Today is a one word in front of the other kind of day. For some, feet are best, but since I make my progress mostly in language, I’ll hold with words.

Lucy Chambers, ex-slave

Lucy Chambers, ex-slave, photographed by the WPA

The list beside me – written on a list labeled “Today” and bordered by peacock feathers  – seems impossible.  Beyond my hours and my strength, yet, it must be done.

So rather than doing, I settle back into what I know must happen first – a bit of rest, a bit of prayer, a bit of clearing in my mind.

I am sitting – my eyes closed, my jaw relaxed – as the sun comes over the trees to the East and basks my face with what can only be called glory.

I think of her, the woman in this house, and I wonder if she ever sat – for a few moments of resting – in this very spot and let the sun sooth her, too.

Often, I feel her – her spirit lifting into the edge of my mind just by my hairline – when I am weary or overburdened – although my burden is light when I think of hers. I see her her shadow, or the shadow of her shadow, and I take comfort.

As if a friend has arrived to sit with me a spell.

I cannot explain that, do not understand why a ghost, or the ghost of an enslaved woman in particular, might comfort me, but she does.

And I realize with an understanding as deep as I can take it that I cannot – must not – expect this from her, because then, well, then would I not simply be stepping into the role of her mistress. I am not – will not be – do not wish to be – could not be her owner . . . and still, here, now, I know that these words speak of that, and I am horrified.

So, in this office, the sun lifting the burden with its light, I imagine her – lithe, tall, agile or more like me, a bit bottom-heavy, strong, sturdy but not all that graceful.  I cannot see her face – do not know whether her eyes were round or shaped like leaves, or her cheeks full or spare – but at some moments, I know her to be young – fresh, hopeful. Others, she is older, settled, a bit more pulled in.

I suspect at times she was quite angry with righteousness, and as a human, bitterness must have tested her tongue from time to time.

I look at her beauty as I look at the gorgeous strength of my dearest friends, and I am in awe.

For me on this sun-filled morning in this 210 room where she and I share air, she is comfort and reminder.  The work – when done for life and justice – is good.  We must keep on. I must keep on . . . to change myself, to hope for change in all.

What keeps you moving forward in your work?  What images, phrases, people spur you to keep on?

If you are interested in learning more about the particular struggles of enslaved women, please visit Gloria Sonnen’s very informative webpage.