History wasn’t my favorite subject in school—not until I started sophomore history with Mr. Carlo. That’s when the light first began to dawn that history was actually stories. Once I had that epiphany, there was no stopping me. Don Carlo rescued us from dry texts and sprinkled his retelling of familiar events with gems of personality, vulnerability and synchronicity, revealing the dark secret that Julius Caesar, Marie Antoinette and George Washington were people.
My next history mentor was Louis L’Amour, for whom story was alive and research was a way of life. If he wrote about a water hole, either he’d seen it himself, or he’d spoken to the man who had. Talking about the Old West, he said, “You know, it was only yesterday.” His sense of immediacy was so beautifully communicated in his novels and short stories that his readers are always transported back to another time.
Now I find almost every kind of history indispensable—political, familial, emotional, or spiritual. Sometimes personal history occurs as magic, like when I discovered that Milford Haven, Wales— the original town I researched and after which I named my fictitious town—was not only a special place filled with delightful, generous people, but was, in fact, the home of some of my ancestors. It seemed my heart had known something all along, of which my head had been utterly unaware.
So I dug deeper into the history of Milford Haven, Wales, till it lead me to across the Atlantic, following in the footsteps of ancestors and progenitors who left an older world for a new one, one they had to both discover and create. Some of these people founded a new town in Virginia, on the shores of the Chesapeake and named it Milford Haven. I’m so intrigued by this region of the world that it’ll be featured in one of the Milford-Haven Novels. The extensive research required to prepare for this storyline is compelling.
All of us have forebears. I’m fascinated by some of the stories, and have been researching some of my roots . Among my ancestors were those who left France with Lafayette, joining him in his commitment to the American Revolution. Lately I’ve been asking myself whether they were following their heads or their hearts.
Did logic tell them that an old paradigm would never allow for fresh ideas? Did intuition whisper that a new vision was aborning and that it wasn’t to be missed? Did both head and heart conspire to create an irresistible urge? What did they think of the monarchies they left behind? What did they think of the native people they encountered in their new homes? How did they wrestle with polarized political agendas, racial prejudice, financial upheaval, personal relationships, career ambitions, family values, and an individual sense of purpose?
As I read, research, and write about distant figures who trod our globe in the 1700s, I keep close my mentors and what they taught me—that these were people, with their foibles and fears, but also with their visions and energies. Enough of them dared to dream so big that a mandate for a new way of life was declared as new possibility—a possibility that, even now, we are living into.
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