ON OCTOBER 4, 1834, my great-great-great-grandmother, Elizabeth Vanneman Scarce Heath, wrote her mother a letter. It spoke of homely things: prices, sickness, the landscape. Her prose is thin and clear; her penmanship and spelling that of an educated woman. She was far from home and would never return. When her ancestors set out from Holland, from England and France, for the unexplored continent of America; when they set sail in covered wagons for the West, they said good-bye forever. Never in this life would they see parents, sisters, brothers, friends; never again. There were no airplanes, no trains, no telephones. Perhaps a few letters, often one-way. You'd hear of a death, or a marriage, months or years after it happened. You could never go back. Your homeland occupied an increasingly remote past. Gradually, you'd lose track of all you'd left behind, and think of it less and less often. This is how you lived and this is how you died. This was the New World, Terra Incognita. "I would like to see you all but the road is to long."

October 4, 1994

Sailing Away: Terra Incognita, "Unknown land," or "Unexplored land" also meaning an unexplored field of knowledge. Often written on old maps indicating the presence of unexplored and poorly mapped territory.

The quotation "I would like to see you all but the road is to (sic) long," is the last line in the original 1834 letter.



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Sailing Away

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