Saturday, September 17, 2011

Another adventure begins: part 1

First, a few notes re St. Louis.  Bouchercon was loads of fun. I want to thank the fans and volunteers who made this a great convention. Special thanks to those of you who took the time to come to see me on panels or in the book room signings! It was so good to see so many of my friends and colleagues. These conventions always make me feel deeply grateful for the friendships I've formed with my fellow writers.

Today, after leaving Bouchercon, I began a different kind of adventure.

I decided to set out on a journey that I've been wanting to take for many years now, a journey in search of family history.  

 Over 160 years ago, some of my ancestors left Germany and settled in western Missouri, and I have long wanted to see the area where they lived in the early 19th century, and to try to discover more about them.

I learned the name of what I thought was the town where my great grandfather was born.  I also learned the name of the church where he was probably baptized, and alas, that it was no longer an active parish. Still it was clearly being cared for.  I also found out that there was a cemetery on the church grounds.

I fired up the browser and looked for the church and town, but the town didn't show up on maps.  Turns out it is what is known as an "unincorporated populated place."  The GPS didn't recognize it.  Fortunately, iPhone did.

So I drove from St. Louis to this area, not far from Jefferson City, the state capital.   I turned off the interstate and on to a two-lane highway.   The countryside was beautiful, with rolling hills of farmland, many creeks, and the Missouri River nearby.  

After some time, the directions indicated that I should turn left at a certain lane.  The lane was in fact an unpaved road, with more than its share of loose, fist-size rocks.  I went slowly, but I have the kind of imagination that allowed me to envision getting a flat tire and not being able to call AAA.  Or anyone else.  And worse, of course.  (Were the nearest humans really a family of cannibals? No.)

The lane dipped and curved and dipped and curved again and again.  Soon I was past farms and houses and passing through a forest.  This matched none of the photos I had seen of my destination.   As you can see from the photo above, there was no promise of seeing a church and cemetery near open fields.

I took this photo planning to email my siblings with a message based on one of my favorite Vonnegut quotes, (or, should I say, Bokonon quotes?) "Peculiar travel suggestions are dancing lessons from God."  

It was a lovely day, I was in a beautiful place, and had no fixed schedule.  If it turned out I had come up with a miss when I picked a place that only seemed likely, that was the nature of likely.  I wasn't exactly lost, I just hadn't found what I was looking for.  I would eventually reach another road, and it would take me back to the highway.

But one should always wait to see what's over the next rise before assuming you've missed your opportunity...


Jacqui Hughes said...

Hi Jan - I'm really pleased that your new book is out but do you know when your books will be available on the Kindle. I have arthritis and find it difficult to hold books.


Kristi said...

Hello Ms. Burke! Facebook just suggested you as a friend based on some mutual friends we have and I saw you also went to CSULB. I have been reading (and studying) your books for the past year. I was thrilled this summer when my ms took first place in a writing contest, but almost more thrilling than the win was having the judge, an editor at simon and schuster, say that my ms reminded her of your writing. I wish. I was very honored by that comparison. Anyway, cheers and glad to have found your blog!)