Friday, September 25, 2015

Going back again for the first time

Chartley Castle, Staffordshire
© 2015 Christy K Robinson

I’ve noticed that when Americans and Canadians travel to the countries where most of their ancestors lived, we try to express the gut feeling of when we set foot there for the first time. We may be out on the airport tarmac sniffing jet exhaust, or riding an air-conditioned tour bus across the countryside, stepping out of a car and catching the scent of flowers and mowed hay, or standing on the deck of a ferry in the Irish Sea, but we smell “home.” We feel “home.” It’s a visceral tie to the land.

We may have read classic literature, mined the internet, or seen films and documentaries of the place, and dreamed of visiting there. But when we actually arrive, it’s a feeling that’s difficult to describe: peace, adventure, accelerated heartbeat, some psychic feeling that you are where you belong, or that you’re grafted back into the vine.

Maybe it’s a psychological reaction. Maybe it’s biological. Maybe it’s just a dream coming true. Maybe it’s an inherited memory, which scientists are saying can happen because our ancestors had a traumatizing event that changed their DNA.

Or maybe it’s a germ.

A strain of bacterium in soil, Mycobacterium vaccae, has been found to trigger the release of serotonin, which in turn elevates mood and decreases anxiety. And on top of that, this little bacterium has been found to improve cognitive function and possibly even treat cancer and other diseases. http://www.healinglandscapes.org/blog/2011/01/its-in-the-dirt-bacteria-in-soil-makes-us-happier-smarter/

Cooks have another word for it. "Terroir" is what makes a loaf of sourdough from San Francisco taste so different from its cousin in Bordeaux. The regional microbes, in the soil and air, impart their particular notes to the bread. You can taste terroir in your wine, your cheese, and even your chocolate -- all of which are produced with the help of specialized bacteria [Mycobacterium vaccae] that can vary from town to town. http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2012/01/how-to-get-high-on-soil/251935/

It’s not about real estate, or a pin on a Google or TripAdvisor map. What we feel is something that doesn’t change because of an earth mover cutting down a hill, or a nuclear power plant taking over the farms where our ancestors grew wheat or apples. When we stand on the grassy floor of a ruined abbey or the tiled floor of an 800-year-old cathedral, we feel that connection to the place, a reconciliation of the moment we were ripped away from our roots.
Tintagel, Cornwall

When we stand at the tomb of someone from our past, we realize that there was life here once, and there is again, in us. Here lived Love, Joy, Grief, Fear, Faith. 

Ancient languages like Hebrew are rich in visual images. Wrapped in the word shalom are meanings of peace, hello, goodbye, well-being, surely goodness and love (Psalm 23:6), wholeness, completeness, welfare, prosperity, and the deeply satisfied sigh, "Aaaagh." 

And the magical feeling that we’ve come back to another home, a place where we truly belong.

You'll rediscover that feeling in the five-star book Effigy Hunter.
And you'll want to go back to your roots, maybe for the first time.


Christy K Robinson is the author of five books:


  1. Marilyn Smith
    Wonderful Article, Christy, and so perceptive! You say it so well. Looking fwd to Effigy Hunter.

    1. It's available on CreateSpace right now, and will be on Amazon any day. The waiting is gnawing at me! ;)


    Julie Esker Dishman –Memories passed down in your genes?
    Christy K Robinson –Not necessarily of specific events, but of fears or feelings. It's been speculated for years, and scientists are now discussing how it altered DNA.
    Julie Esker Dishman –I have heard trauma does alter DNA.

    Marilyn Smith –Lovely article, Christy, and expresses my feelings completely. I have many English ancestors, and it was the same with me when I went to England.

    Marsha Lambert I felt this when I landed in London! I had come home!

    Lynetta Kruse Murdoch –I felt it when I went to England! Something about it - Had many ancestors from there, Scotland and Ireland. Would love to go back!

    Larisa Quijano –Christy, I felt this very strongly when I went to Ireland for my brother's wedding. It was weird...I felt like there was someplace that I really belonged.  (And hadn't felt it in either Russia or England... the Irish roots are strong!)

  3. Oh to know I'm not alone in my feelings about England. Thirty years ago I visited there but I did not feel like a visitor. I felt I was where I belonged. I now know after doing genealogy for the past 15 years that my ancestors are the kings, queens, Knights, barons, earls, etc., that I have always been fascinated with since I was a teenager. Always an avid reader, back then I read historical fiction, the Plantagenets were my favorite time period. I loved the effigies I saw in England, totally drawn to them. Little did I know at the time that some of them are my ancestors. When we left to come home after two weeks I was not in a good mood. I felt homesick and I hadn't even left! Now I understand why. I must read Effigy Hunter!

    1. Thank you for your comments, MarthaH. I think when we go to the places of our ancestors, there really is a biological or chemical reaction in our bodies, as I suggested in the article.

      I hope you enjoy "Effigy Hunter," and that you'll recommend it to friends and give it as a gift.

    2. I just finished your book and it was great! As I read I had my pen ready to mark my ancestors. There were quite a few. It is so sad that for many ancestors there is nothing visible left. Still it's so fascinating to know where they all were supposed to be. I have so much to read already but I would love to read your other books in the future. I enjoyed your writing style and your humor. Thank you for a great read!

    3. Thank you for your compliments, MarthaH! Would you mind copying these thoughts into an Amazon review on the Effigy Hunter page? That would help me (obviously!), but also it would help potential readers decide on purchasing the book. Here's the page: http://bit.ly/EffigyHunter

  4. I too felt like I had come home when I visited England 30 years ago. When I saw the effigies I was drawn to them, fascinated. When I started doing genealogy 15 years ago I realized why. Kings, queens, Knights, barons and earls were my ancestors. An avid reader when I was young I read a lot of historical fiction. The Plantagenet time period was and still is a favorite of mine. Little did I know they were my ancestors. The effigies in Westminster were my relatives! When my family and I left England I felt homesick, I was not happy. I now know why. I just accidentally came upon the book Effigy Hunter. I will read it and I'm sure I will treasure it.


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