Monday, January 21, 2008     « Countryside (Santiago de Cuba) »


Happy Martin Luther King Jr Day. God that sounds trite doesn't it? "Happy" doesn't exactly cover it.

It's funny. Somehow what I am about to write ties into the day. Maybe its the part about freedom? Geez this post is sinking fast. It's starting to read like one of those embarassing pieces in which the writer reveals intimate and very obvious details of a dream and then end it with, "So what do you think THAT'S about? I have no idea!"

Anyways, what I want to say begins with me (there I go again) having a shitty day. I woke up feeling woozy and a bit comatose. It was not one of those days wherein I wake up feeling alert and ready to go. Instead it took me ages to fully wake up. I had strange dreams but couldn't remember them. I had gone to sleep feeling one way and woke up feeling another. A few hours in I had an awkward business phone call rife with misunderstandings that left me feeling confused and a little bit pissy. I do not like when things get muddled and confused. This kind of situation is always likely to push my buttons in the worst way, an aspect of my psychology I have come to understand in better detail over the last year.

Later in the day, still feeling pissy and irritable, I sat here thinking about what I had written recently about the New Year and how I see the future for myself. I was thinking about how one of my hopes for next winter is to spend a month living in Dominica. Dominica is a small Caribbean island and my maternal grandmother's birthplace. My mother was born on a different Caribbean island but for some reason I have always felt more connected to Dominica even though I have never been there. In fact I have never been to either island. There is just this certainty in my heart that Dominica is at the root of things for me. I need to go there.

So of course years have passed since the idea first came up. I have been sitting around here waiting for the right opportunity, for all of my ducks to line up. Waiting for the time. Waiting for the money. Ideally the hope has been to go on a 2 week visit to both experience the place and research my family tree in public records. Last month I decided it was time to stop dreaming about it and start looking for a way to make it happen. The need to go has intensified recently and I have got to make it a priority.

The goal behind this trip has always been to trace my roots and get a better understanding of where I come from and how that plays into who I am. The problem is that there is no one left to ask questions about my history or my family's history and even when there was they did not want to talk about it anyway. I am the only one left in the family (that I know of) with this last name. I need to know where it comes from. Trail was my birth name, my mother's maiden name passed down from her mother. I think my grandmother got it from her father. As far as I can tell the name has Scottish roots but I do not know of any Scotts in the family. When I took the name back a few years ago the one thing that scared me was the possibility that I was reclaiming the name of a slave owner who had owned and enslaved a member or members of my family. In the end I decided to go ahead anyways but I still think about that troubling possibility. It's a pretty real possibility. I mean, I KNOW with certainty that there were slaves in the family. My grandmother was a black woman born on a West Indian island. Someone not far back in my lineage was stolen from Africa and placed on that island. I sometimes wonder if I should have just created a new name for myself or found another name in the family to inherit. Of course there was more to consider on a personal level. Taking back the name was more than just the sum of its heritage but also about its recent connection to me and what I felt had been stolen from me. It was very much an act of rejecting one thing and accepting another. Taking what was me and mine with a big ole' "Fuck you" to the rest.

The reason why I am revealing these details, is because in contemplating all of this I discovered that the word that would best encapsulate what I want from this year, while it looks and feels like "freedom", is actually spelled "clarity." People in my family have all operated on a certain level of vagueness about facts, details, emotions, and experiences. As long as things are left a little bit vague, a person can't make clear choices, take responsibility for themselves or be sure about a perspective. Vagueness leaves you feeling like you can't be certain about anything at all. While on the surface vagueness seems like a nice self-protective cocoon to wrap ones self in, it's also disorienting and passive. It's a trap, really and one that perpetuates an overall sense of powerlessness.

I like that the word clarity is defined as "freedom from ambiguity." Because ultimately the freedom clarity offers is one that results from knowing who you are and where you come from both literally and figuratively. It's about having the facts available and in front of you where you can assess them for yourself, take a position, and then act accordingly.

I am ready now. I am ready to collect the remaining pieces of this puzzle and free myself from ambiguity. I want that kind of freedom.

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