to their beloved land they sought out the place in the U.S. that looked most like it…Western Appalachia. (I have a hunch there may be some Native American in my background too. I get high cheekbones and darker undertones to my skin from my Mother’s who’s background is Scottish Appalachian through and through. However, those features aren’t usually attributed to Scots haha).

Remember there’s that part in Gone with the Wind when General O’Hara tells Scarlett that land is the only thing that matters? I believe that totally and completely. Material items come and go and even traditions too, but there is something about your surroundings that will never change, will always keep you tied to those who came before and those who are coming after. I’ve never considered myself a very “hippie save the Earth” kind of person, butI care so deeply about the world around me, because it’s not just dirt and earth, it’s who I am. I don’t feel like I need to know the names of all of my ancestors, or have momentos saved from them because every day I vividly EXPERIENCE the same kind of environment they did.

I say all of this to sum up my feelings about reaching out for knowledge about traditional ways of living. I really feel like people need to respect where they came from, the knowledge of their families. As much as Science and Technology have helped our world, they really don’t mean anything without something to keep us anchored to, something to give our lives significance. I don’t learn about folk medicine because I need to, or because I think it will save the world…I do it because it teaches me about myself, about the world around me. I don’t practice sewing and quilting because I can’t afford to buy things or even for my own profit…I do it because there is something significant in producing something in response to your environmental needs, something very primitive that speaks to a place inside me no Advertising Exec could ever reach.

On some of these posts I really have no idea if I’m making sense. Go to my About page, at the top and read the poem I have in there by Jim Miller. It puts it better than I can.

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