The Welsh flag hangs now outside my Pennsylvania home after my return from a two week visit to London and the Welsh countryside. I had gone to find my ancestors, and I did.
I found many family living in England, and one I had never met and whose ancestor was brother to my great-great grandfather.
One day I stood before the grave site of Rev. George Morgan, buried with others of my family, in a small parish cemetery in Staunton, England, near the same church in which he had been I baptized. I found other Morgans whose names I did not know, but one I did–she would have been my aunt who died as a young child. It was a humbling experience to stand quietly by their tombstone and tell George Morgan his great, great grandson had returned. Across space and time, I hope he might have been listening.
The real impact of the journey to Wales was to come later when I returned to my Pennsylvania home.
Last night, my son and wife and I took a drive on the back country roads not far from where we live. Looking out over the distant green mountains and rolling hills and passing a farmhouse where the sheep were heading into the barn, it dawned on me that although I was a long way from Wales, a piece of it was here, in “Penn’s Woods,” (what the Englishman and Quaker William Penn called this state).
I thought of the coal mine we had gone into in Wales and remembered the coal region of Pennsylvania where we have lived and the Welsh community there, including a Welsh congregational church and an annual Welsh choir festival. I remember my friend, George Powell, a lover of poetry and music who would speak Welsh to me and talk about the beauty of the land where he had been born.
I thought of growing up in Philadelphia and all the Welsh influence around me. All I needed to remind myself of this is to name some of the towns: Bryn Mawr, Bala Cynwyd, etc.)
While I was in Wales, I kept thinking to myself: “I feel at home here; I could live here.” And now that I am back in Pennsylvania I realize that a part of Wales is with me in the green hills and small towns, the sheep farms and stone walls, and the music and poetry of the descendents of people who came here a century or two ago.
I am home in a new and deeper way, more satisfied where I live with a deeper appreciation for my Welsh family roots and mine here in this green world of Penn’s Woods. After all, as I learned, I come from a long line of what are called “people of the forest,” those who lived on the borders of England and Wales, and settled in either. Now I live near another woods, not unlike those of my ancestors.
Home is a place, but it also is a region of the heart and mind where one can go in thought, music, poetry, and spirit. That’s what I learned and like the poet William Wordsworth who carried memories of his walks above the Tintern Abbey in Wales to London, I will do the same here. As he wrote in his lines written above Tintern Abbey in July, 1798:
Oft, in lonely rooms and ‘mid the din
of towns and cities, I have owed to them
in hours of weariness, sensations sweet….
And I have felt
a presence that disturbs me with the joy
of elevated thoughts; a sense sublime
of something far more deeply interfused,
whose dwelling is the light of setting suns,
and the round ocean and the living air,
and the blue sky, and in the mind of man….
Therefore am I still
a lover of the meadows and the woods,
and mountains; and of all that we behold
from this green earth….
The sun was setting over the distant hillside as we headed back from our drive around the countryside. I was home.