Sunday, July 15, 2012

♬ One More Step Along the World I Go ♬

Round the corner of the world I turn,
more and more about the world I learn;
all the new things that I see
you'll be looking at along with me:
Refrain:
And it's from the old I travel to the new;
keep me traveling along with you.
Sydney Carter, English poet, songwriter and folk musician (1915-2004), in his hymn "One More Step Along the World I Go" (1971)

When you set out on a journey, you may have a mission or a destination but you can never know what you will find along the way. Today I found myself in a unique cemetery that, unbeknownst to me, bears a connection to my past. A friend and her daughter kindly agreed to set off with me in search of barn quilts and we found ourselves in the Otterville African Methodist Episcopal Cemetery. Somewhat perplexed by its name and uncharacteristic features, we learned that we were standing in one of the few preserved Black pioneer burial grounds in Ontario.

Here rested the African Americans who fled persecution in the US and settled in Otterville beginning in 1829. Their white-painted, wood frame church stood on this small pocket of land until the early 1900s, by which time the community had moved on. The church, the burials, and their wood markers were forgotten and over time disappeared into the landscape -- quite literally.

In 2007, a restoration programme located the more than 140 burials. Lacking records to identify the men, women and children buried here, each re-found grave was graced with a new marker to symbolize "that that person’s light continues to shine . . . once more for all to see."

What a moving experience to walk through the silent, re-forested grounds flickering with their light!

And what a surprise to find that I was tenuously connected to this cemetery. My 'Archaeology 101' professor is honoured for his work to identify the burials and the remains of the wood-frame church. For the fascinating story of Otterville's Black pioneers and the archaeology that restored their cemetery, click here.

As for the original mission to find barn quilts: "Barn quilts" are large images of quilt blocks painted on the sides of barns and, as a result, become tourist attractions. A few counties in southwestern Ontario recently developed a series of Barn Quilt Trails using 8' X 8' images that adorn all sorts of buildings or are set up as billboards. Each quilt block holds a story. Here, at the African Methodist Episcopal Cemetery, the Church Window quilt motif of hexagons is uniquely enhanced with the cemetery's candle of remembrance. How appropriate.

The barn quilt trails encourage travellers to visit heritage sites along the route. Otterville's 1845 gristmill lacked a quilt block and wasn't open this afternoon, but I nevertheless enjoyed wandering around this splendid building, which is said to be "one of the oldest continuously operating, water-powered mills in Ontario." It deserves a repeat visit; perhaps on my next adventure along the Barn Quilt Trails. Stay tuned.

Even though I got lost driving along county roads with names that didn't jive with those on my map, I thoroughly enjoyed today's outing and all its wonderful surprises. In hindsight it seems providential that my afternoon journey was preceded by this morning's inspiring worship service during which we sang "One More Step Along the World I Go". I travel on with gladdened heart.


One More Step Along the World I Go
Words and music by Sydney Carter
One more step along the world I go,
one more step along the world I go;
from the old things to the new
keep me traveling along with you:
Refrain:
And it's from the old I travel to the new;
keep me traveling along with you.


Round the corner of the world I turn,
more and more about the world I learn;
all the new things that I see
you'll be looking at along with me: Refrain


As I travel through the bad and good,
keep me traveling the way I should;
where I see no way to go
you'll be telling me the way, I know: Refrain


Give me courage when the world is rough,
keep me loving though the world is tough;
leap and sing in all I do,
keep me traveling along with you: Refrain


You are older than the world can be,
you are younger than the life in me;
ever old and ever new,
keep me traveling along with you: Refrain

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

We were at my Aunt's house in Middlesex and they have a quilt on their barn. I took some photos and I have the booklet that the group published with all the quilts on the Trail. I have a copy for you.

Stacey

Shari said...

Neat!