Did you ever have one of those periods when every random thing you did turned out to be connected to everything else? It's been happening to me with such frequency lately that I'm starting to be spooked.
My writing has somewhat stalled over the past couple of weeks because of the need to do some basic historical research. Yes, I'm a historian, but I come to the Civil War period very late. In the upcoming chapter of The Road to Frogmore, my main characters meet a newly arrived African-American regiment recruited in Boston and sent to South Carolina. They are the 54th Massachusetts, the regiment made famous in the movie Glory. I haven't seen that movie in years, and I need to do a lot of reading to fill in my background understanding of the regiment.
Last weekend, as I've mentioned here, we took four days off to travel to Arkansas and to visit the new Crystal Bridges Art Museum. The guide handed us a small pamphlet as we entered, pointing out that it contained a handy map of the museum.
After a morning in the galleries, we went to the restaurant for lunch, and while we waited for our food, I casually glanced at the brochure and read an entry about a famous sculptor represented in the museum by a carving of a Native American called "The Old Arrow Maker." What jumped off the page at me was this sentence: "[Edmonia] Lewis gained notoriety with her marble bust of Colonel Robert Gould Shaw, leader of the all-black Fifty-Fourth Massachusetts Regiment at Fort Wagner, South Carolina." Wow! that's the same regiment," I thought. Crystal Bridges doesn't own that particular sculpture, but I eventually found a picture of it and was able to compare it with the colonel's official photograph.
Then yesterday I started catching up with four days of missed Facebook statuses. One of my friends is the editor of the 100th Pennsylvania Regiment website, about which I write often. But yesterday I found him posting dozens of pictures that he had downloaded from the USA Military History Collection. At first I skipped over them entirely -- until I looked closely at one and discovered that they were all photographs of members of the 54th Massachusetts. As it turned out, he is interested in this regiment because he is a reenactor whose own regiment was often stationed with the 54th. So there it was again -- that unintentional connection that reminded me to get to work on the research.
While I still procrastinated a bit, I was jerked up once more by a message from one of my readers, commenting on my The Second Mouse Gets the Cheese. She wanted to talk about the importance of historical research and to ask a couple of questions about my work. OK. I'm happy to help, and the reminder prodded me once again to get busy. To make the final connections, she gave me her username, which just happened to be the same as the name of the kitten we adopted at Christmas.
I'm spooked, but I'm going to work now! The kitten says so.