Help Me Out Here…

books-messyI need your help, dear reader. You see, I’ve begun another book before the first one is sold and so I’m once more doing research. “Captured by Wind,” it’s tentatively called, my book, not the books above, and ostensibly (meaning apparently but perhaps not actually) it’s to chronicle my love of storm and winds and wandering. I come from a long and illustrious line of wind wanderers. Here, for example, is the second paragraph of the manuscript.

I’m hardly the first. Wind and wanderers have a long and tumultuous history: Moses, Odysseus, Shelly, Wagner’s Valkyries and Washington Irving’s horseman, and long streams of pioneers and Native Americans, many lost to history. The list is endless, tossed by the wind. And lest we forget, there was Admiral Francis Beaufort, hydrographer and officer in the Royal Navy, who developed the Beaufort Wind Scale still in use today. 

You can see already what a complicated task I’ve set up for myself.

I began by ordering a book about Admiral Francis Beaufort, Gale Force 10, which chronicles his life from childhood to somewhere but I’ve only gotten to page forty-three because in writing in my haphazard way when I’m trying to figure out something, and many pages after writing about my wandering childhood and wind on the farm (yes, I know, it’s a leap but makes sense in the several pages of weaving and writing…one hopes…) I wrote:

While my early wandering took me across fields, Admiral Francis Beaufort began his wandering, at fourteen, on a ship bound for China. He was to comment later that his was “a strictly nomadic family,” although well versed in both scholarship and religion, as was mine: his Huguenot, mine Quaker. The beliefs of both the Huguenots and the Quakers made them outcasts, forced to keep moving until they arrived in more northern and less settled lands, his in Ireland in the mid-1700s, mine a century later in northern Kansas.

Well. Then. You see, my great-great-grandmother, Lucinda Moore, was part of that Quaker migration although she was born a Reich and likely Moravian (there’s not a lot of difference between Moravian and Quaker although Quakers were more persecuted), at New Salem, now Winston-Salem, so then I had to go find the article my great-grandfather wrote about his mother who married three men – the first two died leaving her with assorted children, and to a dugout with Mr. Moore in a hillside in Jewel County, Kansas where my great-grandfather was born.

However, in rising from my writing to go find the article, I was sucked into a black hole of years of saved writing: on Odysseus, on Kansas history, on prairie fires, on mythology, etc etc etc, having forgotten how much I’d accumulated years ago as I was thinking of writing Kansas Chronicles about my family and my step-family and Grandpa Albert telling stories of trading with the Native Americans who had an encampment just north of our farm.

Maybe that’s what I’m writing. The Kansas Chronicles, in a different form.

But there’s still that above pile of books, culled from my bookshelves dedicated to Kansas writing, and several file folders filled with newspaper clippings and stories and history and more pieces of writing. And I didn’t even add Gale Force 10 to the pile or a photo of the digital files I’ve saved and already written in the folder called Kansas Chronicles, saved since I wrote and published, in 2008, the first essay, On Fire and Family, about burning off the prairie after I’d returned to the Kansas farm.

And that’s what happens when you find out what you thought was a fresh idea has been simmering on the back burner for years.

Thanks. I calmer now. The task is daunting, but it seems to be the task I’ve embarked upon.

Unless, of course, I can convince myself to write the Mexico book which is also partly written.

I’ll update from time to time.

Family Trees and Reunions

My childhood was filled with family reunions. And family, for that matter: Great-grandparents, Grandparents, parents, siblings, Great-Aunts and Uncles, Aunts and Uncles, their offspring, my cousins, first cousins, first cousins-once-removed, and second cousins. Those last two were hard to figure out. The conversation wound back a couple of generations and I’d be lost in the family tree.

There were, of course, the formal reunions like marriages, deaths, Grandpa’s ninetieth birthday, holidays, 50th and 60th wedding anniversaries. Those were big! But mostly we got together because we liked being together and there were enough families and enough reasons to make it happen often.

This is a Sunderland family reunion with “Grandma and Grandpa Walt.”” No one said just Grandma, unless you wanted something real bad. It was Grandma Walt. I learned a lot about cooking from her, my hands look like her’s when I’m kneading dough. And I have her name, the name no one ever said. And I don’t say. Because it’s ours.

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Grandma Walt, feeding family

That’s the Sunderland side of the family. Four to six brothers, I lose track, came to Missouri/Kansas. My grandfather’s father was one of those brothers and they settled in Marshall County, Kansas.

Then there’s the story of the Ellis and Moore families. That’s my mother’s side. Her great-grandmother, (my great-great grandmother) Lucinda Moore, came across the country in a Quaker migration and gave birth to my great-grandfather in a newly dugout home from a hillside, Jewell County, Kansas, above a stream is my guess. The dugout, not the birth.

And then there’s Mr. Ellis, my grandfather, a railroad man up from Kentucky who seduced a good Quaker girl…and married her…and had children, my mother the oldest.

How that whole family got from Jewell County, Kansas to Marshall County, Kansas is a more complicated story…my mother born in Jewell County…but it came down to Grandpa the Railroad Man getting a transfer to Frankfort, Kansas. Her parents followed with the rest of their children. My mother’s mother the eldest. And they all grew up in Marshall County.

The Bad Boy and the Quaker
The Bad Boy and the Quaker
Grandparents
Mother’s Parents and Grandparents

 

Now you understand why it became confusing to sort out the first-cousin-once-removed from the second. There were a lot of us.

All of which, in a round-about-way, gets me to our family reunions this summer on our road trip. We stopped along the way visit family in West Virginia and I got to hold my brand-new great-nephew and teach him how to suck his thump. Great-Aunties have prerogatives. But it was the first reunion for my primary group, grandparents, children, grandchildren. Well, there was one other when my granddaughter-in-law-to-be flew here one Christmas to check out her new boyfriend, my grandson’s family. I was impressed. This reunion was a family vacation, in cabin in the woods outside Blue Ridge, Georgia, on a lake. We played poker again just like the first time.

A grandson’s arms long enough to love us all

We laughed and we cooked and we ate. My daughter-in-law and I both take pride in feeding people. So does my granddaughter-in-law, although she and grandson more inclined to take people out to dinner, and now we take selfies.

My sisters and I, and the cousins, all adults, talk of when we could have the next family reunion, but we are so wide-spread, from New York State to Hawaii, and points in between, the task to organize becomes daunting.

At least we’re all on Facebook. The oldest of our current crop of babies, three so far, turned one-year-old yesterday, a girl. The two younger ones, boys, are less than six-months old. Another arrives early next year. The cousins’ babies.

So will they be second cousins? Or first cousins once removed? There must be a formula for that. I don’t think I learned it, growing up.

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