Tracing my Mormon pioneer roots because sometimes our story begins with those who came before.
Chapter 1 – SAILING SHIPS
I admire a tree’s solid footing in a spinning world. Walking in forests anchors me. Placing my palms against a tree’s rough bark, I wonder what secrets it holds. A tree’s fall leaves are rich with colors of death, and its spring leaves bursting with renewal remind me of the impermanence of life.
I was fortunate to find threads of my family lineage to pull towards me. I learned I come from a family named Wood. Most likely, our name signifies we lived or worked near trees growing on the rolling hills of Derbyshire in England.
John Wood, born in the mid-1600s, was the first to leave the trees of England. Did he have an adventurer’s spirit, or was he a criminal on the run? Did the hunger of poverty lead him to dream of a better life?
Whatever the reason, John and his brother William boarded a ship set to sail three thousand miles away to Massachusetts.
Google helps me navigate the unknown. Often Google is the first to diagnose my health symptoms. Google told me outdated yeast was the reason my bread failed to rise. It assured me that The Caribbean Lunchbox would deliver authentic island cuisine. Google knows what I do not.
Nearly four hundred years ago, Google was not available to help the Wood brothers navigate their unknown. Google couldn’t calculate the voyage length or provide safety reviews of sailing ships. They couldn’t Google search “Massachusetts” to learn the geography of the new land they intended to call home.
Without Google’s assistance, the Wood brothers traveled from Derbyshire to a sailing vessel docked in a port town on the North Atlantic coast. They may have patiently saved for years or chosen indentured servitude for passage to America. Likely their trunk was filled with muskets, tools, boots, seeds, a mother’s handstitched quilt, and letters lovingly tucked between pages of the Bible.
Before boarding, they had to prove they were healthy enough to make the arduous journey. During the voyage, food was basic, drinking water rationed, and sleeping was in narrow bunks below deck. Irritability caused quarrels over mundane things.
Marriage celebrations and baby births lightened the drudgery of days at sea. Spending nearly two months in close quarters with other emigrants, they grieved what they left behind and noticed the stirring excitement for what lay ahead.
The passengers shared a common desire to leave their land of birth and step bravely and freely into the unknown. Once in Massachusetts, I imagine their first steps down the wooden plank were shaky and unsure. Grateful to finally walk on land again. Whatever lay ahead, John and William Wood had chosen it. Who doesn’t want to be the decider of their destiny?
Emigrant ships were not the only boats sailing the ocean in the 1600s. African men, women, and children were kidnapped during this time and forced onto boats carried by waves buoyed by greed and inhumanity.
Unlike boats filled with people choosing new adventures, enslaver ships were vessels of horror. Black bodies were stripped and examined for profitability. Birth names were erased; replaced with words spoken in foreign tongues. Leg irons chained shivering bodies together. Forced feedings awaited those who dared choose starvation to end their suffering. Made to dance, not for joy, but to keep muscles fit for sale. Black bodies were flogged, beaten, and raped. And if bodies gave out, they were thrown overboard like yesterday’s trash.
They did not walk freely up the wooden planks and onto ships as my ancestors did. They did not bring trunks packed with practical items and sentimental mementos. All they carried lay within their untouchable souls. Unsaid goodbyes and missing hugs left open wounds in shattered hearts.
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Here are a couple other blogposts in the meantime.
Steps (teresareneebain.com) This blog is about the process of writing itself which has been eye opening to say the least.
Microaggressions at the Market (teresareneebain.com) This blog is the story of my doing something I thought was harmless.