Monday, June 8, 2015

The Long Drive Home

In the bigger scheme of things, six hours is not a very long time. But when it involves two people, strapped into the seats of a car, driving through a ninety-something degree middle-of-nowhere valley, it can seem like a very long time.

Yesterday was the conclusion of the Southern California Genealogical Society’s conference, which they dub “Jamboree.” This is my third year in attendance with, hopefully, many more to come.

Jamboree affords a great opportunity to gather with fellow genealogy enthusiasts and learn from nationally recognized experts in the field—and to rub elbows with keen thinkers and share experiences and ideas with other researchers and Society leaders.

While the three-day extravaganza was invigorating (plus an additional event, “DNA Day” adding another element to the series), I was certainly ready to head home. When the time came, however, I noticed a phenomenon. That morning waking-up enthusiasm to head back to my own familiar surroundings gave way to noontime reluctance to leave, then afternoon melancholy over parting with people I wouldn’t see for another year.

Driving out of the hotel parking lot made for a clean break. There were traveling tasks to attend to: finding the nearest source of cheap fuel for our car (Costco, down the street) and a somewhat nearby next stop with fuel for the travelers (coffee and lunch-to-go), before mounting the “Grapevine” and entering the monotonous valley.

The rest of the time, I suppose, could have been filled with conversation. After all, there were lots of experiences to share with my traveling companion—my husband—who joined me on the trip down, but judiciously avoided remaining for any genealogical programs, himself.

We could also, possibly, have filled the hours listening to music, or podcasts—we did, actually, put through their paces a few programs by a marketing guru—or anything else to fill up the silent spaces.

But in those quiet times, I found myself steeped in thoughts of the weekend classes. In this retrospective mindset, what I had previously expressed in the doubts of the other day’s post gave way to a sense of reflection, prompting analysis, then inspiration, then enthusiasm.

In this better frame of mind, I could hardly wait to get home and begin work. There were so many ideas to tackle! I began to wonder how a researcher could manage to find enough time and money to accomplish all that needs to be done.

What made the change? I hardly could say that the attitude in which I arrived home was the same mind frame in which I had left southern California. Yes, six hours of driving through the Big Valley can be a long, tedious effort. But what about that exercise would yield such an invigorated turnabout?

One of the most handy iconic concepts gleaned from my young school years demonstrates the concept of osmosis. Remember, from your grade school years, the experiment with the celery stalk placed in colored water? The changes may not have been visible immediately, but eventually, that food coloring found its way, through the medium of the water with which it was mixed, up through the stalks of celery, eventually tingeing even the leaves at the top of the stalk with a hint of the color in which the celery was resting.  

Osmosis has become a touchstone concept for me. It is the flint that tests the realness of learning and experiencing life.

It reminds me that results are not instantaneous, but take time—changes often come slowly, sometimes even imperceptibly.

It reminds me, also, that learning means crossing barriers—and also that barriers are not always hopelessly impermeable. It may take some steeping in a new subject—worse, sometimes outright pickling—before mastery becomes perceptible. But there will be progress, if just enough openness is exposed to the right medium.

And it consoles me that, even though immediate results are not seen, it doesn’t mean that those results will never be forthcoming. Somehow, they will find a way to blend with their host, creating something new out of their synergy.

In this age of online connectivity, some seem to think that gathering together—for something as brief as a local Society meeting, or as gigantic as a regional or national conference—offers nothing more than can be obtained through a solitary interface with a website. For those who are seeking only facts—those names, dates and places we plaster on our pedigree charts and family group sheets and presume to call that genealogy—perhaps that is so.

That, however, excludes the possibilities of what can happen when people gather together. We may become excited about what we find on a genealogy website—but it is what that discovery means to us that requires someone with whom to share it. The blending of discoveries, stories and people make for a beneficial mix. We may not even realize the benefit at first, but just like osmosis, it will eventually brighten our outlook on not only what we are achieving, but who we are as people, as well.


  1. I suspect that you experienced a bit of an "overload" at the conference and your brain needed some quiet time to digest things. :) I'm sure you will be running full speed shortly! And on new paths!

    1. Oh, Iggy, how well you must know this drill. Yes, indeed, my brain was oozing thoughts and needed some relief! But it wasn't twenty four hours and the "full speed" hit. Thanks to a lot of help from some talented people, I was able to finish work on two new projects today.

  2. Good to hear you made it home safely...long drive but I bet there was some scenery...if not at least you had good company:)

    1. Well, there is always scenery. Let's just call that one "reruns." However, the good company always makes up for it!


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