The land of my ancestors is, for reasons I am still uncovering, the birthplace of my imagination.
My mother's passion for finding her Grandfather's village of origin in Ireland, the details of his leave-taking in the 1880s, and especially who he left behind, has served as wellspring for my inner life.
It was at age 11, at a formica kitchen table with chipped edges at 1430 North Rebecca Avenue in Scranton, Pennsylvania, that the first strained and muted sounds of elegy reached my ears as I pencilled a family tree; my mother, mournful, checked her scanty knowledge against her sister's equally vague details about the forbearers.
I am the inheritor of my mother's curiosity, regret and longing; it has given me a peasant heart, nostalgic bearings and an immigrant soul.***********************************************
Cloonkeelaun is a townland in the parish of Castleconnor on the Mayo/ Sligo border. It is where my great grandfather Patrick Hannon was born in 1860. He had 9 siblings. His mother was Honor Rochford of Stoukane, born in a hamlet just down the road in 1839. Thomas Hannon, his father, was born in Kilglass, an adjacent parish.
I have not always known this; it took more than 30 years of searching to be able to state such deceptively simple facts, to stake origin, to claim a birthright, to bend Time back on itself. I was compelled. I had no choice, but to seek the source.
About the title, Skies Over Cloonkeelaun
It was when I returned home from my trip to Ireland in June 2011 and began collating and curating my photos, that I began to realize the skies over the ancestral lands were indeed the focal point of so many pictures.
Expansive, symbolic of the enduring and eternal, these images of the skies over Cloonkeelaun and ancestral land brought me an acute and aching sort of awareness best captured by this H.L. Mencken quote-
"Time stays, we go"
Neighbors, Timlin family farm, on the main road of Cloonkeelaun
In June 2011, I was finally able to travel with my daughter, Allison Hannon Tau, to this hard-won, deeply felt place. To do the pilgrimage, to be the bearer, to honor the burden, to stalk the Illusion, to hear Time's footfalls.
I have completed the task that was set before me, I have done what my mother asked of me. It is my tribute.
I have always wanted to live more deeply inside the pasts of my ancestors. This site is my still developing 'workspace' for merging the imaginative and research elements of such a task. Here I combine family history, memoir and travelogue. I relive memories of conversations with my mother and aunts, and coax family photos to 'breathe and give'. I track down historical and public records, and borrow from the work of other genealogists, historians and researchers. Of late, I have been the beneficiary of the help of new Irish friends and e-pals who peek at my site and often send me gems of insight.
But mostly, this work involves a reach of the imagination, the stealthy, deeply rewarding work of populating my inner landscape with lives lived long ago. And, as I experience echoes and evocations of the Sligo coast in my recent "emigration" to a sliver of land on the outer reach of Cape Cod, Massachusetts, I delve into the idea of the 'landscape of memory' - or is it, the 'memory of landscape'?- in my video essay, 'Diamonds in the Dunes'
in front of Kilglass Stone Wall Barbara Anne Kearney June, 2011