Monday, July 26, 2010

Beautiful Dreamers

Journal Entry: September 7, 1862.

Two days ago in the afternoon, we forded the Potomac River and rode into Poolesville, Maryland, where we found the citizens cheerfully accepting our currency of the Confederacy. With new boots and books, we are camping tonight near New Market, a fine old town, though not nearly as friendly. As I said, the wind here in Maryland blows sometimes south, sometimes north. No matter; I am content to sit with my books in the quiet of this evening.

I treasure books, the texture of books, the print pressed into the page; even as a child visiting my cousins in Fredericksburg; they would be outside playing hoops and sticks, and I would be inside, in a corner chair, while the adults conversed, or danced to “Oh! Susanna”. There in my corner complete, reading, running my fingers over the pages, alone, but never lonely. At home, I kept a small wooden cigar box full of bits of paper and printed pictures which seemed almost magical. I might spend hours arranging the papers in patterns, as if it were a whole world made of paper, and it was my puzzle to put in place. My father worried about me, I know, but my mother encouraged me, and besides, I could run and ride as well as anyone in the county and there was no better marksman for miles.

My friend, Simeon Paytes, a fellow trooper of Company E, told me that I will perhaps return in a future life as an artist. Simeon is a Spotsylvania gentleman, well educated and worldly, but not uppity, impeccably dressed, but no nob, nor gal-boy. He is a private, as I am, but when he is going down the line, I bet the fancy girls mistake him for ole J.E.B. Stuart himself.

So, Simeon said that he had read, and it might happen that we would all return to this world in another form, a reincarnation, one life after another until we reach some higher place. I listened, but I supposed that it wasn’t logical for one person to be born again as a new person. It seemed to me that one person becomes all peoples, just as the pear tree leaf in autumn falls onto the earth, and blends with the soil that blends with water and sun to become the trees growing pears that are eaten by people, so that the pears become part of people; all in all; each in all, and all in each. We are all of everything and everywhere at once.

Simeon pulled at his beard a bit as he pondered, “So,” he said, “the blood of all the boys dying on these fields will blend together, and in a hundred, fifty years or so, we won’t be able to tell the Federals from the Secesh, so we won’t wage war, because we would be killing ourselves?”

“Sounds logical.” I said.

Simeon smiled a curious smile, gathered up his traps and walked away whistling “Hard Times Come Again No More”, and I went back to blend with my books.

PAYTES, SIMEON C.: Enlisted. 4/10/62 in 9th Virginia Cavalry, Co. E. He was hospitalized with gonorrhea, Aug.-Sept. 1864, but then present on most rolls thru 10/1/64 final roll. Paroled at Lynchburg, 4/15/65. Drew a pension in Spotsylvania Co. in 1920. Simeon's sister married into the Jones family in 1859.

Americans were first exposed to Buddhism around 1850 from Chinese immigrants.

"Hard Times Come Again No More" was written by Stephen Foster in 1855, and he wrote "Beautiful Dreamer" shortly before his death in 1864 at age 37.

1 comment:

  1. Just what I needed this day before I drift off into my unexplained exhaustion.
    Each in all. All in each..
    My Jerry would have loved reading these posts. He imagined himself a young calvaryman....
    Thank you for sharing these intimacies with the world.


Your comments are a gift beyond measure.