A segment on NBC's Today show this morning yanked me out of blogging limbo (I could blame vacation, the start of the school year and being up to my ribs in heavy revisions on the second Robert the Bruce book, but really it was lack of initiative, IOW - laziness). The topic was time travel and while I can't wrap my brain around how you would actually achieve such a feat, it does get your imagination flying in a very H. G. Wells-ian way.
Recently, I was exchanging messages with another historical ficiton writer and we were talking about how drawn we were to historical sites and aritifacts to the point that when we were near them we felt a connection to the past. I still remember going to Caernarvon Castle a decade ago. After a short scan of the bailey, I ran up the spiral staircase of one of the towers. Standing on the castle wall, palms pressed to the stones, I imagined Longshanks arriving there with his entourage, his son Edward (II) toddling about the rooms, and the bustle of activity in the town. Forty-five minutes later, I remembered my friend, who did not like heights and had been paitently waiting for me at ground level. At Harlech Castle, I could practically sense Owain Glyndwr gazing out over the sea as the wind whipped around him, reflecting on how he had united Wales and defied Henry IV, only to have his princedom slowly crumble away as alliances failed him.
I could stare for hours at old architecture and works of craftmanship. Ken Follet's Pillars of the Earth held my rapt attention as much for the story as for his in depth explorations of stained glass, stonework and the building of a cathedral. Set me down in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, and you'll likely find me hours later still reading the plaques in the medieval weaponry area.
Imagine being present at one of history's pivotal events: battles such as Pearl Harbor, Hastings, Waterloo, or Bannockburn; the invention of penicillin or powered flight; Martin Luther King Jr's 'I Have a Dream' speech; the San Francisco earthquake or the hurricane that swallowed New Orleans.... Days, moments or events in which the course of mankind or nature was forever changed. It boggles the mind to think of being able to go there to witness them.
If I could go back in time (not forward, I don't want to know what lies ahead), rather than witness an event, as incredible as that might be, I think I'd want to speak to historical figures - interview them in Barbara Walters fashion: "King Edward, what were you thinking when you recalled Piers Gaveston for the third time?", "Queen Isabella, at what point did you decide you'd had enough of your husband and were going to do something about his misrule?", or "Robert the Bruce, at any time, did you think you just might fail in your quest for independence? What inspired you to stay so focused and determined?".
So if you could turn back the clock, be there, what would you see or do, who would you talk to?