We all belong to this vast universe, comfortably situated on this green/blue sphere called Earth. Most of us find comfort in belonging to our family, and in our community where we live through our work, but what drives us to belong, and are these outward attempts to belong just a cover up for a deeper longing.

Ever since I was a child, I had a sense that I didn’t belong and felt a deep call to be elsewhere even though I didn’t know where that was at the time. I would sit on the beach fixing my gaze across the Atlantic Ocean, and wonder what the land was like on the other side. I knew that my ancestors had immigrated to America at least a few hundred years prior and they must of come from that land “over there”.

In my adult life, this yearning has caused me to explore what it means to belong to a place, and to the land itself…how long must one live in an area before they are considered to belong there and are native to a place? This is where it tends to get complicated. The definition of native, means to be born in a particular place, but clearly that is not how we understand and use the word for the most part. For instance, if that were true I would be able to call myself Native American since I was born in America. This clearly is the name we give to the indigenous people of this land, and not those who came later, even if they were born here. I am Irish/Scots/Welsh American so definitely not indigenous and able to call myself “native”. Most of my ancestors came here as indentured servants or were forced off their lands in Ireland and brought here to work for England, helping to set up the colonies, never to see home or family again. Perhaps that is why I feel such angst around where I belong… I know I am not alone, look around you, everyone is either an immigrant or their ancestors were immigrants, (unless they are indigenous Americans) this leaves generation upon generation with no roots in this country, no real connection to customs, traditions or land. We are told that the land we currently live on belongs to the “Native Americans”, those indigenous to America and if we travel to our ancestral homelands, we are told we are Yankee Americans and don’t fully belong there either, since our ancestors immigrated and often not by choice, I might add. I have often felt that Americans in general, certainly those who have been here for a few generations, are like adopted children…at some point in time they long to know their birth parents or in this case, their ancestral lands and customs.

What to do about this yearning and longing to belong, I have found great solace in learning as much as I can about my own family history, learning the Gaelic language my ancestor’s spoke, learning their prayers and practices, making the same recipes/foods they ate and even creating an ancestral altar in my home with pictures and momentos of remembrance.  I take these prayers, practices and maybe a small portion of food out on the land, walking with them, praying with them, and then leaving a small offering of food to the land itself and it’s inhabitants, a practice of gratitude for allowing me to caretake this beautiful sanctuary, and to honor my ancestors who have lived in this area of the Eastern Shore of Maryland and Delaware since the early 1700’s. I also make regular pilgrimages to my ancestral homelands abroad, connecting the thread of remembrance full circle. With these practices I have come to feel a deeper sense of belonging…I have come to feel I have two roots, one here in America and one on the very western most fringes of Europe…this my friend is pretty special.

I’ll leave you with a blessing by John O’Donohue.

Blessed be the longing that brought you here and that quickens your soul with wonder.        May you have the courage to befriend your eternal longing.                                                           May you enjoy the critical and creative companionship of the question “Who am I?” And may it brighten your longing.                                                                                                                              May a secret Providence guide your thought and shelter your feeling.                                         May your mind inhabit your life with the same sureness with which your body belongs to the world.                                                                                                                                                          May the sense of something absent enlarge your life.                                                                       May your soul be as free as the ever new waves of the sea.                                                              May you succumb to the danger of growth.                                                                                         May you live in the neighborhood of wonder.                                                                                    May you belong to love with the wildness of Dance.                                                                         May you know that you are ever embraced in the kind circle of God.