Off I Go ...

Off I go. Window seat in a three-seat row. If my luck continues I might even be able to stretch out and sleep over three glorious seats. 
.
When I land in Berlin I'll go to a couple spots right in the center of the city where my ancestors lived. I've been there before but a few photo shots have been haunting my sleep and I need to make them reality. 
.
After Berlin its north I'm headed. There's a pretty intense research project waiting for me, and let's just say I'm kinda in awe and leave it at that. For now. I'll be sharing, for sure..
.
My heart and stomach are colliding in my chest because the next few weeks are jammed with some pretty epic opportunities around my obsession with WW2 - it's not just limited to a few haunts in Germany. 
.
Doors are opening. Or perhaps I am thrusting them open. But one thing is for sure ... I've worked damn hard to create a life lived from a passionate place where history, lineage, and art explode together in a rich landscape of possibilities. And I will keep working hard, through all the ups and downs, inside outs and arounds. There are stories to tell. Lives to honor. And truths to live.

Walking in My Grandfather's Footsteps

Walking in my grandfather's footsteps on Utah Beach.

On this day, the 73rd anniversary of DDay, I honor the day he crossed this sand.

He didn't land on this beach on June 6th like so many who fell here, and so many who went on to fall in the fields, barns, dirt or cobbled streets, and forests.

My grandfather came here from an airfield in England in the months after, to secure the return of France to its own people.

He went through villages and airfields with his unit, on to Belgium, and then to Germany before he returned home to California.

He got married, had four children, and nine grandchildren.

Though he is no longer walking the earth, he lived for many days and years after the war, and his descendants are now in the double digits.

His DNA lives strongly in many of us ... some of us share his passion for books and learning, some of us have green thumbs just like his; leaning strongly into the natural world and all of its bounty.

Some of us are seekers of decency and gentle, quiet stillness.

Some love using our hands to create, mold, and bring to life something where there was nothing before.

We all have in common our love and respect for him, because as he served our country, he served as a gentle, calm, and steady rock in our family.

We are lucky. He came home.

Yesterday as I stood on this beach, the westernmost of the Allied landing beaches, I felt the somber and silent voices of the men who didn't come home, and the men who fell on the sand here, to remain silent forever.

And, I hold in my heart a quiet hope for peace, that we will never forget the vast and far-reaching ripple effects of the violence and trauma brought by war.

This Is the Airfield in France ...

This is the airfield in France that my grandfather was stationed at for one month in the Second World War.

Yesterday morning, fresh off the plane, I set foot on this hallowed ground.

It's hallowed because it has been through a few iterations over the last 77 years or so.

The Luftwaffe took this airfield from the French, and then the Yanks wrestled it from the Luftwaffe.

Now it's back in French hands, with a sweet little memorial to all the Americans who helped restore France to its own devices.

I was pretty excited to see the memorial at the modern-ish yet teeny tiny airport plopped in the middle of a French meadow, but when I saw the cluster of old buildings almost hidden across the meadow I truly jumped for joy.

I had to scour dirt roads and gates, but found my way into this WW2 portal, thanks to my own tenacity and the help of a good friend.

I don't know exactly where my grandpa would have worked here, but I know he was on this land in 1944, in good company with the men who flew bombing raids over Europe.

I love you Grandpa, and I'm proud to be the granddaughter of a great man, who served in such a noble cause with so many of the Greatest Generation. ❤️✌️

Henry the 8th and Glastonbury . March . 2017

Morning sun at Glastonbury Abbey ruins.

Having been here more times than I can count, it feels like home.

And it kinda is, because I happen to know my ancestors at least ten generations back lived in this historically rich little village, which is also the location of the abundant lore of King Arthur and Avalonian mythology.

I'm feeling all the feels as I rest against the cathedral wall, destroyed nearly 500 years ago by the henchmen of King Henry the Eighth .... who is quite possibly my 10th great grandfather thru his affair with the sister of Anne Boleyn.

So crazy right?

One 10th great grandfather born and raised here, a humble weaver who died in an almshouse (still in existence) across the street from where I sit.

Another 10th great grandfather, drunk with personal and political ambition, destroying this abbey and murdering the Abbott (as well as a ton of other unspeakable eviscerations of the great dissolution of the Catholic Church in England).

