Tag Archives: Journeys

Cartwheels of Glee

Great-Grandfather's Journal Transcribed in 1983

Great-Grandfather’s Journal Transcribed in 1983

Can I tell you that I am doing cartwheels of glee? A task that I have kept on my “Family History To Do List” for the past four years since our 2010 trip to Scotland has finally been accomplished! I have completely transcribed my great-grandfather Lachlan McLennan’s autobiography that he wrote, resulting in 97 pages and close to 65,000 words. Carol McLennan, the lovely wife of my Dad’s first cousin Harold, transcribed Lachlan’s journal back in 1983 from its original state to a typewritten one. It hit me several years ago that having it transcribed again into a digital format would be best for this era in which we live, for as each time the typewritten copy is photocopied it lost a bit of its typewritten clarity. What is even more remarkable is that the original autobiography that Great-Grandfather penned, survived the house fire in which Lachlan tragically perished, some of its pages singed by the fire when it was recovered. What a heartbreaking ending for Great-Grandfather in 1935, just over two weeks after his final journal entry.

After Lachlan immigrated to the United States from Scotland he began writing his autobiography. Initially, there is some retrospection on his part, but it seems that he likely began this life-long writing venture in the early 1870s. What awaits me now is to put it through an editing process plus create at least two additional sections, one of photos and the other a resource section. Then the ultimate goal will be to publish it for other readers to enjoy. Hopefully this will lead me to register for an ISBN number so that the book will make its way to the Library of Congress at some point.

On May 29, 2014, it will have been 145 years since Lachlan, his mother, Catherine MacKay McLennan, two sisters, Kate and Mary, a brother, Evan, and a brother-in-law, Hugh, left Corntown on the lush green Black Isle in the Scottish Highlands on May 29, 1869. They arrived in Kewanee, Illinois on June 26, 1869 where they stayed with dear friends. Six months later, Lachlan boarded the train at the Kewanee Depot and headed west to Brooklyn, Iowa. He writes, “As I walked out from Brooklyn Christmas Day to the home of my sister [Isabella immigrated at a prior time] about nine miles north, I thought the country bleak and uninviting and my prospect did not make a very favorable impression on me.  I was so blue that I regretted coming out to Iowa but I never, after this feeling wore away, regretted it since.”

Researching Poweshiek and Benton County records and perusing old maps of those counties will be part of my next endeavor for the resource section of the autobiography. If you have tidbits pertaining to records or old maps, I would love to be in touch with you. Please check in with me from time to time to see where I am on this journey to honor my Great-Grandfather Lachlan!

My Pruning Stage

As I walked along the heavily mulched trail on the east side of Morton Arboretum in Lisle, Illinois, I could see my breath on a chilly February day in 2010. The silence which I typically cherished on these afternoon walks was broken by a very shrill burst of sound. “GRRRRRRRRR!!” went the limb shredding machine. Several arborists were carefully pruning the shrubs and trees along the paved road. February is a perfect time to tackle this annual task before the warmer days of spring and prior to the sap again flowing, rekindling the plant back to life after winter’s long, cold slumber.

Now fast forward to a recent February afternoon in 2013 and in my new state of Colorado.  I was lost in thought on my walk in Louisville, Colorado, along a flat sandy trail with stately and barren cottonwoods lining a dry creek bed. It was a stark contrast to the arboretum’s lushness and wide variety of trees. However, what really hit me on this walk was the whole notion of pruning. This time though there was no loud whining coming from a machine to abruptly snap me out of my thought-induced state. Rather it was my own need to gain a perspective on my life at this stage of the game.

As I saw the brown overgrowth of winter vegetation beneath the cottonwoods, I felt like I could relate. My reaction, “Gosh, that certainly needs to be cleared. If someone would prune those shrubs, I bet they would have some new growth this spring.” Within minutes of considering a good pruning job on the shrubs, I realized this is what I also needed in my own life.

