Privilege and Survival

St Davids Cathedral Copyright 2012 Kaliani Devinne
St. David's Cathedral, Wales
In St. David's, at the westernmost point of Wales, there is a spectacular cathedral.  And, inside, along the left side of the arcade, I discovered the effigy of the Lord Rhys,
Rhys ap Gruffydd, my 24th great-grandfather, who died in 1197.  The cathedral, which was built on the site of an early shrine, was constructed beginning in 1181.  It once was a major pilgrimage site, with the decree of Pope Calixtus II in 1123, declaring that two pilgrimages to St. David's were equal to one to Rome and three pilgrimages to St. David's were equal to one to Jerusalem.
Lord Rhys Effigy with Kaliani Copyright 2012 Kaliani Devinne
Kaliani and The Lord Rhys
It was a bit surreal.  I've done genealogy research into my family tree since I was a teenager and I have volumes of 5-generation charts.  I know my roots.  While I'm familiar with finding grave sites in the U.S., this was my first experience overseas and by far, the oldest. Here was my ancestor, my connection with this place.  While each of us has a line of ancestors this long, obviously, not everyone has the long list of "begats."

The privilege of this knowledge, the culmination of all the years of researching, hit me all in a rush.  I closed my eyes and dropped into the energy of the cathedral and sent my roots into the earth here.  I wanted to connect with this great-grandfather, his energy, experience, courage and world-view.  Who was he?  A few days later, at Pembroke Castle, I found a description of him written up in a historical panel, "The strength of Samson, the valour of Hector...the wisdom of Solomon, the majesty of Ajax."  He'd been a local hero, a warrior, ally of a King.  This I hadn't known until the serendipitous trip to the castle.
Lord Rhys effigy at St Davids Copyright 2012 Kaliani Devinne
The Lord Rhys

Here I was following in his footsteps, as though his voice was calling to me.  Asking me to envision his time and this gorgeous countryside in a very different time.  Part the veil, walk where I've walked, sit where I've sat, find your strength buried deep within your DNA as survivor of the ages.  Our trip continued on to the ruins of the Chapel of St. Non, which overlooks an incredibly beautiful field that tumbles down to the sea.  It was a step on the pilgrimage.  He had been here, too.  Likewise, the church at Nevern, that we visited later in the day, where an orange lichen-covered ancient celtic cross stands.

With each step, I wondered what he would say if we could speak each others' language, the language of the human experience.  What would you tell your 24th great granddaughter about life, time and overall scheme of things?  That complexity of understanding about living life day-to-day, wielding personal power, the sacred and the profane?  What would he say if I told him I flew to England from half way across the world in ten and a half hours?  I'm sure the stake and the firewood would get assembled pretty fast.

Privilege.  That word would snap many disparate thoughts into focus for me upon my return.  My friend Mellissa, deep in channel, speaking the words of another ancient forbear, admonished the listening group to stop complaining and get real about the privilege of being alive, being here now with all of the technological advantages, living in freedom and relative peace.  Survivors.

I wonder if I'm the end of this line, the culmination of all these generations of survival.  What does that mean to me?  How does it inform what I do with this life?  As I type, the song "Blackbird" by Sarah McLachlan is broadcast over Pandora radio..."All your life you were only waiting for this moment to arise."


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