I was born with an artist's soul. My temperment is sensitive and emotional. I tend to feel things deeply and form connections quickly. I think being an artist at heart also provides one with a deep desire to analyze ourselves and others, to understand what lies just beneath the surface of every human being.
What does all this have to do with my holiday in Salem and Cape Ann, you may ask? Well, I have always had an abiding interest in my genealogy. Most of the family history seekers, it seems, are retirees or those entering into middle age, who are looking for a lasting place in this world. However, I took up the hobby when I was about 11 or 12. I was fascinated by it, entranced, really. I quickly gobbled up all the names and places that made up me. Being Mormon, I was blessed with much of my genealogy done long before I was born. Many of my lines stretch back into the middle ages and beyond and I found it all intoxicating. My hertiage is expansive. My roots are planted in many countries. My family tree looms over much of the earth, connected by all the varied roots and branches. I am a mutt, really. I loved that. I loved learning of all the different countries and imaging what my ancestors were like in these various cultures.
I now understand why genealogy became my drug of choice from such an early age. It is precisely because of my yearning to understand myself more. I am a believer that all of our experiences and memories imprint themselves onto our cells and are passed down from generation to generation. I really do believe that we are changed at a celluar level by experience. The stuff of which we are made is changed by life, and it is passed down. These are not my religious beliefs, but I feel it is true. Because of this belief, I feel my ancestors and their experiences, along with my own, literally make me who I am.
Not only was I blessed with charts and charts of my various lines, but we also had many life histories to read. I would devour these stories, imaging what it felt like to go through what they did, imaging myself there. One ancestral story, however, didn't make it down through the generations. I don't know if this story was some sort of shameful secret hushed through the years, but I never knew that I had a direct ancestor who was imprisoned as a witch in Salem in 1692. This seems like the sort of the story that would make the cut and become legend amongst the descendents, but it was lost to history. I was the one to discover this connection. After moving to New England, I wanted to search out my roots here. I saw Sarah Pease's name on my chart and I saw that she died in Salem in 1702. I knew that meant she had lived in Salem during the witch hysteria. On a whim, I looked up her name on the internet and, to my amazement, she had been accused of witchcraft and imprisoned in the dungeon for a year . She escaped death because the governor of Massachusetts had shut the trials down. She was a lucky one; though, that experience must have stayed with her forever. It must have altered her in ways unseen to the eye. I wondered if she had life-long nightmares after her life in chains in a dirty, drafty dungeon, fearing death may come any day. She lived only nine years after her imprisonment. Was her death hastened by her trauma?
Soon after discovering Sarah Pease, I took a day trip to search her out, to see where she lived, and I've been to Salem several more times. Luckily, I don't live too far. When we decided to take a quick, end-of-the-summer vacation, Salem made it to the top of my list. I always love it there. Besides, we are moving to the Boston area next year and this was a good excuse to explore north shore real estate.
We started at the Salem Witch Museum. I'd been to the museum before during the Halloween season last year, but I wanted my kids to go and hear the story of what happened to their grandmother. Thankfully, they enjoyed their time there and their ancestor's life became more real for them.
At the museum there is a large chart on the wall of all those who were accused of witchcraft in 1692. And there was Sarah. In the above photo, you see her about the eighth name down. It says she lived in Salem Town. Where she once lived is in modern-day Peabody, on a very busy street. A duplex stands where her home once stood and a tattoo parlor is across the street. I'm sure if she wandered down Central Street in Peabody today, it would be completely unrecognizable to her. In some ways, that makes me sad. Things change so quickly in our world.
The sight that greeted me as I stepped out of the museum. This is statue of the founder of Salem, Roger Conant. I've taken many photos of him, but not from this angle. I love the federal style building behind him, a sure sign of Salem's age.
After our journey back in time to see life as it was for Grandmother Pease, we wandered around Salem Commons. Clouds began to form and large drops slowly landed on our heads. Hurricane Bill had come upon us. Though along the New England coast, it was only a tropical storm.
The thing I find fascinating about storms, particulary in New England, is the beauty and color that are displayed both before and after the storm has passed. The sky morphs into all sorts of colors and the light that surrounds you is more like a glow. As the storm rolled in it was at first a dark blue. As we passed by Saint Peter's, the sky was deep, yet bright blue.
Then we took a few steps in another direction and as we walked by another church, the sky was black and grey though there was a bright, purplish glow that surrounded us. I found it breathtaking.
We drove as the storm began to rage. The rain pounded so hard on the car, that we had to yell above the din to hear each other. As we explored the coastal towns, I began to fear. What if we turn onto a road that leads to the ocean and we lose control of the car? What if a massive wave overtakes us out of nowhere and we are swallowed into the depths of the sea?
Mercifully, the storm passed quickly and we found ourselves in Marblehead. We came to the end of a road and suddenly there was a lighthouse just as it cleared and the rain ceased. We didn't know this lighthouse was there. It was a happy accident.
The sky in Marblehead harbor after the storm was dark and deep with spots of calming light peaking through. All that was there reflected the blue of the ocean and the sky. We were all bathed in a cool-toned hue.
There was a comforting film of humidity hugging us, like a blanket, in the cool ocean breeze. The kids played in the metal web structure surrounding the lighthouse. Russ and I sat on the benches that looked out over the harbor. I reflected on the beauty that comes only after a storm has passed and I thought of my life and I thought of Sarah Pease's life. I wondered what her life was like after her storm had passed. I thought of the current storm that has created a whirlwind in my world lately and I knew, as I pondered, that after it has passed, there will be a beauty that could have only been witnessed by enduring the storm.
All I have to do is find my lighthouse.
I wonder if Sarah ever found her's.
(more on our trip next time)