Cousins and Common Bonds


“Nobody can discover the world for somebody else. Only when we discover it for ourselves does it become common ground and a common bond and we cease to be alone.”

  ~ Wendell Berry – A Place on Earth ~

There were many exceptional moments during a recent journey to Paris and London. This photo of my friend Jan and her cousin Tatiana captures one of them.

Jan has long been interested in her family’s genealogy, and our reason for being in Paris was a direct result of her research. She had discovered and previously met her cousin Ann, who lives in Paris. Ann had let Jan know that there was to be an exhibit honoring the 150th birthday of their shared ancestor, the Russian philosopher Lev Shestov.  Jan decided the exhibit was a good reason to travel, and invited me to join her.

Tatiana lives in Moscow, and had also traveled to Paris for the exhibit. Each interested in their shared connection to Shestov, the three cousins spent an afternoon at Ann’s apartment exchanging genealogical notes. Tatiana brought these volumes of family history:


And Jan shared research notes and her book:


Three cousins, speaking three languages, coming together as a result of curiosity and distant family ties. It was a remarkable afternoon of discovery, connection and bonding, and I was grateful to have been an observer. Cultural differences and language challenges served as embellishments, instead of obstacles, and a reminder that we are not ever alone.