When Our Ancestors Speak

I’ve had a couple of strange magical moments over the last few years that feel connected. It’s really hard to explain, (because magic defies explanation), but I’m going to attempt it.

The latest one happened today. I’d ordered a pair of earrings made with the traditional gold filigree by artisans in the Philippines. Like most pre-colonial practices, it’s a dying art, and not many people still know how to do it by hand. I was so excited to get my pair, and when I opened the box, they were as gorgeous as I imagined, but… I ran into my old jewelry box, to take out another pair of earrings I’d made for myself 5 years ago (in silver). The styling was nearly identical, even though back then, I had no idea about filigree jewelry at all. I barely knew what traditional Filipino jewelry looked like, and yet… Same. Same.

I think about my other choices, like my preference for hoops over studs, and gold over silver… I see threads connecting where I didn’t before.

Before that, there was the gothic novel. I felt like I was writing that story backwards. Never have I ever rewritten a novel more times. It started out as science fiction, before I swapped it for fantasy, and then straight gothic horror. I just couldn’t find the heart of it, but each draft inched me a little bit closer. And then I realized that the terrors I had written had actually happened, and not just to anyone, but to my great great grandparents. I hadn’t researched any of the Philippine-American war yet there it was on the page. The story finally made sense, it started breathing, had a heartbeat. All the research did was fill in a few details.

Maybe my unconscious picked up on themes in my cultural heritage, which made them comfortable or familiar. Maybe some of our preferences are inherited, just like the way my son moves his feet in circles to fall asleep, the way I did when I was small. Science is already investigating how traumas gets passed down through generations. Maybe people are just predictable.

Perhaps it can all be explained, but it still feels bigger than me. I still believe in magic.

Maybe our ancestors really do speak to us. Maybe we contain the memories of all those that came before us, and they shape who we are (for better or worse). I’m paying attention now. I wonder what they’ll say next?

2 Comments to “When Our Ancestors Speak”

  1. Yes yes yes, a million times yes to your last 3 paragraphs. I feel same same same!

    And I think especially as a parent, when you have the viewpoint to look both behind you (to your parents and other elders) and ahead (to your kids), that’s when you really begin to notice all these little things and put them together. At least that’s been my experience.


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