Science 2016–January: Ancestry, DNA, and Truth-telling

I have always wanted to find out whether the stories passed down by my elders were true. After all, each telling of a story involves subtle and not-so-subtle changes reflecting the teller’s point of view.

My father’s people were Cherokee, according to the stories I was told by  his parents and siblings. He certainly resembled a lot of the images in historical photographs in the North Carolina State Archives. The family photographs would fit nicely in that collection. There are lovely cultural tales and knowledge that I cherish. I don’t think I would value them less if they weren’t “authentic” since, for me, they are authentically mine. My grandparents moved to Tucapaw, South Carolina, to avoid the forced marches to Oklahoma. A few relatives stayed in the blue hills of North Carolina and Tennessee.

My mother’s background was more a blend: Irish (both green and orange), German, and some English in there too. Again I must wonder if all the stories are true. They immigrated to the Blue Ridge Mountains during the Irish famines, I think. My mother was a genealogy buff and even wrote a family history. Those stories and the information they share are treasures, too. I remember the tales of my Catholic great grandmother. Heaven knows, there are plenty of gingers and auburn-haired folks in my mother’s side of my birth family.

I believe I will have a DNA analysis this year. From what my friends have shared, I understand that one gets regional analyses rather than specific countries. That makes sense when you consider that country borders are fluid, human-created fantasies. I believe some companies will sort maternal and paternal lineage.

Some DNA analysis companies will share your information so you can find people who share your profile and might, just maybe, be related. Honestly, I don’t know how I feel about that. I am not at all certain my “potential” relatives would want to think I was in their family tree, either.

Will I be disappointed if I find that my families did not know their ancestry accurately and passed the misinformation along to me? I doubt it. The stories are stories of real people and there is much evidence to support them. I have talked with many relatives on both sides who have anecdotal supporting information. There are birth and death certificates. Did my grandmother live in a house built into a mountainside with goats running over the tin roof? Most likely. That isn’t affected by her DNA.

As for where my ancestors were from, I will be interested regardless of where they were born.

Japanese Maple Copyright Melanie Arrowood Wilcox
Japanese Maple
Copyright Melanie Arrowood Wilcox


Spirit 2016–January : Wabi Sabi and Kintsugi

During my year of intentional focus, 2015, I was drawn to minimalist approaches in writing and visual arts, my areas of creative exploration for the last several years.  These approaches reflect my life during this period. Forced to downsize and find strength in the broken parts of my life, I peeled away the outer layers and discovered the dark, sweet seeds inside my heart.

The effect was profound. The losses had hurt so deeply and yet I was free. I could pursue whatever I wanted; no one was there to judge because the judges, including my former self, didn’t exist in my new world. The pain was still there, and I indulged my longing to swim in it often. Always the surface was there for me to find, and each time I tasted the air again I found freedom. It was rejuvenating.

This sense of brokenness and loneliness is at the core of wabi sabi, an ancient Japanese and Chinese concept rooted in Zen Buddhism. The links below may be helpful starts if you want to explore the ideas on your own.

Kintsugi is a Japanese art form that uses precious metals to repair broken things, especially jewelry and pottery. In essence, it is making the broken places stronger and the final product more beautiful. For those healing from trauma, the objects are powerful symbols of hope.

Wabi Sabi

(from Natural Home)

“Wabi-sabi reminds us that we are all transient beings on this planet—that our bodies, as well as the material world around us, are in the process of returning to dust. Nature’s cycles of growth, decay, and erosion are embodied in frayed edges, rust, liver spots. Through wabi-sabi, we learn to embrace both the glory and the melancholy found in these marks of passing time.”

“In the world according to Zen, words only hinder true enlightenment; reducing wabi sabi to mere language seems like sacrilege to its spirit. But loosely translated, “wabi” is simplicity, whether elegant or rustic; “sabi” means the beauty of age and wear.”

“Poems like these evoke a deeply personal aesthetic consciousness, a bittersweet mix of loneliness and serenity, a sense of dejection buoyed by freedom from material hindrance. This is what wabi sabi feels like. And one can only experience it by turning the focus from outer appearance to look within. No wonder the Japanese struggle to explain wabi sabi; they try to tell how it feels, not just how it looks!”


“Because the repairs are done with such immaculate craft, and in precious metal, it’s hard to read them as a record of violence and damage. Instead, they take on the look of a deliberate incursion of radically free abstraction into an object that was made according to an utterly different system. It’s like a tiny moment of free jazz played during a fugue by Bach.”

