Claiming My Lineage – My Grandfather

"Longenecker" Crabapple Blossoms

Crabapple Blossoms © 2013 Bo Mackison

“As a child, one has that magical capacity to move among the many eras of the earth; to see the land as an animal does; to experience the sky from the perspective of a flower or a bee; to feel the earth quiver and breathe beneath us; to know a hundred different smells of mud and listen unself-consciously to the soughing of the trees. We are continually articulating the intelligence of the planet, which has grown up through all the species. The whole earth lives within us, and in every moment, we are both its creators and discoverers. We only need to reawaken all these early memories.” ~ Valerie Andrews in A Passion for This Earth

*** Last week in Jen Louden’s TeachNow course, each participant was “invited to become a story gatherer and story creator.”  I jotted a few stories in my journal and that was that. This week, we are invited to “claim and own our authority and lineage” so that we can step into the teacher that we are (or are becoming). In order to claim my lineage, I recall past teachers in my life – childhood, youth, student, adult – and identify those people, places, books, experiences — positive and negative — that were influential in shaping the person I am today. This post combines both assignments.

I was blessed to grow up in a multigenerational home. I lived not only with my parents, but with my maternal grandparents and my grandmother’s mother. As an only child for much of my childhood, I had no age-mates for play, but I had devoted adults who were  always at the ready to nurture, instruct, and entertain.

My grandfather relished telling me the following story when I was a youngster. It was one of his favorite stories.

As a toddler, I was easy to watch whenever I spent time outdoors. My mother needed only to spread a quilt on the grassy lawn, remove my shoes and socks, and I never ventured into the stubbly grass. Mother delighted in this arrangement, as any mother of an intrepid, almost two-year-old explorer might. It gave her some down time when she could be near me, yet visit with friends or family, or simply read a magazine. But at some point, my wariness of all grassy spaces turned into a babysitting monster. I became fearful of the edge of the quilt and what was beyond. I began to limit my safe space to the very middle of the quilt. I refused to reach for toys near the quilt’s edge. Eventually I began to fuss whenever I was near grass of any sort.

My grandfather became troubled about my fear of grass. He was a gardener, devoted to the earth and plants that grew. He spent his daylight hours outside: tending his vegetable gardens; caring for a variety of flower beds — tulips, peonies, irises, roses; pruning his ornamental and nut trees; caring for the yard and exterior of the house; and deriving deep pleasure from the gifts of the land.

He decided to introduce me to his world. He wrapped me in my “safe” outside quilt and carried me to a garden space in the back recesses of the property. First, he picked a few blades of grass and offered them to me. I promptly grabbed them and took a taste. Then he set me on a few paving stones and stepped into the grassy field. When he told this story, he always claimed that he “danced a jig and sang a song,” I have no proof of this! Then he picked more blades of grass and pretended to nibble them. He claimed he made noises like a bunny, but again I have only his word, which is good enough for me.

Tiny Tulips

Tiny Tulips © 2013 Bo Mackison

Before long he was sitting in the grass, then lying on the grass, and finally rolling down the slight decline in the yard, chuckling all the way. It didn’t take much more coaxing on his part. Soon I was mimicking his actions. A tentative crouch to pick a blade of grass. Another taste. An accidental plop on my seat and I there I was, sitting in the grass. I began to fret. Then we noticed the violets, white clover, and dandelions aplenty. I became entranced with the flowers. We picked bouquets for Mother, Grandma, and Great-Grandma Prudie.

It didn’t take much more encouragement, nor many more days, before I was following Grandpa everywhere. Digging worms between the rows of tomatoes. Eating strawberries and green onions fresh from the garden. Watering the plants with a miniature watering can. When we rested, we leaned our backs against a hundred-year-old maple. In a few short weeks, I changed from a young child afraid of the outdoors to one enamored with her grandfather’s company and the outdoor’s infinite possibilities for exploration and discovery. I spent the next 12 summers working or playing in his gardens.

My grandfather was a truck driver and a factory worker until he retired shortly after I was born. But he was a gardener in his heart and soul. I consider my grandfather one of my first and finest teachers — the person who introduced me to his gardens and fostered in me a deep love for the earth. He was a nurturer, a gardener, an entertainer. And a mighty fine teacher!


Bo Mackison is a photographer and owner of Seeded Earth Studio LLC. She is exploring her lineage with Jen Louden and the other TeachNow participants.  Memories of Bo’s grandparents are in her thoughts often: they are mentioned in her gratitude journal daily.

About Bo Mackison

I'm a photographer, book-artist, traveler, naturalist, and creator of the Contemplative Creatives Journey, An Online Workshop and Community and Desert Wisdom Cards and Workshops. Though often not well known, I find the desert a welcoming place - a healing space. Its mysteries and gifts transformed me several years ago. Since that first encounter, I return again and again to fill my well in what most people think of as a desolate region. I'd love to share my desert discoveries and wisdom with you. Please subscribe to receive my five part mini email course The Gifts of the Desert. It's my gift to you.


  1. Love the story!! Wonderful post!

  2. Gandalf says:

    What a wonderful memory. Looking at your travels, the blanket doesn’t keep you on the grass any longer. 🙂

  3. What a great story! A memory to be so proud of!

    • Bo Mackison says:

      I’ve been doing quite a bit of mining of family stories. It’s been eye opening. Maybe I;m getting practice in so I;ll be all set to tell stories as a grandmother! Wow!

  4. This is beautiful!! I – too – am taking Jen’s teach-now class (but the self-guided version…and I’m way way way behind). Love how you’ve crafted your story and shared it here!

    • Bo Mackison says:

      I never manage to keep up on the courses that I don;t have to show up and be heard. And often I can;t keep up with the ones that work to keep you engaged, either. I;m finding Jen;s class a real gem though. Sooooo much wonderful information and so supportive!

  5. I especially like the first image-the delicate white flowers against the silver background.

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