Fiction as archaeology

I came across an interesting documentary on archeologists recently. The premise was that if they were fortunate enough through their work to discover something very ancient, one could not only understand more about his or her ancestors, but feel a spiritual connection to them, and perhaps even a spiritual connection to God. It reminded me of a trip I took several years ago to St. Kitts, trying to learn about the sugar plantations that developed there in the 17th century. This would help me describe the fictional one I was creating, called Sharavogue.

St. Kitts, West Indies

St. Kitts, West Indies

Before the trip, I happened to go with several girlfriends to see a Tarot card reader. It was all in fun, but the reader was quite good. When it came to my turn, she asked where I was going on an upcoming a trip, and I told her. As she looked at my cards, she said that while I was there the veil between the physical world and the spiritual world would become very thin, and I would experience something profound. She could not tell me more, but simply said I should be open to whatever might come to me. I did not put much weight in her prediction at the time. It wasn’t until I returned that I was able to connect the dots.

I was traveling alone and arrived in St. Kitts to balmy weather, but the next day it turned stormy with heavy rain. Being from Seattle I tried to ignore the rain and go about my business. I drove about the island and visited a couple of historic sites, collecting information and experiences. I began to feel a little uneasy and wrote it off to the fact I was alone in an unfamiliar place. But the feeling continued to grow, such that my stomach grew tight, my appetite diminished. I tried to record my notes on my laptop but couldn’t focus and eventually gave up. That night I could not sleep, but tossed and turned as the feeling of unease grew.

Within an hour of waking I received a call from the clerk of the hotel where I was staying. My husband was trying to reach me from Seattle. My mother was ill and had been taken to the hospital emergency room. I had to get back home.

I did, and my mother improved over the next few days and was able to return home also. It took longer for my paranoia to diminish. I spoke with the Tarot reader again and she suggested that I had once lived in St. Kitts, probably as a slave, and through her illness my mother had removed me from danger as she probably had once before. We had acted out some kind of karmic connection. Whether you believe in past lives or not, the idea is still interesting to think about.

I really don’t know, but I have to say that when writing about my character Elvy Burke, there were times when her story came to me so powerfully and vividly I had wondered. What if there really had been a woman like her, and what if she was speaking to me through the conduit of my imagination? What kind of connection could she and I have, if not through blood and spirit? The idea made writing thrilling and somehow more important.

I will never know if there is truth to any of this, but as another character who transcended fiction used to say, “Fascinating!”

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