Monday, November 7, 2011

Turtle Island

Leaving Europe was hard, really hard and there were several times on the flights over that I found myself hiding tears from my husband. Eventually, I took myself off to the bathroom and gave myself a stern talking to. As an Englishwoman, I have to keep something called 'stiff upper lip' and so this seemed to work.

I won't bore you with more about how much I love Europe and how much I'm going to miss it. That goes without saying. Instead I'll talk about what it's been like here so far on the huge chunk of land that lots of the Native Americans call Turtle Island.

To say it's strange and a mixed bag to be here should also go without saying. I feel rootless here, I have no ancestors buried here and there's so much I don't know about the land, the myths and hell, even basic stuff like the fact that over here, 'Entrees' on the menu means 'main course' and not 'appetisers'. Sure I've lived in places where I've had no bones in the land or cultural links before, but it was different because each time, the culture was obviously different as opposed to this deceptive feeling of similarity between American cultures and English (or indeed German).

On my second or third night here, my grandmother-in-law gave me a huge bag of knitting/crochet yarn, needles/hooks and pattern books. Some of these items came from my husband's mother, some from his grandmother and some from his great-grandmother.

This gift blew me away. There is so much history and so many stories with these knitting needles and crochet hooks. Tucked among the books are notes that the great grandmother made of all the people in her family she was going to make mittens for, their various sizes and colour preferences. This list is quite long. Other notes are dated and tell of growing children needing new mittens, mittens which she'd then knit up to keep her family warm in the frigid New England winters.

I can't crochet, but my husband's mother could and so I kind of feel pushed to learn. There is the most beautiful example of crochet I've ever seen, a fine lace doily that's already found its pair in my own grandmother's tablecloth which I've oathed to finish. Looking through these treasures, I felt a little less rootless and pulled out my grandmother's tablecloth, examining the stitches that my grandmother struggled to make until the arthritis and blindness stopped her.

These items are made with love, they're truly precious and in a weird way, I kind of feel a pressure from both my husband's female ancestors and my own to lovingly craft things for family, friends and my home. I think that would be the most perfect repayment for such a gift.

The next day, I started knitting a duckling to send to my niece. It's finished now and really very cute. I now have a baby whale on the go for another child.

This is one hell of an adjustment, but by the same measure, it's exciting. It's so pretty here and people have been very friendly so far. I'm now in a land where bears, moose and coyotes aren't just something that you see on films, they might be in your backyard! The house where we're staying at the moment is surrounded by trees, a little way up there are goats and chickens and then you have a wooded hill with the most amazing rocks on it, dumped by the slowly receding glaciers way back when. Some of them reminded me of the 'fairy rocks' from back home and being a tactile person, I ran my hands over them. At that moment, it got a little easier, I stopped feeling down about everything I'd left behind in Germany and England and decided that I want to learn about this land and thrive instead of being wary of the bears and moose and coyotes and whatever else there is that is strange to me. I want to discover this big nature.

And then probably poke it with a stick.

Just kidding :P.


AuĂ° said...

I can not imagine the culture shock. That gift must have been very grounding and comforting to you.
I grew up in a Navy family, so I never really felt like I grew roots, although I had a huge extended family in southern IL.
When I married my husband and moved across the country, it was a culture shock not unlike your own. Moving from FL to WA state was really hard - the food here sucks, the weather sucks, and I felt that the people here are much more rude. But I had things to connect - I was in the same country, these people are Americans, we have slightly different cultures, and vastly different weather, but we enjoy the same public education and history lessons - and a Constitution that binds all Americans together.
My husband never had a big extended family. His family can be quite transient; they often go months without talking to one another. He finds it perplexing that all of his birthday/Christmas/Anniversary cards come from MY family. He's never had this kind of support and encouragement, and it was quite alien to him when visiting my family - to be welcomed, like family.
America is a terrific country - I know that it's not like Europe, but I hope you can find some happiness here.
P.S.: I suggest not poking the wildlife with a stick. From experience, bears, cougars, and coyotes get somewhat irate when you bother them. Crabby bastards.

Frigga's Keys said...

I love your ducky! It’s precious and darling. What a wonderful gift your women in law gave you! The disr on both sides rejoice, I’m sure. That’s some fine embroidery your grandmother did. Such an heirloom! as full of love as craft. I also noticed the quilt blocks behind that wonderful list! What a piece of family history. It’s amazing.

Welcome to America, I bet it’s like going through the mirror darkly? At least you’ve landed in a scenic part with wldlife. Cuz we have some dog-butt ugly places too, also with wildlife! It’s the humans that you have to watch out for though.

You'll become accustomed to the local spirits where you live. I haven’t been back East but I’ve been enough places in Vinland to say with some assurance that local spirits seem to be abundant. I’m sure that you’ll be recognizing and recognized by them soon. My experiences with Vinland vettir has ranged from very old missing the Indians spirits to younger spirits who blend some with the incoming cultures. It may sound crazy but in Montana I encountered a spirit who had been a mountain man and then chose to stay with the energies there, he’s still discrete, and yet a weather spirit.

I can’t say as though connecting with the local wights will give you a feeling of rootedness though. I think that will come from the obvious open arms of your husband’s family. You are so blessed.

Birka said...

Aud - Normally culture shock doesn't affect me because I'm usually so prepared for things to be different that my brain doesn't usually register. The only time I had culture shock in Korea was when I dropped my purse on my way to work one morning, came back two hours later and it was there, still full of cash! The US is deceptively similar and so it's harder in some ways. I've moved 27 times in the past decade or so but I got very rooted in Germany (3 years was the longest I'd been anywhere since I was 18).

My inlaws are lovely, very nice people, just different from my family. Mine are a bit crazy, but in a good way. Very much into turning everything into a joke.

As for the poking things with sticks, that was just a bit of an in-joke because at ECT last year, I kept talking about crazy plans to sneak up on moose and poke them with sticks. I know that's not usually a good plan. Although I did do it to a hedgehog once in Germany, but only because I couldn't tell if it was a rock or something alive (it was dark and I'd already come across some rabid hedgehogs that tried to attack my dog - go figure!).

Friggas Keys - Thank you for your kind words about the ducky. It's not as well put together as I would have liked because I found it quite hard to stitch him up at the same time as stuffing him and s/he is a bit cockeyed now. Still, it's cute and hopefully my niece will love it.

My grandmother is basically the reason why I stitch (you can see my stuff on FB in an album called 'Cat's Crap'). I never met her, I never learned but one day I found her embroidery hoop in the attic and started to work a picture of my dog with no pattern. It worked out and I carried on.

The quilt in the photo, I don't know who made it, it's on the bed that J and I are sleeping in at his aunt's house. It is a very nice quilt though.

I love the sheer amount of history that I've been given with this gift, responsibility and yes, disir to be honoured.

We're actually moving to NY from NH tomorrow so we're not going to be in this area for much longer, where we're going is also beautiful though (and has less crazy wildlife and wights lol). Seriously, the wights here are nuts but I'm not entirely comfortable chatting more in depth about them here, would prefer to do it privately.

Frigga's Keys said...

what a continuing adventure!

crazy, huh? lol!