“The moment in time when something has been shattered is permanently captured by the painstaking labours of a craftsman in building up the layers of lacquer to repair a piece. It is this reference to the now that recalls mushin, a lack of attachment to anything, but rather being present in the moment, something constantly available to all, but particularly so when we drop a piece of china.”

“For me, counseling very closely resembles Kintsugi. As we spend time sitting with and examining the broken pieces of our lives we gain understanding, which allows us to produce the tools and the eye catching resin needed to restore ourselves to wholeness.”

Ezra Nawi: The Face of Israeli Human Rights Activism

I was not familiar with this man until I saw this post. I do know that I support peaceful approaches to solving problems. For that reason, I share the post. It does speak to a viewpoint about Israel and Palestine we don’t often hear in what passes for media in the U.S.

Across the Borderline

Ezra Nawi

Ezra Nawi… If we had 20 Ezra Nawis, the Occupation would be already finished.  Ezra is one of the righteous men, that thanks to them, we are not yet [destroyed like] Sodom and Gomorrah.                  (Yehuda Agus, Taayush Activist)

If there was one face that represents the efforts of Israeli activists for coexistence and human rights, it would be Ezra Nawi.  A plumber by trade, Ezra is a Jew of Iraqi origin who has been involved in progressive causes and politics since childhood.  Around 1999, Ezra began dedicating his energies and passions to human rights in the Palestinian Territories.

I have found Ezra to be a warm and generous person.  He is welcoming to the newcomer and is ready to give them his attention and respect.  Even in the most difficult situations, Ezra uses humor and grace to put others at ease.  A recent documentary, “Citizen Nawi”, captures the…

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Shared Wisdom–January 2016

An eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind.

–Mahatma Gandhi

A black cat crossing your path signifies that the animal is going somewhere.

Groucho Marx
Totem on Gravestone Pine Hill Cemetery; Burlington, NC Copyright Melanie Arrowood Wilcox
Totem on Gravestone
Pine Hill Cemetery;
Burlington, NC
Copyright Melanie Arrowood Wilcox
I have been thinking about how our perceptions are affected by our preconceptions. I grew up in the South, a white female, not wealthy by any standard one uses to define such things. I graduated from a top public university. These affect how I interpret social issues.
Trying to see our society from viewpoints other than my own requires much putting-aside of my own experience.

A Year of Refraction, Finding the Colors Inside the Light

Back in the autumn of 2014, I realized that I needed to refocus my work. Specifically, I wanted to accomplish more on projects near to my heart and stop putting my own interests and needs at the bottom of my priority list.

I won’t get into the wisdom of those decisions here. I think we all know we need to do that, and that sometimes we need to fine-tune our efforts to keep on track.

2015 was a great year in many ways, in spite of all the horrible things happening in the world around me and a few more personal glitches. I finished several writing projects and completed a few art series; began the bothersome-but-necessary tasks of organizing several art series and manuscripts into viable creative works; and remembered who I am. That last was especially satisfying.

Rajah. Copyright Melanie Arrowood Wilcox
Copyright Melanie Arrowood Wilcox


Now it is 2016, but I won’t be throwing out the old. I will be dragging those little babies kicking and squalling into the new year with a mind to helping them grow into fine young creatures over the next couple of years. I hope by the time 2018 is rolling around the corner I will have set these projects on their own path.

We shall see how far they go.

I’ve always been fascinated with prisms, rainbows, halos, and most anything that takes the invisible or easy-to-overlook, such as light, and makes it easier for us to see it as it is. When we see the parts, we can understand the whole.
I think this may be why I still believe that taking something apart is a worthwhile activity. This little kid who loved the giant box of Crayolas fell in love with all those colors.
A prism is a lens that allows us to separate the colors in natural light. The usual color spectrum associated with this is the old ROYGBIV:  red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet.

Due out in November: History Will be Kind: An Anthology of Historical Fiction

Outstanding author. This should be a great anthology. Copperfield Review is one of the best.

Ivy Rutledge

history-kind-sml-2My days of writing fiction feel like history, yet I’ve got a story floating around still. My short story “Into the Forest” has been included in The Copperfield Review‘s first anthology. Books will be printed in November: the official release date is Tuesday, November 17, 2015. (You can preorder a digital copy here. I’ll update with a link to order a paperback once I’ve got it.) And if you’re on Goodreads, go visit our page there.

This gorgeous cover was designed by Robin Ludwig–I love its warmth. Special thanks also to Meredith Allard, the Executive Editor of The Copperfield Review and of this anthology.

“Into the Forest” is based on one of my husband’s ancestors. According to family legend, Mourning Medley was a Cherokee woman who, along with her children, was rounded up and taken to the holding pen at Fort Butler. That was…

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