I am quite certain one grandfather would have borne witness to the devastation of this great Abbey, one of the most powerful churches of its time, at the sole command of the other.

And here I sit, 500 years later, just doing my thing. Little old me, in the shadows of my own unique kaleidoscope of lineage. Mind blowing, really.

My Grandpa Bill

When I was in Los Angeles I visited with my grandfather for the very first time.

He lives in the earth now, but I like to think he felt me talking to him. He died in my 18th year - the same year I met his son, my father, for the first time.

It was this lack of connection to my paternal line that fueled my genealogical frenzy. I just woke up one morning sick and tired of the hole inside ... and I took action to fill the hole with facts.

Because of my tenacious digging and eventual providential connections, I am proud to tell you a little bit about my Grandpa Bill: he hopped on a freight train at 13 and rode the hobo rails, leaving behind West Virginia and the Great Depression for his visions of life in Los Angeles.

He eventually found his feet as a singer and guitarist in a cowboy band called Sons of the Golden West.

He would be injured in the Pacific and WW2, experiencing hand to hand combat with the Japanese that would stay with him for life.

He was a renegade eccentric, an actively sensitive introvert, and he would spend his haunted days reading Edgar Cayce and 'blowing shit up' in his mad scientist den in the garage, according to a family member.

So what is it about this man that touches me so deeply that I drove 4 hours round trip to visit his bones one Friday afternoon?

I am sure that he was so much more than these descriptions, and the need to know the details haunts me even now.

But I'll never forget learning about his life and the long line of eccentric souls he came from, because for once I felt a belonging. I belonged to a man who never really belonged anywhere, just like me.

I felt a pride in my own eccentric introvert, because it was an inheritance from a man whose DNA rustles through me restlessly.

Every little trait that I'd been taught was freakish and unacceptable were suddenly my strengths: my restless soul. My risk-taking free-faller.

My mad scientist of thought and expression. My creative, esoteric, inquisitive spirit. And my inner warrior.

Yes.

My Grandpa Bill gave me the gift of belonging. Of landing. Of arriving.

Long after his own life ended, and without ever once looking me in the eye, he gave me a home within myself.

My Great Grandmother and Los Angeles

Screen-Shot-2017-09-09-at-11.59.46-AM-600x600.png

Here I am at the threshold of a house that was painfully familiar to my great-grandmother.

This white strip on the floor was the very place she crossed over as she dropped her 4 year old daughter off, handing her over to be adopted by relatives.

She would stand at this threshold again, once a year, when she was allowed to come and collect her daughter for the day in a once-a-year visitation.

When my great-grandmother would walk away, leaving her child behind for another 364 days, the adopted mother of the child would shout at her as she walked away: Whore!

And the child would take it in.

All of the people who lived in this house, or crossed its threshold, are no longer alive.

I visited it today, and by a stroke of genealogical karma was allowed inside where the home is undergoing construction.

The wood panels at the top of the image are the original flooring, as well as the porch I am standing on.

The house is the same shape as it was in old photos I've seen, and the doors are original, too.

I wish these architectural witnesses could talk to me and tell me their side of the story.

I hold a longing deep in my cells to understand all sides of this story that has shaped my own life in profound ways.

What was it like for the 4 year old girl, who would grow up watching her mother walk away?

Did anything ache in the guts of my great-grandmother, as she walked away from her daughter while hearing herself called a whore, knowing her daughter was watching and listening?

What was in the heart of the woman who shouted after her?

It has been 94 years since Elsie dropped off her daughter and relinquished her rights as a mother.

The house still stands proud and silent, holding my lineage deep in its bones, while the skyscrapers of downtown Los Angeles thrust upward all around it.

Boise and my Great-Grandmother

When I was in Boise I visited the haunts of my ancestors.

Here I stand on land which once held the house my great-grandmother and her sister lived in while they ran their photography studio around the corner in 1908.

It can be hard to reconcile the need for parking lots when I long to connect with the structure that nestled these powerful ladies on long winter nights, or the earth itself that carried the subtle vibration of their footsteps.

At least I've got their love for cameras and their mover-and-shaker genes to comfort me.