Wednesday, July 24, 2013

No Names Allowed

I love geocaching. 

Geocaches are simple; they are like little treasure hunts. Someone leaves a box somewhere and you have to find it by only using GPS coordinates. (You get the coordinates from

Geocaches are all different. Some are hidden in Tupperware containers, some are in army boxes, some in weather-proof bags...sometimes they have prizes.

Others are "micro-caches" and those ones are extra hard to find because they are in small capsules and with only enough room for a piece of paper.  

Tonight we decided to look for a cache in our little town of Hillsborough, North Carolina. This one was a micro-cache and the only thing we knew about it was that it was in the old slave cemetery on Margaret Lane. 

Hillsborough's history dates back to revolutionary days, and hundreds of African American slaves were buried here over the years in unmarked graves. 

It is a sad and solemn place. 

We finally found the cache. Usually there is a paper enclosed where you write your name and the date that you found the cache. After the cache has been "alive" for a few years it turns into a pretty long list of treasure-hunters. 

But the instructions in this cache were different. It told us that to honor the many unknown people who were buried here we were to not sign our own names. 

So we didn't.

There was also this quote by Ralph Ellison:

“I am not ashamed of my grandparents for having been slaves. I am only ashamed of myself for having at one time been ashamed. America is woven of many strands. I would recognise them and let it so remain. Our fate is to become one, and yet many.”

This place is a good place to contemplate the idea of "getting credit" for things. Everyone wants to be remembered.We want to get credit for what we do. We want thanks. We want what we've done to be noticed or recognized. We want lots of comments on our blog posts...

But these people never got credit, even in death. They don't even have proof that they existed. In the records of history their names are as permanent as melted snowflakes. 

Of course, by writing this blog I am cheating on the whole "no names allowed" rule because I am telling you all that we did this. I even had Scott take a photo of us. 
Can you guess which child and I are currently at odds with each other?
But you are reading this. And because you are reading this there might be another person on earth who will go to the cemetery and think about them. 

It was a good evening.

An evening worth remembering.


  1. Geocaching sounds like a lot of fun. And I am so one of those people who wants credit for everything. I need to learn to be more humble.

  2. How incredibly sad, appropriate, and instructive. I have never commented anonymously on a blog post before, but, in keeping with the post and the message and remembering, I will this time.

    For me, it is not so much about getting credit, it is simply acknowledging that I was here, they were here. You went on an geocaching adventure, but your geocaching "posterity" who come after you will never know you were there. These slaves were here and had thoughts and emotions and hopes and relationships that were meaningful to them. But, even a simple record written on gravestones is not there to bear witness to that. It breaks my heart.

    It breaks my heart, but I am glad you shared this experience.

  3. Lovely post, and I think we'll have to find that geocache--and spend awhile. :)