When you go searching for strange and spooky things, sometimes you find something sad and beautiful instead.
While wandering around Portsmouth NH, Lucinda and I found a statue that led us to something we never have expected to see on an urban downtown street.
Between a hair salon and a marketing company there stands a memorial to the dead and long forgotten. This stop on the Portsmouth Black Heritage Trail is the site of a long ignored “Negro Burying Ground.”
The plaque says in part: “In Colonial Portsmouth, segregation applied in death as in life.” City officials approved a burying ground for African-Americans at the edge of town. “By 1831, houses were built over the site.”
In 2003, during a building project, contractors unearthed crumbling wooden coffins full of human remains. There may be as many as 200 graves.
The building project stopped and a new project was started in its place – a memorial to those too long forgotten.
“This is not black history,” the plaque says. “This is our shared history.”
The memorial includes sculptures, historical information, and art tiles designed by Portsmouth schoolchildren. Inscribed on the figures are the words of a poem by Jerome Meadows:
“I stand for the Ancestors Here and Beyond
I stand for those who feel anger
I stand for those who were taken from their loved ones
I stand for those who suffered the middle passage
I stand for those who survived upon these shores
I stand for those who pay homage to this ground
I stand for those who find dignity in these bones.”
– Jerome Meadows, artist and sculptor
For more on the history, planning and preservation of the site visit the Portsmouth African Burying Ground website.
If we stay in one place too long, Lucinda gets restless and wants to go adventuring. So yesterday, as the sun sunk over the horizon, painting the treetops gold, we packed up and got in the car.
We drove down roads we’ve never traveled and found that treasures were hidden there. They always are, if you’re eyes are open.
First we found a little cemetery, on the sharp curve of a country road. Tucked away between the woods and fields, it crept up on us. In fact, we drove past it at first and turned back.
Many of the graves were overgrown, hidden in the treeline or overwhelmed by lillies. And the light. The light was glorious.
We kept driving, going nowhere in particular. I purposefully turned left where I would normally turn right, plunging us into the unknown.
We hadn’t gone far when I spotted a sign. It said “covered bridge 2.8 miles.” Of course we had to go.
We found the bridge laid over a bubbling stream on a dirt road. A nearby monument told us it was the Robyville Bridge, the oldest surviving example of a Long Truss system used in a Maine covered bridge. A single glance told us it was creepy.
Alongside the bridge we found simple picnic area, where we rested before moving on.
Before we left, we stopped to take a photo of a nearby barn, abandoned to the fading sun and the ravages of Maine Winters.
Follow us on Instagram to see where Lucinda’s wanderlust takes us next.
A look through painted eyes
I’m a traveler. I’ve been across the country and around the world. But traveling with Lucinda is a whole new experience.
Usually as a tourist I’m on the lookout for the pretty and amusing, the interesting and inspiring.
I never thought to look for the bizarre and the oddly beautiful, the strange and the spooky until I found Lucinda.
Now I see it everywhere.
It was always there – ignored, waiting to be seen. Kind of like Lucinda really.
Take for example my stroll through West Warwick, Rhode Island last week. I might have focused only on the setting sun or been disgusted by the seemingly endless collection of mini-bottles discarded along the sidewalks.
But with Lucinda, I noticed this old house with it’s overgrown lawn.
And because my eyes were open I also spotted this neglected cemetery with houses all around it:
And that discovery led us down a road we might not have taken. There we found another cemetery that was much bigger and better cared for.
Where, with the markers of the dead all around her, Lucinda posed for one of my favorite pictures:
While you’re out traveling the world, keep your eyes open. And remember, to keep an eye on Lucinda.
Follow our travels on Instagram @creepylucinda