Let me tell you a story about this place. It’s an old place, of course. All places are old places. But this place, unlike the places that are old but recreate their faces over and over again to seem young – New York City, Dubai, my grandmother’s patio room – this place has kept the face of age. 200 years, 300 years in some stone.
This place takes the breath from the lips of people who visit. They drive past the big houses here and sigh out like they’ve just released a hope they didn’t know they had. They walk the gardens and stare at the portraits and sigh. They speak in whispers.
This place was inspired by the mental acumen of a gentleman who knew that tobacco kills the land and education carves the path out. It was built by people who knew, by touch, the way to cut a stalk for its best yield and could, by nature of their very existence, speak silently of what it was to endure.
I live here. In this old place. I walk the roads and pace the trails. I have stared at every portrait and felt the air of every room fill my lungs. I know this place.
Still, it is not enough to know it in my body. I cannot write a book from what I know. This is what the past six months have taught me. To write a book, I must live it in my mind.
Of course, the irony is that to live this book I need not, I cannot walk the roads or pace the trails, stare or fill my lungs. I must sit in a wooden chair in a room with no one but me. I must climb into the vastness of my mind and live what I find there. The stories untold. The visions unseen. The history unspoken.
It is not the 3,500 acres of this plantation that will tell the story, although it is, of course, the story itself. It is me.
Let me tell you a story of this place.