Monday, March 18, 2013

Richard Parker

I rather like punctuation marks. Like signposts, they guide the reader through the written word: the colon indicates a list ahead, the comma separates each item in the list and the period affirms that the sentence and the reader have arrived at their destination.

Research comes with its own unique punctuation. Oftentimes, clues will generate new paths separated by time, location and events. And when that research yields a new personal story, the affirmation rings ta da! as I put a period next to another branch on my tree.

Then there's the question mark. Question marks tempt you with a period only after winding through false clues and half truths until even your arrival leaves you unsure.  I think most researchers yearn for a good ta da.

One of my friends asked recently if I were going to continue the blog now that I've found Ellen. I don't know that the blog is as much about Ellen as it is about the journey to find her. Ellen has taught me to reach out to strangers and ask personal questions. Ask for photographs. Ask for stories. Ask for help. She's given me the courage to unearth the paths my ancestors walked and revel in their tenacity and perseverance. Even if I don't like what I find.

We rented the movie Life of Pi this weekend. I'd been struggling with things I'd uncovered recently and as the credits rolled, I reflected on the story's alternate points of view. Of Richard Parker, the Bengal tiger who shared a lifeboat with the shipwrecked teenager. Or Richard Parker, the person that Pi became to survive the shipwreck. Walt reminded me that events occur. How we deal with them is a choice. Sometimes we don't have all of the facts. Sometimes the facts are so harsh that we turn our attention elsewhere. Sometimes all we have is our faith, our beliefs and our choices.

Sometimes there are no periods.

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