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Published by: Megan K Martin Rankin on Feb 15, 2012
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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“Beginnings”If you close your eyesand spread out your armsto embrace the world,Where do you find yourself?What’s the land between your toes?What’s its texture,its scent,its storyas far back as you know it?What soundsfill the silence of your mind?What’s the tempoof its song:its bird trill,its rustle of leaves-its promiseas far back as you know it?What’s the horizon just out of your reach?What’s its palette,its composition,its hopeas far back as you know it?In a way, this storystarts only here.There are so many,so many beginnings…
A tree begins to establish itself-to claim its space on this Earth by reaching upward. Oncethe roots have dug deep and taken hold, the spry trunk will rise; its lithe body flexing inthe sun and the wind and happily accepting its surroundings.***John Joseph Brennan was born on the 15
of May, 1875, the 8
of the 13 children born toThomas Brennan and his wife Mary. John Joseph and his siblings were the firstgeneration of Patrick Brennan’s line to not know anything but Illinois soil. Ireland had been sublimated to the realm of the unconscious-instilled only by their father’s memoriesand stories and written into their genetics by blood only. Their first-hand consciousexperience of life would be of America-Illinois-only.***The tree, sturdily growing, pulls that bit of Earth up into itself through its roots andmakes that soil its own. The trunk melds itself into the landscape. That tree then standsthere for a reason. The empty bit of land where that seed once fell is now inhabited bythe habitual presence of that life.***John Joseph married Catherine Alice (Kate) Whalen in Springfield, IL on January 31,1900. Catherine was also a first generation Irish-American. The couple then lived inElkhart and had a family of 4 children. As a farmer, John Joseph Brennan, or “DadBrennan”, as my grandmother refers to him, would have known the land of Elkhart-known how to work the soil, break the land in his hands with the respect of someonedependant upon its graces.
***The water the tree drinks is flavored with the distinct notes of place. Hints of the pastmingle with newly turned topsoil making each bit of land unique. The roots, the trunk of the tree, carry the blood of these generations to the whole tree and tie its life to the land.It may take a while to really flourish into a commanding presence, but when left to itsown devices, the tree will show its success in its multitude of branches, limbs, leaves, andflowers.***Thomas Brennan’s decision to move to Elkhart, and John Joseph’s decision to stay therewould directly influence the lives of his son, my great-grandfather Matthew, and mygrandmother and her sisters. John Joseph was the first generation to really establish a lifehere, in Illinois, that was no longer in transition, no longer divided between twocountries. This stretch of land, this soil, this place then would become the foundation for what all our succeeding generations have come to call home.

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