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Grave in the Forest

These things we can surmise, given the information available to us:

When she was in diapers, the nation was as well: she was born at the end of the 1700s.

Maybe her family had money, and some land.

Maybe they raised corn, or horses, or tobacco.

Maybe her family was only a generation or two removed from England. Maybe it was Germany

Maybe she was taught to read, taught her numbers, taught to write. Maybe she was not.

Maybe from the kitchen window she could gaze over the vegetables growing in the kitchen garden she tended for her family: green peppers, tomatoes, dill weed

Let's be honest: maybe she owned a slave. Maybe more than one. Perhaps she was cruel to them, perhaps she was grateful for their help.

Maybe she hauled water from the well to do the cooking, the washing, the cleaning, her strong hands pulling at the sisal rope that descended into cool depths

Maybe she boiled it on a fire nourished by wood cut from forests around the edge of their North Carolina property

Maybe her husband considered this land part of the New Hope, their previous investments rendered worthless by agents who sold properties many times over, but whose connections to the king protected them from recrimination

Maybe she rejoiced at the stew pot whistling over the flames, the linens folded properly in wooden drawers that slid smoothly, the first steps of a young calf, the young corn turning its head to the sun, the gurgle of the cool creek waters below

Of this we can be sure:

She died in her 70s, a long life in those days when disease and ill-fortune were never sated

Children, nieces, nephews buried her at the edge of their property, far from the family house, on the shoulder of a little hill that overlooked the creek and the forests beyond it.

Over time, that hillside grew wooded. Eventually, a wealthy industrialist purchased the land in an act of philanthropy. The university came to own it, manage it, and protect it.

The creek never stopped flowing, and gurgles over its rocky bed to this day. But the wind now sings through the boughs of trees on all sides of her grave.

A hundred eighty-or-so years later, a man now entering the second phase of his life, coming to accept that his days on earth will not be limitless, stumbled upon this grave-in-the-woodlands, so improbably located in the middle of a forest.

And he thought to himself, "This is a better final resting place than most."

"I should be so lucky."


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