Monday, May 30, 2011


My mother’s cousin, Eunice, came for an overnight a few days ago, including a visit to my house in an alumni reunion weekend at her alma mater, Mt. Holyoke class of 1956. Eunice and her mother have been the family historians, compiling genealogy records that reach back into the distant past. She brought along photos to share, as well as a “Birthday” book of her mother’s – a small volume, received as a gift in 1916, but recording birth dates of family members covering about a century. It was strange to see my own birthday recorded here – another thread in the family tapestry.

Feng Shui takes care to acknowledge the importance of the past. Within the Bagua map, a grid resembling a tic-tac-toe board which is laid over the floor plan of a space and used to adjust its energy, there is a section, or gua, devoted to ancestors, family of origin, teachers and mentors. Called Thunder, and found in the middle left section of the bagua, this gua represents the vitality of life that is the feeling of early spring. Our parents gave us life; and they, in turn, were given life in a chain which reaches back to the far depths of the past. In the springtime we feel the full force of this impulse toward life, which after a long winter can be as shocking as a clap of thunder.

Eunice also brought along some stems from her garden – lovely white Siberian irises. These plants are thriving in her garden at home in Scarsdale, New York, and have spread down along a hillside in her backyard. The original plants came from the garden of her Aunt Mildred, in North Adams, MA – my great-aunt, whom I never met. I’ve been using my close-up lens to try to capture the beauty of these gorgeous blossoms – and realizing that the past might be as close as my ability to focus on it.