I honestly had no expectations as we approached the Sotterley Plantation visitor center, but suddenly there was a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. I stopped to hold my stomach, and to try and detect what the problem could be. My wife was ahead of me; she turned around and asked if I was ok? I didn’t want to worry her, so I said that I was fine. I started walking again and the sick feeling increased. “I have to find a restroom!” My wife turned around and, again, asked me what was wrong? I admitted to her that I felt sick. She looked around, saw a restroom, and pointed in its direction. I made a quick dash. I came out of the restroom not long after and I felt a little better. I blamed it on the breakfast that we had an hour before at Bob Evans.
Well, we finally reached the visitor center. I went in and purchased two tickets for the tour that would begin at approximately 1 p.m. We had almost an hour to kill, so we looked around at some of the artifacts and buildings that were on display around Sotterley. There was a Smoke House and a barn that was used to dry out the Tobacco (Tobacco was the main crop on Sotterley). There was also a place to store and grind corn. There was a colonial style garden that we saw from a distance, and one remaining slave cabin that sat along the trail leading to the river. We looked over the valley, and we could see the other side of the Patuxent River -- It was beautiful! I tried to make sense of the sickness that I felt as I witnessed the beauty of the plantation, but I could not. My wife was staring over quiet acres trying to make sense of it as well. This was all very interesting and peculiar to us both. It was interesting for me because it connected me to my ancestors. It was interesting to my wife, a native South African because it connected her to the Africans who were captured and brought there as slaves. The experience, therefore, connected us.
I saw a picnic table across the field that was positioned perfectly under this beautifully majestic tree. I suggested that we go there to rest and wait for the tour to start. She agreed so we walked over. She’s a country girl so she found a spot on the grass to relax. Before she sat on the grass she snapped a photo of me (seen above) as I looked around. I’m only part country, so I sat on the bench. It was so quiet and the only sound I could hear was the wind and the distant chirping of birds. I sat there and I looked around. I could see almost the entire plantation from where I sat. Again, I looked around, and as I stared into the beautiful distance towards the field I was griped with this enormous feeling of trepidation. I began to panic. I took a deep breath, and still I panicked. An overwhelming feeling of sadness and pain came over me. Tears began to roll down my face. I wiped them away and still more came. My wife looked over at me from the lawn and noticed that I was crying. She jumped up to see what was wrong. I told her about the pain that I felt, and she held me tightly to her chest. The healing started and the tears began to flow.
I don’t believe that I have ever wept so hard and so loud. This wailing cry shot from my belly, and I sobbed as I held her close to me. I would go on to cry for another 5 minutes before I was able to pull myself together. Afterwards, the sick feeling I felt in the beginning seemed to go away. I looked into my wife’s eyes (partially ashamed because I had never cried that way in front of her) as she wiped her tears away. She began to comfort me as I tried to make sense of my reaction to this experience. She felt there was connection between me and the spirits on that plantation. She felt there was also a connection with the spirits of my own ancestors. This is not some romantic post about me being so in touch with my African past. There are some of you who may not believe in a connection with the ancestors. This is something that I have always believed in. Besides, I had no other explanation.