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What follows is a part of my memoir-in-progress that I know not what to do with. I believe that it will go in the first section, as it goes back in time to reveal generational emotional abuse in order to shed light upon my own wounded heart. This placement, I believe, sets up the trajectory of the rest of the book well. First a little bit of flashback, and then the story takes off. However, when I try I put it somewhere, it seems not to fit. And when I try to can it altogether, I get the feeling that I need to hang onto it for future use.

Alas, I suppose that this is a job for my editor-to-be.

What say you?

Looking Back to Move Forward

Sankofa is a West African word that means “looking back to move forward” (or literally, “go back and fetch it”). The term implies that for a person (or society) to grow and mature, she (or they) must well understand the past. All experiences must be placed into their proper context for holistic comprehension; for lessons to be learned; and for travesties not to be repeated.

Sankofa birdOne of the symbols for sankofa is a bird.[1] Presumably it is a female one, because the bird has an egg on its back. Her head is turned backwards and is bending down towards the egg. Her beak is open slightly, and it looks as if she is about to take the egg into her mouth. The assumption is that after doing just this, she will turn her head back forward and move on.

As I consider my present and future, the sankofa bird becomes a helpful metaphor for me. I stare at the sankofa picture and envision the bird first as a mother, and then as a daughter. Each role inevitably changes the symbolism and meaning of the egg for me.

While seeing her as a mother, the egg represents precious new life that the mother bird does well to protect. She scoops up her offspring gently in her beak to give it its best chance of living. All of life is ahead for this developing chick, and its mother is there to nurture it.

In considering the bird as daughter, I understand the egg to be a burden on her back. It is the generations of stuff that has been dumped upon her by her maternal ancestors. (Maternal, again, because only females can lay eggs.) The bird wants to move forward with her life, but finds it difficult because of all that is weighing her down. In order to progress, she must remove the egg, her passed-down burdens, from her body. The only way to do that is by turning around, looking at that egg, and picking it up.

Seeing the bird as a daughter stirs up unsettling emotions, and unresolved questions.

Is daughterhood a burden to me? Could this emptiness that I feel have been passed down to me? Am I laden with something that my mother bore, as well as my grandmother before her, my great-grandmother before her, and beyond?


Deeply Loved Advent Blog Hop Series Announcements!

Advent seriesWeek One book giveaway drawing winners.

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Christie Purifoy, winner of Deeply Loved: 40 Ways in 40 Days to Experience the Heart of Jesus by Keri Wyatt Kent

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Jen, winner of The Spirit of Food: 34 Writers on Feasting and Fasting Toward God by Leslie Leyland Fields

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[1]   “The Sankofa Bird,” The Sankofa Scholars Program, DeAnza College, Cupertino, CA 95014. http://www.deanza.edu/ssrsc/sankofa/. Website accessed November 14, 2012.