This is my fourth essay in an ongoing series of essays. In these essays, I reflect upon my familial roots and how they may inform my relationship with the numinous.
In a dream, my purported Cherokee forebear, Timothy Brown, stands at the head of a long line of people. His dark skin is careworn and he has deep lines in his brow. His face has a somber expression and his eyes seem to be focused on some distant object. He wears western dress, worn pants and a stained white shirt. His boots have seen better days. He holds out his hands to me as though he bore something of great importance. I look down at his lined hands, but there is nothing to be seen. He is empty-handed. He looks embarrassed and I feel sympathetic towards him, but there is nothing I can do to assure him that he should have no reason to feel embarrassed or ashamed.
I look past him to the other members of the crowd that stand behind him, each one holds a small box in their hands. These boxes are rather ordinary, but each seems to be of great importance.
I look up into Timothy’s face again and see that he now wears an expression of resigned indifference. The lines upon his face are no longer deep, he no longer looks careworn, and with each passing moment, he appears to be fading away.
I recently received my DNA results.
I have no indigenous American ancestry. Not one drop of Cherokee blood flows through my veins, so says the detailed chart that accompanied my report. I am hardly crestfallen; the onus of my identity hardly lay upon whether I could lay claim to indigenous ancestry.
I shared my results with my father, who in times past recounted Timothy’s life story as though Timothy were his contemporary.
He said nothing. I imagine that unlike me, his own identity was somehow affected by that news.
It hardly surprised me that a substantial part of my ancestry is European, as if my father’s hazel eyes, brown hair, and height were not significant indicators. I thought of the gods of Britain, Ireland, and Scandinavia. If the voices of Abnoba, Dellingr, or Dian Cecht spoke to me, I could not hear them.
In my dream, the faces and clothing of the figures that stood behind Timothy were vague. I could not see them clearly, only the small boxes they held in their hands.
I think of the significance of this dream and what it could perhaps mean to me. I am inclined to wonder if it has anything to do with my subconscious trying to put a face to each ancestor that is unaccounted for in my family tree; each ancestor whose name is no longer spoken; each ancestor whose story is lost in time.