On a consulting assignment in New Brunswick, Canada, in a conversation over dinner with my new clients, I made an offhand comment about a French-Canadian great-grandmother and how some of my ancestors migrated from Canada to Louisiana. “Your ancestors must have been driven out during the Acadian Expulsion,” they said. “That means you have Acadian blood!"
That conversation led to hours spent researching my ancestry and the discovery that my people were indeed among among the earliest settlers in Port Royal, in modern-day Nova Scotia, tracing back to a sea captain named Pierre Arsenault who is believed to have sailed from France in about 1671.
My father glorified our Irish heritage, claiming that we were descended from the Irish King O’Laoghaire (“O’Leary”). I do love Ireland and recall, during my first visit there, feeling gobsmacked by déjà vu when I came upon a vista of horses grazing in a green field against a wild sea. These days, however, after nearly four years of regular travel to New Brunswick, I think of myself as a Lost Acadian, who found her way to Maritime Canada by pure dumb luck.
Or was it?
We are bound to our ancestors by delicate strands of DNA. Might DNA also explain why I fell in love with the French language at the age of 12? Why, when I was planning my first trip to Europe, it had to be France? Or how I ended up in Fredericton, New Brunswick, working a project led by a woman with the last name Arsenault—my newly discovered distant cousin?
Is there something in our DNA that pulls us toward the stories and places of our ancestors?
My Year of Living Nomadically is an idea I cooked up a few months ago. Since I can work from anywhere so long as I have access to wi-fi, I decided to take full advantage of my independence to travel and explore. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do. Why wait?
I briefly considered renting out my little house, but I quickly rejected the idea. My granddaughter, Eleanor, wouldn’t hear of it, and I need a home base. Plus, fairies live in the hollow of one of my four grand oak trees, and it’s bad luck to disrupt an enchanted environment.
I will be working, and my work will require traveling occasionally to my clients’ sites, which—happily—means spending a lot of time in a certain province in the Canadian Maritimes. There, I am blessed with great friends, friends who are always ready to share an adventure, a canoe, a tent by the river, a bottle of wine, and a story. While I'm there, I’ll look for opportunities to learn about my Acadian and Mi’kmaq heritage and chase the Northern Lights—maybe on a dog sled. I’ve done stranger things.
Yeah, New Brunswick feels like home to me, so I’ll spend time there. There are two other places in my Top Three: Roanoke Island, North Carolina, and parts of Douglas County, Colorado. Those three places are where I’ll start my year. I’ll figure the rest out as I go, following my son’s advice: “Don’t overthink it, Mom.” That’s the only advice I need. It goes well with the playlist I assembled with a lot of help from my friends. Here are the songs I’ll be playing when I hit the road next week.
Life Is A Highway – Rascal Flatts
Drive - Joe Bonamassa
Secret O’ Life – Richie Havens
Travelin’ Thru – Dolly Parton
Gypsy Epilogue -Tony Joe White
Highway Song – Aztec Two Step
Rocky Mountain Way – Joe Walsh
Colorado – Linda Ronstadt
Fast Car – Tracy Chapman
Can’t Find My Way Home – Christine Day
Carry On – Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young
On Every Street – Dire Straits
Boulder to Birmingham – Emmy Lou Harris
Midnight Train to Georgia – Gladys Knight and the Pips
Closer to Home – Grand Funk Railroad
She Lay Her Whip Down – Jeff Bridges and the Abiders
Someday Soon – Judy Collins
Life in a Northern Town – Little Big Town
Take Me With You When You Go – Lori McKenna
If I Had a Boat – Lyle Lovett
All the Roadrunning – Mark Knopfler and Emmy Lou Harris
Ride My SeeSaw – Moody Blues
The Next Best Western – Richard Shindell
Urge for Going – Tom Rush
Long Time Traveler – The Wailin Jennys
Free – Zac Brown Band
Fionnghuala – Nightnoise