She came out of nowhere. She was an unexpected visitor with a story she wanted to tell me. When this happens, it’s a writer’s job to sit down with a cup of tea and listen. She told me her name was Mathilde. I asked, “Is it Mathilde or Mathilda?” She insisted it was Mathilde. Who am I to argue? I carefully wrote down all she had to tell me, having no idea why she was telling me her story.
Months later, as I labored on a book that came to be called Beneath Freedom’s Wing, I found out why she had told me her story. Her story was the ribbon that wove through my book, showing the path from dark to light, from slavery to freedom. And it was her story that revealed to me what freedom truly means.
In Beneath Freedom’s Wing, Mathilde sings a song she learned from her mother. At a low point in her life, she picks herself up and inspires herself to continue on by singing her song. “Had a mighty hard time, but I’m on my way to Canaan Land.” Does she reach her Canaan Land? I’ll leave that for you to find out. For now, please join me for Episode Two of my Close to Home lecture series at Harrison Village Library in Harrison, Maine. On My Way: Abolition and the Underground Railroad in Western Maine