Erin Go Bragh!

For a long time I was Irish, so Irish that people in Irish pubs in San Diego — Irish people — would ask me, “When were you last home?” in their lilting brogue. They didn’t mean Descanso, where I lived, a small town 50 miles to the east of San Diego, in the mountains. They meant the Emerald Isle.

Me ma and da were tellin’ me from birth that I’m Irish, and I suffered through the obligatory corned beef and cabbage for many years. The only time I was ever pinched for not wearing green was at a supermarket in LA when I was attending fresco school. I was so wrapped up in school, I had forgotten what day it was. “You look Irish enough,” said the woman who pinched me, “where’s your green?”

Well, thanks to Ancestry DNA I’ve since learned that I’m not so Irish after all — a smidgeon — but (gotta go check those dilithium crystals) I’m a feckin’ Scot. The fact of the matter is me paternal great-grandah’ was a pure Irishman, and then, dontcha’ know, it started being watered down by all and sundry, OK, just some and sundry, but as I understand DNA if you’re a female much of what you can learn about your DNA comes from yer’ ma’s side, and that is born out by what Ancestry is telling me. Luckily (or irrelevantly) I pretty much know where my family came from with a few bits here and there lost in the mists of time. And the term “Scotti” was the name given the Gaels by the Romans — Irish and Scots alike.


Lots of Europeans wonder why Americans are so fascinated by their ancestry. I can’t answer that other than to say that if you’re German, you probably KNOW it. EVERY human on this continent — even the “natives” — came from somewhere else. It’s just an intriguing mystery. Not very important to me, but kind of cool to learn about.

All this to say I’m wearing my green underwear today. It’s too cold for my green t-shirt.

Yesterday I took the dogs for a walk to see the day and the cranes — thousands of them flew above me. Easily fifty cars were making their way around the Refuge. It’s a big year for both cranes and tourists who come out mainly for the photo opportunities. How do I feel about that? Mixed, but generally positive and, anyway, my feelings are irrelevant. The dogs and I have our walk that is apart from all the action and since I’m not armed with a fancy camera, I am liberated to watch and, living here, I have the liberty to watch in slow motion. I’m not (overly) charged with carpeing the diem. I thought I’d share this photo story — I don’t like the guy’s captions much, but he and his long lens got a very cool — dramatic — narrative of the type I see often and cannot possibly report so vividly. Don’t miss this!

I spent a little time yesterday listening to an archeologist on Zoom talk about one of the caves that ring the ancient lake that is the San Luis Valley. Since I lose focus in lecture, I abandoned it, but not before I learned that there is no pottery (*cruse) until 2000 years ago. This is the interesting thing — how and why? No pottery, no bows and arrows until the upper layers — that’s 2000 years out of a 14,000 year history of human culture throughout the region. I wonder what caused the change. It is, apparently, pretty universal around the Americas. The little shard in my featured photo is Anasazi? Very likely.

A dear friend found it one day on a walk near her home in Arizona. She picked it up, put it in her pocket, and, at some point, stuck it to a post-it note and put it on my desk at San Diego State University. The post-it is still there. Her note has long faded, but the shard persists. I think that is a beautiful metaphor for the whole mystery surrounding the sudden appearance of pottery. The words explaining it are gone, but the pottery remains.

*cruse/kro͞oz/ noun ARCHAIC: an earthenware pot or jar.

16 thoughts on “Erin Go Bragh!

  1. According to my DNA, I’m 42% Swedish/Danish and 33% Irish, a Viking Celt. The rest of me is Norse, Welsh, English, and Scottish, with a little “other” thrown in there.

  2. Genetics is wonderful but all females as well as males get half their DNA from each parent… Your mother contributed an X to you and your brother where your father gave you an X and your brother a Y. It is wonderfully complicated but you have at least half from your dad!

  3. My brother and sister each had their DNA tested (different companies). The results did not match. Does that mean, as we all joked when we were younger, that my sister was the child of the milkman? Or that this DNA analysis is a flawed science?

    • Well…I’m no expert by any means but… I had my DNA tested a while back by a company that quickly disappeared (shady? or???) but I liked what it said so I decided some of it was true (I belong to the same Haplogroup as Otzi and Reinhold Messner) but that bit corresponded perfectly with what I knew of my mom’s ancestry which is what a female’s haplogroup will be. The OTHER — Ancestry — corresponds pretty well with what I know about the people in my family so I’m not too skeptical about it.

      My understanding of what a male sibling will learn is that it could be very different from that which a female sibling will learn even though they each have 50% of their DNA from each parent. My understanding is that if a female really wants to know her paternal Haplogroup, she should ask her brother or dad to have a DNA test, which implies to me that they wouldn’t get the same results. There’s more to it than even THAT which is that we won’t inherit all of our parent’s chromosomes; then it gets a little technical, which I learned from articles like this: https://atlasbiomed.com/blog/do-siblings-have-the-same-dna-the-facts-on-family-genetics/

      So maybe no milkman…

      For me it’s just a matter of curiosity, probably stimulated because I look so much like my dad, have my Swedish grandmother’s (paternal grandmother) hands down to the life line (except for my bird fingers which are just like my mom’s, oddly appropriate), the left eye of my paternal great-grandmother, green eyes that appeared in my mom’s generation but not before (that anyone remembers), my maternal grandmother’s physique and white hair — it’s all just kind of cool. I am also the only kid in two generations on both sides NOT born with blond hair but reddish/brown. Huh?

  4. I’m so curious! I bought both of my sons DNA kits a few years back (they requested them for Christmas). My oldest had more Irish. The youngest England. I’d really love for my twin and I to do this!

    • There’s a link somewhere in the comments to this post that explains how there can be differences between siblings. You and your twin SHOULD do it. I enjoy mine (they keep updating the results as they learn more) as a matter of curiosity. Basically, I got indisputable confirmation that I’m a white person :p

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.