Sunday, 14 February 2016

Gretel Ehrlich and My Grandmothers

I just read in The Solace of Open Spaces, by Gretel Ehrlich, this observation: "We live in a culture that has lost its memory. Very little in the specific shapes and traditions of our grandparents' pasts instructs us how to live today, or tells us who we are or what demands will be made on us as members of society."

It gave me a jolt to read that. I suppose that may be true for some, but I find it very sad, and I don't think it's true for me at all. My ancestors are very much alive in my day-to-day life, in how I prepare food and how I practise my religion, how I dress and how I conduct my family routine, how I speak with God, how I interact with other women, and even what I read and write. The skills that were passed down to me, the music, the form of prayer, the role I play in my circle of women, the service I give---all of it comes from my Mormon ancestors. It isn't just a "Sunday" religion, it infiltrates and forms every aspect of my life. I can't divorce who I am from that background. I think the same would be true for many Jews, Amish, and others where their current culture has been preserved and passed down through their families for generations. Because of the traditions of my grandmothers and grandfathers and the framework they provided, I know who I am and understand my relationship to the rest of the world. On days when I am bogged down with care or swamped at work, I can stop and breathe deeply and remember the identity my family ingrained in me and remind myself that I am more than this. It gives me a perspective and a peace that wouldn't be possible otherwise.

I can't imagine being rootless or set adrift in today's world without that grounding. That shelter. I feel so very sorry for Gretel, who must feel unanchored to have written such a thing. I am grateful to my ancestors who sacrificed to ensure I could live with this beauty.

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