Friday, November 21, 2008

My Cup Is Squashed Down and Running Over

[Note: This entry was started on Thursday night, but because it was finished AFTER midnight, the date above is the date it was finally published.]

Driving home from Writers Guild through snow flurries tonight, as I approached Woodsong, it dawned on me I did not blog last night.

I had ridden up to Cahokia yesterday afternoon with fellow Trail of Tears Association board members to meet another board member at the library there. We had to finish before their 7:30 closing. After a quick stop at a drive-in for coffee and hot chocolate to keep us awake for the ride home, I was back at our house in time to blog—if I had remembered to do it.

When I got home on Monday night from an inspiring Black Heritage Tour in Saint Louis, I knew I would have much to blog about this week. Yet when I came down to the computer last night, I found emails from our Glasco Family genealogy group, and suddenly I was visiting a extraordinary site that an unknown distant (very distant) relative had placed online. There were photos of our family tombstones and documents that were just amazing to me because of all the work that had been done and generously shared.

Before the end of the evening at midnight, I had actually corresponded with the photographer and had learned much new information about Gerald’s large family tree here in Southern Illinois. I went to bed and slept soundly feeling the satisfaction that learning new family facts brings to a genealogy buff—even though I keep saying I have quit working on family history since it is such a never-ending process that takes you further and further back in time and leaves less and less time for current life.

I woke up with the glad anticipation of a friend coming for lunch. Jari Jackson retired back to her hometown of Marion, and I was going to be privileged to hear fascinating stories of her newspaper career at many of the largest papers here in the Midwest. After an afternoon of visiting, suddenly we both realized we had to end the visit if we made it to Writers Guild tonight. Later we met again in town to ride over to Carterville for the Guild.

Over twenty writers gathered to share their writings or just to listen to the others. We had poetry, short stories, articles, and parts of novels to entertain us. Our president, Jim Lambert, read from his ongoing effort to meet the challenge of writing a novel in a month. We were saddened as he took us from Death Row to the execution chamber with his character.

We listened to poetry that rhymed and poetry that didn’t and enjoyed both. A children’s book by a probation officer made us both sad and happy. Jeremy Melvin’s novel turned my stomach with fear. He made us all want to hear the end of that book. Pam Braswell said she had been writing “feel good pieces” and her essay about her early walk in the meadow with her horses proved she had succeeded. The humorous work of others made us laugh. One poem made us remember Virginia Tech.

We never fail to be pleased by the diversity that exhibits itself. Tonight we were also inspired by a stroke victim’s haltingly presented poem explaining her difficulty with words. To contemplate her year-long come back from speechlessness was encouraging to us all to overcome our more minor hindrances.

Maybe it was good I forgot to blog last night. There is no way I could really convey all we saw and experienced on Monday’s Saint Louis trip, which began with a visit to the Old Courthouse where the Dred Scott case started and went on to the Eugene Field house where his lawyer father, Roswell Field, no doubt lay abed at night thinking about how he might help Dred Scott secure his freedom. I wish I could let you hear as we did Scott Joplin’s music on the player piano when we visited the house where he lived in an upstairs flat and gave piano lessons during the day. On to lunch at the Black Heritage Museum, we saw exhibits there that made us realize anew the absolute horror of slavery and to puzzle at humanity’s unbelievable capacity for cruelty. We traveled through Saint Louis cemeteries, and some put a Lincoln penny on Dred Scott’s tombstone. (I’d planned to do that, but an unexpected nap prevented it.) Finally our guide left us, and we started our trip home in the motor coach, which is outfitted with screens throughout that enabled us to watch videos coming and going. How sadly different were our comfortable luxurious well-fed lives than the lives we had contemplated that day. When a mike was passed among us for comments, one touring member expressed the hope that our new President will bring us another step closer to the justice, equality, and freedom that our democracy aspires to.

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