KNOW WHERE YOU ARE FROM – MY ANCESTORS
Updated: Mar 30
Know where you are from. That is Direction #2.
Because where you are from shapes the lens you see the world through.
This is the direction that I had the most trouble figuring out. I was given this direction while apprenticing with Mr. Karge in Vienna, Austria in 1989. He was originally from East Germany. This made a difference to how he saw the world.
It can be hard to believe how deeply the past shapes the present and future. We are rooted all the way back to the first life on this planet, connected to it. Know where you are from allows you to know what has made you, shaped you. Know that the stories of your family and culture have shaped you into who you are and you are behaving based on the things you have learned from them, whether they are true or false.
Your past is in what you are doing right now. If you don’t get to know it, it haunts you like a ghost. If you do get to know it, it becomes your best and most hilarious friend.
This is me trying to figure out where I am from: I start right away with the most obvious (I am never afraid to start with the most obvious, in fact, it’s where I start projects off from the most often. Start with what it is, literally. Just say it.).
The Viel coat of arms
Michel Viel, born in 1733, left Bretagne in 1755 on the Prudent, the first ship to sail that spring. Leaving on the 6 of march, 1755, it arrived at la Grande-Grave de Gaspé on May 18, 1755 after 73 days of travel.
Michel Viel was a pioneer at St-André-de-Kamouraska. This is my Granfather’s side. Pierre Michele Dit Micheau, from Beaupré, Québec marries Marie Ancelin in 1667. This is my Grandmother’s side. They are the relations of my Mother, Marie-Thérèse Viel, born Rivière-du-Loup, Québec.
Ross coat of arms
Alistair Ross arrived in Canada in 1954 from Glasgow, Scotland. I know less about his past. He didn’t talk about it much. I took notes when I asked him years ago, I hope to find them again.
Thérèse Viel and Alistair Ross were married in 1958. They settled in the Gatineau Hills in Quebec. Starting out young and poor, their first home was a three- season cottage that they rented in winter near the Gatineau River, not far from where I live now.
I know so little about my ancestors because my parents broke away from the past. There was a generational split – everybody wanted to get away from the World War and into a bright new future. The extended family was a thing of the past. The presence of relations was a thing of the past. My Father’s past was far away, across the sea, in bombed out Glasgow. Information and knowledge is no longer shared by word of mouth through extended families, but comes from a box in your living room. It’s like in this new, modern world, my parents were Adam and Eve, having left an old world behind.
For many of us, the past had broken off and we were left floating in space.
What we were all going to find out, eventually, is that we are settlers.
I am the child of settlers in the Outaouais. I was born here, in these hills.
I am split between French and English. I live at the border between Quebec and Ontario.
I am the child of Europeans, French and Scottish, who came here for a better life.
I am still searching as to what it means to be a settler’s child on indigenous land, where do I belong, on this beautiful turtle island?
What my parents ran away from: the dirt and poverty and illness and RELIGION and war that they were subjected to in their days were big motivators. But so was ‘getting away from the farm’. People joined the army in the 2nd world war because they wanted to get off of the farm. Farming is hard and can be really, really boring and you are at the absolute mercy of forces beyond your control. And it was a dirty, physical job in those days. They wanted to join the war, as the war promised the future : peace and new technology that would revolutionize our worlds. And we’d get those fascist out, once and for all. That was part of the thinking in that time.
I believe that by running away from the farm, they ran away from the earth, the mother. We’ve been floating in space ever since. And now that we want to/need to land, we have to ask: where? Who will take us souls that have been floating in space for generations?
I think all of these forces were too much for my physical body and without real grounding, a place to land, I would not be able to have a child. Somewhere in me, I always knew that would be the case.
This part of the line ends with me.