Live Virtual Group Session: 12PM EDT October 20th 2021

Thank you to everyone who joined for this session!

For this session we close-read an excerpt from “Survival Math” by Mitchell Jackson, posted below.

Our prompt for this session was: “Write an imagined history of an ancestor.

More details on this session will be posted, so check back!

Participants are warmly encouraged to share what you wrote below (“Leave a Reply”), to keep the conversation going here, bearing in mind that the blog of course is a public space where confidentiality is not assured.

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Please join us for our next session Monday October 25th at 6pm EDT, with more times listed on our Live Virtual Group Sessions page.


Survival Math: Prologue by Mitchell Jackson

Dear Marcus,

     Ain’t no way you could know this, but you were the first of us to set foot on the land that became the state where I was born – Oregon. And now here we are, strangers but not estranged, more like kindred, more like forevermore tethered to terra firma by death date and birth date. Yours: August 16, 1788. Mine: August 16, 1975. Here I am centuries after your death, wanting to share with you what has become of the place where you gasped your last breath and I gloried my first.

   There’s much I don’t know about your living-and-breathing in Cape Verde, so I’ve envisioned what it was like, have pictured you hanging near the ports – burnished, famished bleary-eyed – proclaiming to anybody with ears that you’d board a ship bound for the New World and change forevermore your fortune. Then Captain Robert Gray and his crew docked their sloop for a little R&R and refitting. The way I picture it, Gray trekked inland and highsighted about how historic his voyage would be, and how he’d captain Lady Washington around the Cape Horn and through the Drake Passage to America’s west coast to trade trinkets for furs and sail on to China, about how he was looking to add a new member to his small crew. As I imagine it, his notice sounded to you like the ocean looked in your dreams. So, you fat-mouthed to Gray and crew how much you knew about seafaring, how quick you could learn what you didn’t know, big-upped how good you were with your hands, how able a swimmer you were, the super thew in your thin arms and legs, declared if there was a challenge to be met, you’d meet it, so help you God!

   Whatever your pitch, sure enough you were soon aboard the ship and sailing around the horn for this New World. What were those days like? Did you expect to watch the sunset over the horizon, to witness a full moon in a sky spent with stars, to hear the music of the sails catching the wind, but instead sorrowed over gales bashing the yards, a tempest tossing the ship on her broadside, Gray yelling, “All hands on deck”?