This is also the place I’m writing about. The plantation. The home to approximately 140 slaves not quite 150 years ago.
When I walk this land, I see home. I see a place where I feel safe and protected, where beauty is so abundant that it can almost go unnoticed.
Now, as I walk these hills, I wish I could see with other eyes. I imagine what it must have been like to be a slave walking down this hill after a long day of work. Would that redbud look so beautiful? Would those lowgrounds by the river seem pristine and rich? Or would this simply be all burden? A place where beauty comes only from the blisters of your hands? Would I even be able to see beauty at all?
This writing process is changing how I see this place. I am actively trying to cultivate a double-vision about my home. I want to see with my own eyes, to feel the respite that cushions my bones here, and I want to see what a young slave woman would see, acres and acres of earth to be hoed.
Sometimes, I think what I am doing is unique in this – who else sees with two perspectives?
But of course, we all do. We all see our lives, our memories, our experiences with the vision of the moment and the view over our shoulders.
In writing, this becomes all the more so. I write my childhood and see what I remember before I shape and change it with my adult mind. When we write fiction, we see what we imagine, and we see what we actually lay out on the page. Our poems sit stretched and gossamer in our minds and incomplete, solid in our language.
The work of writing is the work of double-vision. To imagine, to see, to form – and then to capture as best we can. This is both the beauty and burden of our work.
This book I am writing requires that I cultivate both visions – the fully-grown, carefully-articulated perspective of this place where I live AND the fully-imagined, carefully-researched perspective of a 36-year-old black woman who also called this place home. If I do this well, the moments where our visions intersect will hopefully shimmer full and beautiful out across the fields.