Once, a man of my name packed wife and child, sold his home in the ancient hills, and carted them down to the broad and flourishing plains. They passed through strange towns of strange tongues, and finally, for the first time in their lives, came to the sea. There, he stuffed them and himself inside the sweaty hold, endured a month of pitching floors and creaking timbers and day after day of unknowing.
Life lived prior was gone forever, and through the nights’ dark and ominous rolling, through the days’ gray ring of the same horizon, what did he ponder? Was doubt allowed to fester in his soul— day after day the mountains of his past slipping further and further behind? Did his youthful face betray the fears that boiled within—his life condensed to bags hat his hands could hold?
He arrived, however, stepped himself and wife and child ashore, and struck out for the woods. There, in forests thick and virgin, he carved a home and cleared a farm and sired generations, building for himself a name in a New World dense with possibility. By calloused hands and aching back and ringing blade of an ax he forged prosperity in the ranging forests far from his birth.
Generations hence, this man’s kin, this tribe who also bore my name and blood, sold all homes and claims to earth, packed wives and children into ox-drawn carts, and slowly bore themselves across the splashes of pines and chilled flow of creeks, across the pitch and throw of mountain passes and down into the flowing plains and sleeping hills.
Were they watching the land they rolled past? As autumn air drew chill into lungs and cracked into creases of skin, did they doubt their right to roll away from anything known, from every scrap of life torn from the wilderness? Did they see thriving farms and long to root themselves alongside?
But they did not stop—not until they found themselves at brink of the river: mighty, twisted river plowing ice through floodplains stretching past eyes’ limit. They camped and warmed the fierce blood, camped and watched for winter’s worst to ice the thick flow. And so it was on a New Year’s day, in the chatter of numbing winter, ice hardened over the divide, men of my blood drove oxen, home, wives, children, all, to slide across the slick skin and step foot and hoof into a wild realm vaguely claimed by far-off thrones and policed by naught but right and honor.
There, in woods and hills and rivers teeming life, they set about to carve a new existence.
The land proved fertile and their hands strong; the line increased, named towns and counties for itself, established governments and grist-mills, planted self and seed into a soil black with possibility, and labored until bones wore brittle and souls passed on, leaving a generation in its wake to do the same. And so another rose and bequeathed itself to future hands working its same blood, toiling under its same name. And another took its place, and another stepped into the mold of the fathers and carried the name and the blood forward, through floods and wars, through droughts and market crashes, New Deals, rations and further wars, through industrial and digital revolutions, to present day.
To this day when I, like those of my name long before, will uproot myself and wife, will sell what meager holdings a stale life in a stalling soil has provided, will vet possessions to what may be carried and what may be stored in hold of a plane—to cross continents and oceans, and arrive in a new life. Like those before, I myself will step in a city of far from all I’ve known. I’ll land among a people new to independence, whose land and livelihood is clawed from ancient rites and ceaseless struggle with surging seas and boiling earth—to wilderness not of unclaimed soil, but yet a teeming land of possibility.
I sometimes wonder why. I sometimes twitch my roots and wonder why and what has surfaced in my blood. Why that which long lay dormant quickens to life. Saw they too a stagnant life before, and a boundless reach abroad?