Every now and then, a memory comes forward and in the context of where you are right at the moment, it explains so much and answers so many questions that never occurred to you at the time of the actual event.
A number of years ago, when I was just beginning my quest to be out and trying to understand what that all meant in the context of being married, employed, a mom, etc., I met a woman. I met her online (imagine that) on a group at the time called “Front Range Women” a group that is no longer in existence. She had just moved to Colorado Springs from Arkansas and was looking to make friends. Colorado Springs wasn’t that far away, so I responded to her and we struck up an e-mail correspondence. Eventually, we decided to meet at a drumming she had arranged. She was a wide open, ruddy woman, bursting with energy. It wasn’t love at first sight by any means, but we became good friends and she ended up being my “first” by mutual agreement. We both had Scottish/Irish backgrounds and she was probably the only other person I knew who cried at the sound of bagpipes.
One birthday, she invited me to her house–a new place that she was renting from a (female) couple who lived next door. The house was just north of downtown Colorado Springs, a prime area to live in. Between the 2 houses was a garden area/fire pit and the two other ladies had nephews and a couple of friends visiting from Ireland.
Her birthday was in October, perfect bonfire weather. After we had the BD potluck, they got a fire going and of course everyone pulled out a varied assortment of drums, bodhrans, and other percussion instruments. Introductions ran around the circle. Two of the nephews/visitors stood out to me. They were two Irish lads, both younger than 25, but at the time, what struck me were their differences. Even though their brouges were similar, they could not have been more diverse in looks. One was what you would call typically “Irish”, fair, fine skin with that flush over the cheekbones that any fair maiden would envy. Red hair cut short in an almost crew cut and dancing blue eyes in a good, broad face. The other, his friend, was dark and lean. Black hair trailed over his collar, dark eyes and a long nose completed the picture. Around the fire, the drums picked up our heartbeats and spirits from other places came to join us as we played.
Since then I have thought about that night and thought about those boys. One, obviously descended from the Vikings that came to the British Isles when they were called other things. The other, truly a Gael…descendant of the Spanish people of Galicia who were thought to have traveled to Ireland centuries ago. Two separate, wildly diverse worlds, cultures and appearances, meeting on one tiny island to make friends of such diversity.
And then the other night I was listening to some Latin music in a restaurant and I wondered, why does that kind of music pull me so strongly? And I thought of those boys by the fire, of my dark hair and pale skin, the “black Irish” in me, the family that has a Scottish name, but whose forebears go back to the Ulster area of Ireland in the 5th century.
I thought of the lone bagpiper who plays every day outside the cathedral in Santiago de Compostela, in Galica, Spain. I thought of how comfortable and at home I felt walking that land, too, and I realized that there must be some gene in me that came from there, a tiny piece of the past that carried my coloring and my love for these places in it, handing down familiarity and knowing from generation to generation.
And then I thought, maybe one day we’ll get to the place that the Lakota nation has been for so long and realize once and for all that we are all related.