Monday, July 13, 2009

Knots and Earworms


I was doing some ancestral research a few years ago. For several
days, I concentrated on my great-great-grandmother, Mary. Not
only was I searching through census lists, trying to locate her mother,
sister and brother, who were all separated after her father died in the
Civil War, but I was empathizing with her feelings on losing a father,
as well as, later in life, a young son.

Over the course of the days while I was doing this research, a song,
out of nowhere, kept playing over and over again in my head. Finally,
it was driving me nutty and I had to look it up. It was a slow version
of Listen to the Mockingbird, a song very popular during the Civil
War, with sad lyrics about a singer, dreaming of his sweetheart, dead
and buried, and a mockingbird singing over her grave. I certainly
hadn't heard this song anywhere and thought it a strange earworm.
It suddenly came to mind, that it must have a connection to Mary,
who I had been thinking about so intently.

After telling this to my sister this weekend, I was inspired to write
this poem.




Maternal Knots


My foremothers, apron to apron,
bind generations
with deer hide knots and Irish muslin.

Their spirits beam ancestral pride,
within my household walls
did hide, as newborns cried;

lulled to sleep with fiddle tunes
of mockingbird,
native chant and Celtic runes.

Weave 'round their offspring
gentle ties, connecting each
with tribal string;

maternal knots join with the earth,
will reason for each new one's birth.


Willow, 2009


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67 comments:

  1. what a WONDERFUL poem ....love, love, love it.... and the photos are priceless are these your ancestors? wow

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  2. Oh what a wonderful poem. I love the meandering way it came about as well. It's amazing what our minds and our hearts will give us when we open them up just a little.

    brightest blessings!

    (great new header btw)

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  3. Your use of intuition in your search by connecting the song with your subject, your g-g-grandmother, is so inspiring. Loved the poem, and love the header.

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  4. Mouse, actually these are two vintage postcards from my collection. I love them because they very well could be my ancesters, since I'm a mix of Scotch Irish pioneer blood and Cherokee.

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  5. Very lovely poem!

    I'm going to pay more attention to the little songs that get stuck in my head!

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  6. It is said that some things cannot be forgotten. And many other things cannot be remembered. We are always somewhere searching; thinking; singing. The poem seems to reveal what you hope.

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  7. What a lovely variation on a sonnet. Nicely done. And nice interweaving of sound and ideas.

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  8. Grandpa, coming from a talented poet such as yourself, I am always honored. Thank you.

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  9. Maternal knots - yes, that says it very well.

    I often think of my great-grandmother who lost three children in two weeks to diptheria. The story goes that a traveler, obviously sick, was invited into my grandmother and grandfather's home by my grandfather while she was away. He allowed the traveler to sleep in his children's bed, thus signing their death warrant. It was said she never forgave her husband.

    Life can be so hard sometimes.

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  10. Willow--can you please give me some info regarding your researching American Indians? My husbands g and g-g grandmother all are from the Cherokee tribe but we have a hard time coming up with any info because of the lack of records. His g-grandmother's name was Mary btw. Mary Proctor to be exact. Any info would be appreciated. Thanks!

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  11. Teri, tracing Native American lines can be very difficult, especially since many blended into society by marrying white men. With the Trail of Tears, etc., they often would hide their ethnicity. I would suggest subscribing to Ancestry.com. Census records, marriage records and thousands of ancestral family files are available.

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  12. Willow...I like the earworm whispering of the mokingbird song.
    Fine tune and perhaps the mockingbird song will lead you to her! They seem to have ways to allow "things" to come to light, don't you think? The poem is devine, a fitting description!

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  13. Very lovely...as usual. Thank you for stopping by my blog.

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  14. hi willow, this is a really beautiful poem. i love the idea that music and words and spirituality are woven 'round our children.
    i looked up the lyrics of "listen to the mockingbird" because it's new to me. as you already know, it's a sad lovely song.
    apparently abraham lincoln said the song was "as sincere as the laughter of a little girl at play." have a peaceful day. steven

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  15. Beautiful words, I'm so glad to discover your blog, will be back for more!

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  16. 'apron to apron' indeed. that's lovely.

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  17. A beautiful post Willow.Thinking about my husband's father, as I pottered around our home, I started to sing a tune to myself "Little Davey play on your harp, Hallellu, hallellu" (don't know if you know it). My husband stopped in his tracks and said "Why are you singing that?" I had to admit that I didn't know. "It was a favourite of my father's when I was very little"he said. "Hadn't heard it since I was a small child." I think it was more than coincidence, since it's not the songs I usually sing - more like Pink!

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  18. ...your poem is wonderful btw.

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  19. beautiful verse! and image! beautiful! odd that you mention genealogy today cause the past few days i've done nothing but - and especially now with my new subscription to ancestry dot com! absolutely fantastic tool! i had used it a number of years ago but the amount of information there now is incredible! i highly recommend it to anyone wanting to search for their familial roots -

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  20. The way you contrast your two heritages in the poem is beautiful. Mother's from two different worlds, but the same nevertheless.

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  21. Oh, for a way to know those long gone ancestors. Your lovely poem is an excellent beginning.

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  22. Oh, lovely, Willow! Well done, again. You should just forget about the novel for now, and publish some poetry instead.

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  23. Very nicely done. You have a talent for poetry. Perhaps a chapbook is in your immediate future. Pappy

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  24. Many connections there, through song, pictures, and now your words.

