When I was a teenager, I used to sit in my corner bedroom in our house in Southern California and talk into my tape recorder, sharing musings, thoughts about life, questions about human nature. So much had happened in our family’s life by the time I was 13-years-old. In May of 1973, my father’s brother, a socially progressive Catholic priest, was murdered in his rectory in Queens, New York. My uncle, you could say, was a “white man.” The person who killed him you could call an “African-American man.” We just didn’t think that way, then. This was a terrible loss. The heart punctured. My father, an FBI agent, who had lost his brother, could say nothing about it. The tragedy ran too deep. The priest at St. Bonaventure in Queens, my uncle’s best friend, who said the homily during that funeral mass, proclaimed that the murderer was forgiven the moment my uncle’s spirit arrived to heaven.
Compassion. Forgiveness. Love. We are all brothers and sisters.
All these decades later, this is the sentiment and hope that remain within me. How can we despite the color of our skins look at one another in the eye as brothers and sisters on this same Earth together? This is a lesson I learned so many decades ago. And it is a conversation I know we all are eager to share in today.
I recall a conversation with Irish-born journalist and author, Claire Dunne, who tells me how in 17th-century Ireland, when the old Gaelic order began to crumble, that “war on harpists and their instruments peaked when Queen Elizabeth I edicted death on them.” She notes how Cromwell from England destroyed their harps, and how people were forced to hide their musical instruments in the bogs…I realized how hiding one’s harp is synonymous with hiding one’s soul. The great waiting ends when one doesn’t have to hide anymore. In years to come, I would tell my own story, write my memoir (published as “FBI Girl”), where I expose the journey of learning to belong to the world amid all the silence.
I dream that from the ancient Irish bogs emerged an apricot tree on the other side of the world– in Los Alamitos, California, to be specific–beckoning a young girl with an Irish name to prance around its trunk and proclaim the “leprechauns” are coming! The philosopher Bachelard writes of loving things “intimately, for themselves, with the slowness of the feminine, that is what leads us to the labyrinth of the intimate nature of things.” With the slowness of the feminine…that is how I discovered an intimacy with cosmos which is my Irishness. I notice the sky and her belongings, the water and her reflections. I see into a self who dances and have found the mirror of my people.
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