Chasing the “Somewhere”

Last night, I spoke about Mennotoba in front of an audience.

I was terrified. I’m an awkward speaker. I forget what I want to say, all the time. But I have a deep love for talking about Mennonites and my family history and the why.

Why I do what I do.

Also not to be gushy because I’m sure that’s not why you’re reading this, but Andrew helped me a ton, with some common sense coaching, essentially communicating that I could be calm instead of panicking… I mean, that kind of coaching may not work in all scenarios but in this case, he knows me better than anyone and if he believes I can be calm and okay, then I can be.

(Mostly. Ha.)

Anyway it was the weirdest thing. I was calmer than I expected, and that made me think that I should probably be nervous. Because I have this nervous tick: self-sabotage. I was afraid that my strange calm was a trick of my subconscious biding its time, lying in wait to pounce with a spectacular showing of ineptitude.

Good news though.

While my delivery was far from perfect (oh was it ever!), I didn’t give up. I genuinely tried. And that was a result of loving the subject matter: Mennonites.

The audience was made up of a thoughtful collection of my fellow church-goers (shout out to Grace Mennonite Steinbach) which also encouraged me.

Also it was zoom so I didn’t have to worry about falling down the stairs or tripping over the mic stand (legitimate concerns). This is probably the best time to attempt this kind of thing.

So, I spoke about why I stopped blogging about travel and started blogging about Mennonites.

I reflected on the time Andrew and I stumbled upon the spectacularly foreboding Castle Gravensteen when exploring Ghent, and learned Mennonites were tortured and executed in that castle in the 1500s… including our own ancestor. (Yes, Andrew and I share several ancestors… ’tis the Mennonite way.)

Next… thanks to Grandma’s Window, I found an unfamiliar Mennonite last name in my genealogy: Lehn. So my attention was caught when someone on a Facebook forum mentioned there was a Lehn diary. Sure enough, it was written by several of my ancestors. Thanks to the Mennonite Heritage Archives, I was able to read it!

In speaking to a group about the Lehn diary, I pronounced it “len”. In the discussion afterward I was introduced to another secret Lehn family member, and learned that it’s pronounced “lane”. Honestly this blew my mind and I was grateful for the information!

And, here’s a note that I concluded on. I’ve written about this before but it bears repeating now:

As far as blogging goes… after attempting to tell the stories of our travels abroad, I’ve come to the conclusion that for me, it makes much more sense to learn about, and tell the stories of, the place I live and the culture I’m from.  

I came across an article on Vice entitled Indigenous Women on the Ongoing Fight Against Colonialism and Capitalism in which Sarah Lyons asks Lauren TwoBraids Howland, “If non-native people wanted to help you in this fight, what are some steps you think they should take?”  

Lauren’s response: “What we need is for you, as a non-indigenous person… to re-establish your connection with (Mother Earth) through your own indigenous practices and culture. We need you to… recognize yourself as an indigenous person to the earth, because although you aren’t indigenous to Turtle Island, you are indigenous to somewhere.” (Emphasis mine.)

It’s that somewhere that I’m chasing.

Related posts:

Our Ancestors Were Killed Here

Reading the Lehn Diary (Begun in 1725!)

Why Are You Doing This?