“Hmmmm….how does one prune oneself?” I paused to consider. Feeling a sudden burst of inspiration, I noted that I too could use a good dose of pruning. Over the past 4 ½ years, our household possessions have been sorted, donated, given to family and friends, sold, or have been kept. The cycle has repeated itself five times due to our move from Illinois and through the return-to-college years! We have packed and unpacked. We have loaded and unloaded. We have stored items in three different locations. We have moved and schlepped or hired movers to do this chore. The costs have been dramatic: financially, time wise, and emotionally as move after move becomes “heavy on the soul” and the burden of doing more in the future becomes unfathomable. In fact, it feels much like the overgrown vegetation or a shrub loaded with crisscrossing twigs and rubbing branches, not promoting the usual spring blossoms or tender leaves.

Alas, I hit on something. Reflecting back on my human development classes in college, I remember the various stages and resulting transitions that one typically negotiates through life based on Erik Erickson’s theory of development. For me, my self-proclaimed pruning stage is my call to action bringing me more in line with Erickson’s idea of generativity, a time to be fully-engaged in my life, feeling liberated for my future.

What my pruning stage is asking of me requires letting go of more possessions. I want a life filled with possibilities and opportunities without the dread of dealing with the extraneous possessions again. I am after essential, simple, and modest living. Now that we’re in a one-bedroom apartment, we are on our way to realizing this lifestyle. I intend to relish the extra time away from the burden of possessions to spend with my husband, grown children, family, and friends. Plus I desire time to fully participate in my passions and interests. I will take photos of the possessions that hold the most memories and take joy in finding new homes for these former treasures which only now clutter my soul and space.

This is not downsizing. It is a more meaningful process for me personally — it is time to prune and promote new growth! My first step? Off to the hardware store for a sturdy pair of pruning shears! Tell me how you can relate to a good pruning!

A Book Review: Across the Savage Sea

Across the Savage Sea

Across the Savage Sea

Always looking for an inspirational story, I couldn’t help but purchase Across the Savage Sea by Maude Fontenoy, copyright 2004, from a local library’s used bookstore. For the price of $1, I eagerly paid for this book and added it to the autobiographical section of my bookcase.

Maude Fontenoy is a French woman who at the age of 25 set a personal goal to be the first woman to successfully row a boat across the Atlantic Ocean. She managed this as a solo voyager, unsupported except for weather and navigation reports via phone contact. What makes her feat even more intriguing is that she opted not to take the route considered easier, the southern route, but rather to cross the Atlantic along the daunting northern route, notorious for its brutal storms. Even more unconventional, she decided to row from west to east.

Maude took a leave from her Paris real estate agency business, gained some financial support through sponsors to supplement her personal funds, and traveled to Newfoundland, joining her boat that was shipped in a freight crate. Maude’s boat had been christened back in France as, Pilot, for one of her sponsors was the Pilot pen company. Once the Pilot was meticulously assembled to its 24-foot length and her four-months of provisions carefully stowed, Maude’s final preparations revolved around tracking favorable weather conditions, earmarking the day to begin her journey, and savoring the last hot meal, comfy night’s slumber, and warm shower that she’d dearly miss for an extended time.

On June 13, 2003, Maude shoved off the coast of Newfoundland, Canada, from Saint-Pierre and Miquelon, not to set foot on terra firma again for nearly four months. In her book she shares captivating details about the insurmountable strength, both physically and mentally, that were absolute necessities to remain focused and ultimately succeed. Amazingly, just in one storm of the many that she encountered, she and her boat withstood 17 capsizings!  Finally, 117 days after leaving Newfoundland, she stepped foot onto land at La Coruna, Spain, on October 9, 2003 to be welcomed by her family, friends, and supporters.

While Across the Savage Sea is a quick read of 149 pages, I found it thrilling. What I appreciate the most was learning of Maude’s tenacity, courage, and very determined will. In some fashion I can relate to her story. My husband, Steve, rode his bicycle across the United States in 2005 over a 79-day journey. While riding a bicycle with two wheels in contact with the land beneath him was extremely different than rowing across an ocean, I still witnessed his tenacity, courage, and very determined will to accomplish his personal goal, electing to enjoy his journey mainly solo and unsupported.

What I am reminded in reading this book, is that we are all on a journey! Perhaps not rowing across the Atlantic, but we each have our own unique journey through life and our very own story!

I’d love to hear about your favorite autobiography or even better about your own personal journey. Go to the “Contact Diane” tab on this website and send me a note.