Sunday, December 29, 2013

Farming and the Family Tree

My city born-and-bred mother has finally accepted that I am a farmer, at home with rural life and "living in the sticks" as she so fondly calls where we reside.  She no longer tells me how unevolved it is to have your own well, or have a propane tank instead of natural gas, or a primitive septic system (her words, not mine).  If you think her acceptance is something to take lightly, it's not.  She has fought with me over who I was from the day I said my first word, which was not "mama" or "dada."  It was "trees."

This girl who loved trees was brought up in an urban landscape, obviously mailed to the wrong address in a joke only God Himself probably understood.  But after 30 years of wandering around an urban desert, I finally found myself living in a rural environment, and a huge part of me realized I had indeed come home to a place I belonged.

I may have realized it, but my mother did not.  Declaring it was only a matter of time before I returned to "civilization," she started a waiting game until the day I would come to my senses, pack it all back up, and rent a nice, sensible apartment near fashionable restaurants, galleries and museums somewhere back in the city.

It never happened. But I think she's finally stopped waiting, thanks to my family tree.

You see, doing my family tree has led to many discoveries, one of which is the fact that I come from generations upon generations of rural farmers.  My genetic haplogroup is known as the haplogroup that introduced agricultural practices to Europe 13,000 years ago.  There are farming genes a lot closer, too -- in 3 out of 4 grandparents' backgrounds.  The fourth side were city dwellers in London for possibly, the last 1,000 years or so -- even back to when it was called "Londinium," and was a Roman outpost...all the way up to the present day.  She still lives there, in the heart of all that hustle and bustle, quite happily, as her mother's ancestors did.

Clearly, mum got a majority of her genes from the urban-leaning 1/4 of the gene pool.  I got the other 3/4ths .  The country chromosomes, if you will.

I'm not sure if ancestry can explain everything, but I do believe our genes move us towards what's familiar and what has worked for us, on a biological level.  When I make dandelion wine, grow carrots or gather wild mustard greens, I can almost feel a resonance deep within, something in my very genes, that says I'm where I need to be and what I need to be doing.  I often wonder if reincarnation memories, where we believe we've lived before, are just our genes whispering something familiar to us, acting like a memory when actually it's only a genetic memory, an echo of those who came before us and who live on, genetically, in our DNA.
Feels like home.

When I hear certain music, eat traditional foods, or sit by a fire making homemade blankets, I feel as if I'm doing things I've done before.  And indeed, my genes have.  The city genes are something I just didn't get in the game of chance inheritance plays in making us who we are.  
Feels like Hell.

But I'm thankful that getting our DNA and family trees done has made my mother more aware of the fact that we can still be family and be quite different, both at the same time. She seems proud to know that even though I didn't inherit the city affinity she has, I did inherit tendencies and traits from the rural chromosomes I carry -- the ancient farmers, doing what they've done for thousands of years.

That, and looking up at the trees as a babe in arms and wanting to call them by name.


  1. Wow. How incredible. It is such an odd phenomenon when there is that familiar feeling in a situation that should feel foreign. I feel that way when I garden or arrange flowers specifically. It's sort of like I zone out and intuition takes over. And as for your mother, I think a slight air of criticism is how the English mother expresses love-isn't it? :)

    1. Hmmm, perhaps you have a branch of Dutch ancestry, where most of Europe's flowers are grown! As for my mother, if you've seen Violet Crawley (Maggie Smith) from Downton Abbey, that's as good as meeting my mother. "Slight air" of criticism indeed, haha!