Characters, Planning, Tips

Roses at Sea: My Grandmother’s Packing Tips

May 22, 2013 • By

Ancestral Portait

Travel can jolt you out of the mundane. Inspire you.  As a travel blogger and pattern designer, I wander the globe, looking at things in a specific way, hoping to create something new from the colors and shapes I see or the emotions I feel as I’m exposed to different light.

My ancestors were travelers, too.  They traveled to create new lives.  And when they packed, they carried only the things that mattered.

Roses, for instance.


Grapevines in My Sister’s Garden

Like my sisters, mother and grandmother, I keep plants in my garden that my ancestors brought to America more than 160 years ago.

My great-great-grandmother must have tended to her roses at sea, bringing them out into the light, making sure they had fresh water.

She made three oceanic voyages in the 1850’s.  I don’t know if she enjoyed those trips, but I know something about her packing list. It included:

  • Pale pink roses that now epitomize the word “heritage”
  • Long, slender branches that bloom yellow-gold in the spring
  • Iris bulbs

As I’ve set up house in different parts of the world, I’ve packed those things, too.

Last year my husband and I traveled to the small German villages of Armsheim, Ensheim and Woerstadt – the area my maternal ancestors left almost two centuries ago. Things haven’t changed too much, I imagine.

We visited an old cemetery and found the tombstone of my great-great-grandfather’s twin brother. We looked at small vineyards on the outskirts of town, the ones we’d heard of but never seen in person. Still flourishing. Still growing grapes that get made into wine every year. We walked curving, cobblestone streets. And then we saw them.

So Recognizable...

So Familiar…and Familial

There were the plants that someone cared about so much, she couldn’t leave them behind. Relatives of plants that bloom in my own garden in Georgia, and in my sisters’ gardens, and in the gardens we’ve owned but moved away from over time.

There were the pink roses and the yellow blooms.

I had a sudden vision of my great-great-grandmother measuring and cutting branches and wrapping them in damp fabric, just as I’d seen my mother do as a child.

Or digging up roots – as I was doing with this trip.

Sometimes, what you take with you on your travels is more important than what you bring back.

My Grandmother's Iris

My Grandmother’s Irises