What comes first?
As an informed writer, I have more to work with, more inspiration, in a sense.
What comes first in writing: research or inspiration? I say inspiration! It fuels the research and hones craft. But, when I began my journey as a poet decades ago, I thought whatever I was inspired to write would come to the page as it was meant. Now, I see the difference reading and researching make.
As a more informed writer, I have more to work with, more inspiration, in a sense. It's the perfect balance for someone like me who likes to use both sides of my brain -- fall in love but think about it first :-).
So, with the project I'm currently working on, thanks to the Duke Energy Regional Artist Project Grant through the Winston-Salem/Forsyth Co. Arts Council, I'm digging deeper into the research of African American churches and cemeteries.
I thought, in case there is someone else who can't ignore the pull to know more about this part of our history, I would create a list of websites I have found with the most helpful and comprehensive information. Of course, you can do your own Googling, but since I'm doing it, I might as well share.
I will add to this list as it develops. Feel free to email me should you find information you think would be helpful to me or someone else!
Links to Online Resources
Forgotten to remember
Yesterday, I passed a "No Trespassing" sign to get to a cemetery that was locked and abandoned. Well, not literally abandoned -- I believe the buried are still there -- but forgotten.
It got me thinking about a conversation I had with someone a few years ago. Does love die when people die and those who were to remember them forget?
I believe love doesn't die, but if love is in the heart of those alive and they die (which we all will, eventually), where does the love go?
Maybe that's why I'm so interested in cemeteries. Perhaps it's deeper in that I am more interested in love and remembering -- even if I don't know those whose names are on markers, or those whose names are not known (or thought important to place on a marker).
There was a burial taking place at one of the three cemeteries I visited yesterday. I talked to the three men who were placing the casket in the ground, shoveling and then bulldozing dirt on top of it. I asked if they knew who was buried. If it was a man or woman, the age. One of the men turned around a small sign stuck in the grass near the plot for me to see it. It was a lady born in the early 1930s. I said a prayer that she had a fulfilling life and that she will be remembered.
What is life if when we leave we do not leave something worth remembering behind? If someone doesn't remember you, in love? Aren't we, in some ways, living to die?
So, when I get to the "abandoned" cemetery, with locked gates, grass and trees overgrown, I wonder who is there and what happened to those who know them? Did they not tell their children about who is there and the significance of remembering? Is there something we (the general public) need not to know? Why can't we visit? Freely walk the grounds?
A friend called yesterday. When I told him where I was and what I was doing, he asked what is it about visiting cemeteries that interests me. I told him I didn't know for sure but wanted to follow this inner rhythm and see where it leads. I wonder if some of this interest is to make friends with death. Not in a way that I desire death (trust me, I love and am thankful for life), but in a way that I do not want to fear it.
Being single and not having children, I wonder if anyone will visit me when I am buried. I won't know if they do or not :-), and visiting is more for the living than the dead. But visiting, placing flowers, taking pictures, researching the history of the cemetery and those who are buried is part of my journey to honor the sacredness of life and death.
There are stories to be told, even in our forgetfulness. Slowing down, being quiet and walking in sacred spaces (like cemeteries) is one way that I connect in the thin, fragile space where I am fully alive in fleeting moments. It may not make all the sense in the world but who has time for that? There are other threads to follow.
I'm a poet in love with oral history and stories of the ancestors. Here, I will record what I discover and contemplate on my journey into historical African American churches and cemeteries in the South.