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  25. beautiful words willow and wonderful tale on how they came to be...all wrapped up rather nicely.

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  26. I can only add my few words of praise to everyone else's. Beautiful post, powerful poem, striking images, and thank you for the link to the song. It sounded so familiar that I had to check whether it was on my beloved Civil War CD (from the Ken Burns documentary). It wasn't, but it should've been.

    Thank you!

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  27. Lovely, lovely post, Willow. Your poem is very beautiful and I love the vintage postcards. I get goosebumps thinking how a tune out of nowhere just flits into your mind and that there is a connection. Pam's story also gave me goosebumps.

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  28. Willow, I didn't know you are Cherokee. My daughter works for the Cherokee nation and is on the Dawes Rolls. I loved the poem. You are very brave to share them with us; I find it a hard thing to do - share my writings. And lord forbid those songs that get stuck in my head!

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  29. The choice of that lilting meter with its resonance of lullaby is just right for this poignant memoir, willow. And what pictures!

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  30. Wow, that's beautiful!
    I find it very amazing that the song was stuck in your head while you were researching about that time.

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  31. My favourite aspect of your poem is how you have woven organically those two cultures that run through your blood. It's an amazing piece of work. And so is your tale about how this inspiration came about. I have had earworms before and I guess that our brains 'connects' and latches onto a memory we have no recollection of anymore triggering off an array of emotions that become inspiration for a poem or a painting.

    Many thanks.

    Greetings from London.

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  32. I'm still smiling, when inspired, you are coming along quite nicely.
    It must have been the Mockingbird.

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  33. A lovely poem & a fascinating story; thanks.

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  34. A mix of Scottish pioneers and Cherokee - oh willow, you have such a fascinating melange in you, no wonder you have such fascinating interests

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  35. Ahhh the ties that bind...simply beautiful my dear!

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  36. How lucky you are to still have such a connection with your ancestors, that you can gather their songs from the air. It's a lost art, it truly is. : ) Beautifully inspiring poem Willow. Be sure to leave it for your descendants!

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  37. This is truely beautiful Willow!

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  38. Willow, I enjoyed your interesting post and poem.

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  39. What a wonderful tribute to ancestry, we are all so connected in so many ways, it is a small world of mem'ries past.

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  40. Hello Willow,

    I like the reference to deer hide and Irish muslin ties. Have you always known you have Cherokee blood or was that something you had to discover? It certainly makes for a rich mixture. Lovely poem.

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  41. Ah, there are so many depressing songs from the Civil War era! (hardly surprising, I suppose).

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  42. Pam, your story gave me goosebumps, too!! I also think it's more than must coincidence.

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  43. Nancy, what a sad story. So many deaths could have been prevented if they only had the knowledge we do today.

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  44. First:
    THE BestHeader EVER!! Love it.
    Second:
    Love your concept of ancestral knots.
    Beautiful.

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  45. Willow, you have inspired me to do a few post on my own ancestral lines. Brought back the book with me and have been making notes. One of our family stories is that a several times great grandmother is Cherokee. And I believe another connection to Native Americans on another linage.

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  46. Very beautiful words, willow and a very interesting post. When I do my family history I get so caught up in the past that I forgot who I am for a while.

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  47. Your poem is beautiful and true...we are connected to our grandparents knot after knot through the years and memories. A true legacy.

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  48. Oh Willow, such a great poem to go along with this part of your ancestral line. I need to take a serious road-trip to Albany, NY, one of these days....

    And I keep forgetting...awesome new header!

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  49. I love the "native chant and Celtic runes" line, particularly. You evoke a time and an emotion--your personal history and progression captured for eternity.

    Kat

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  50. Back for round two...

    I had forgotten that I used to walk across three fields (some pretty big ones) to work at a drive-in in the early days. And I told popcorn from car to car. People did pay me not to come back or not to stop. I don't remember the amounts. Had totally forgotten that until I read you comment.

    Thank you very much for visiting my Brookville Daily Photo blog and for the comment you left me there.
    Brookville Daily Photo

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  51. Such a heart wrenching poem.
    Beautifully done.
    Mothers and daughters
    funny how so many of us are writing about these ties.

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  52. Beautiful poem.

    We're mongrels from many points in europe ; )

    Have always since a youngster been drawn to native american and asian history. Perhaps there's something there, but no one knows 4 sure.

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  53. I love your new header! You are so cool at being creative (Like the Johnny Depp look-a-like, too!)

    And the poem is absolutely beautiful. Thank you for sharing with us.

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  54. Thank you, Willow, for this post and especially for your moving poem.

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  55. I vote this your best poem to date! It speaks to something so close to YOU...who you are and what you cherish. EXCELLENT! I love this!

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  56. What a celebration of womanhood and connection to one's roots. It has a wonderful, soft rocking motion to it - beautiful, WIllow.

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  57. By the way... I have never heard the term "earworm" before... very descriptive.

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  58. I'm still trying to hear those "fiddle tunes of mockingbird". Love the visual image that creates, too. Your header is incredible...what style, willow. <3

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  59. Willow, that was intriguing. I sometimes try to track back those little songs that get stuck in my head. - with no luck.

    I do love your poems. I think you should write a book. Really. Really? Really.

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  60. beautiful poem and what a fabulous story. You surely must have felt blessed to have that spiritual connection with her

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Inject a few raisins of conversation into the tasteless dough of existence.
― O. Henry (and me)