The table is strewn with binders and folders and paper. I’m jotting notes; S is leafing through tabbed sets of paper. We are on a haphazard dash through names and time.
It seems our men named Pleasant don’t align – wrong birthdays, mismatched last names, stories that don’t quite cohere. And yet, there are these gossamer threads of connection – Lewis, Phillip, George – names I know from the slanted handwriting of letters and high school yearbook photos.
“Is that a ‘G’?” she asks lowering her glasses to the table.
I squint down at the 1870 census record and begin to scan the rest of the page for something that is clearly a ‘G.’ “Yeah, I think so. See this one – that looks the same, and it’s definitely a ‘G.’
There’s a possible link between “my” people and hers, the tiniest sparkle of hope in the distance.
As I told Champion, a man called “Old Champion” on most of the slave inventories, last night when I wrote to him across two hundred years:
Sometimes, Champion, when Iâ€™m doing this research, it feels like Iâ€™m following twinkling star charts. I find one star and then walk the straightest line I can to the next one I can see. Sometimes that star is so faint â€“ just a hint â€“ that I go entirely on hope, not sure that itâ€™s even there much less if itâ€™s even part of the constellation Iâ€™m trying to map. Sometimes, it feels like Iâ€™m just lost amongst the ether and nebulae.
But when I come down, when I plant my feet back on the earth and begin to see what is really above me, all those stars twinkle like so many sapphires tucked into the sky. There is a pattern, a reason, a system to all their placements. I just canâ€™t see it from the front . . . Itâ€™s like the metaphor of the tapestry, all the paths between things are hidden from view, all the work tied off in the back, but the front, the front is what is beautiful. Sometimes I feel like that.
S & I spend hours pouring over documents together, and I feel shored up, more solid. She came here to learn for herself, my new friend did, but I gained so much more. A restored confidence that despite the tenuous nature of this work there is something there – a pattern of people who latch onto connections and hope they prove solid like arteries, written in blood.