Well, I'm doing it. I'm moving to Portland, where I lived for a little more than 20 years in the 19th century, from 1839 to 1861. I'll have one room in a house that was probably built around 1890. Once there--once immersed in the actual locale--I'll be interested to see if additional memories emerge. Most likely, it will continue to be on the intuitive/feeling level. I really don't need more emotional past-life "bleedthrough"--I've had quite enough of that, already.
After my Mom passed, and I knew I would have to move and find a job, I think I went through a period of experiencing bleedthrough from a more-recent lifetime. There appears to have been a life as a woman in the early 20th century, which I haven't been able to "solve" (as they say in the Stevensonian method), i.e., identify. But I had a glimpse of her experience using a self-hypnosis CD, once. I don't recommend those--mostly, they don't seem to work very well. But in this case, I think I may have experienced a genuine memory, and that, probably because the emotion was so intense. I'm in room in an estate--there is a large plate-glass window, beyond which is a manicured lawn, etc. It's sort of a studio space. But it is dark, and all the furniture is covered with sheets. I feel that I have been sheltered all my life on this estate, but suddenly everything has changed and I'm going to have to leave. And I have absolutely no idea what to do. It was a profound "deer-in-the-headlights" feeling. Panic--beyond panic. Absolute helplessness.
So I started feeling very much that way, until I happened upon some tune or other by one of my favorite musicians, Eric Johnson, which was triumphant in tone. At that point I thought, "Get a grip."
Anyway, when the going gets tough (or, potentially tough, as I have a small inheritance), the tough get going, and I got going looking for rentals I could afford in Denver, and in Portland, Maine. Everything looked hopeless, snarled up in a series of Catch-22's (like, you can't get the apartment without a job, and you can't get a job without the apartment). But then, suddenly two came through--one here in North Myrtle Beach, and another in Portland.
Now it's a mad scramble to get rid of enough of my stuff to make a three-bedroom townhouse fit into a room. That's even harder than it sounds, when you take into account a long-time accumulation of books, beginning with my study of things spiritual, into my interest in reincarnation, and lastly, my historical explorations into the life of Mathew Franklin Whittier. There's also the remnants of my career in video production. I'm having to be ruthless in paring things down, and still, it isn't enough. It isn't the right time of year to have a garage sale, nor do I have enough time. I can sell a few of the big-ticket items on Craigslist, maybe. Goodwill and the Friends of the Library will benefit from the rest. That is a fitting tribute to my Mom, who volunteered for her local chapter of the Friends for many years.
But in the spring, I should be able to stand at the foot of my own past-life grave (something that Jeff Keene and Capt. Robert Snow did, but that I have not yet been able to do). I will visit Abby's grave, and that of our children (hers is a joint grave with infant daughter Sarah, and Joseph, almost one year, who died earlier, is nearby). I may be permitted to take the tour of Mathew's boyhood farmhouse; and also John Greenleaf Whittier's home in Amesbury. Those folks are leery of me, understandably, I suppose, and won't write back anymore even if I have a legitimate historical question--but hopefully I can take a public tour like any other citizen.
I have in mind to write a second book (given that the first has been so well-received); this one will be my account of first-hand contact with the scenes of my past life. The biography has been given. Everything I could glean from a remote location has been set down. Now, this marks a new chapter (a new book, actually). With a brief introduction, it will simply be assumed that the reader is familiar with the first book. This is for a future audience, if audience there be, who are deeply interested. I think the time will come. I told a friend, who has her own museum, that I felt someday there would be a small museum honoring Mathew Franklin Whittier, being a repository for the artifacts I've been able to find, plus anything else that surfaces afterwards. She thought that it would only be of interest in New England, not here in the South or anywhere else.
But she, too, of course, has never read the book. I think it may be of interest everywhere else, except New England, and the reason is that a brother's take on a literary hero is not quite the same as that of the general populace. What do I think of John Greenleaf Whittier, now that I have essentially completed the first book? I think he had Asbergers, and he was essentially faking it where his emotional life was concerned. Think "Sheldon Cooper" on "Big Bang Theory." If you are familiar with that show, Sheldon has a very difficult time expressing empathy, but he can deliberately fake it. Except that Sheldon is a physicist by profession, and rarely needs to fake it.
Now, take Sheldon and cast him in the role of a social reformer and poet, who then is taken to be a religious figure, almost a saint, primarily because of his big hit, "Snow-Bound." He has to play the role--he even convinces himself of it most of the time. But it is all an approximation.
I'll give two examples, which are in my book. JGW writes to a mutual friend, Charles Brainard, and mentions that Franklin (i.e., Mathew) "must be a suffering man this bitter winter." It sounds like an expression of sympathy, but it falls just short somehow, being rather an observation of fact. Second example...John Greenleaf writes to a friend of having been in Boston during Mathew's serious illness (a year before his final one). He says (quoting from memory) that he has "been with Franklin so much that he is almost sick himself." He is trying to say that he feels caretaker burnout. But he was not the primary caretaker--that work was being done by someone else. And later on, he writes--of the same time-period--to a friend about what a wonderful time he had in Boston, visiting with people.
You get the idea. I ran across dozens of such intimations that things weren't quite as they seemed--or as they ought to be--with John Greenleaf Whittier. The "Sheldon Cooper" explanation is my best effort, and it fits with the emotions I sensed as I explored it.
But, you see, people in New England seem to practicallty worship JGW as a saint. This sour note from his reincarnated younger brother--the only person actually in a position to know, by the time you get into the mid-1860's, when "Snow-Bound" was first published--is not going to be welcome. And, again, it's understandable. I would not like any of my heroes questioned. It is easy to simply shoot the messenger. I expect to be "shot" by at least a few, if they connect me with this online work. They won't understand that Mathew's own feelings toward his brother were protective (despite an intense sibling rivalry); and that only very gradually did he understand that JGW really could be heartless, and that his fame had made him snooty underneath all the assumed humility. Mathew--who had published as much, at as high a quality, as John--had opted to hide his work behind dozens of pseudonyms. He does not even appear to have let his brother in on the secret. And as a result, among the Boston literati, he was the "poor red-headed stepchild" not worthy of being considered an equal. He was, in short, permitted on the fringes because of his brother, but not admitted into the club.* This was Mathew's feeling about New England by the time he passed in 1883.
Still, I'm irresistibly drawn. The accents, the coast, the street names, the whole thing. Home. Mathew always wanted to get back again (i.e., from Boston), and was never able to. On my printer, above and to my right on top of a file cabinet, sits a print-out of a letter that Mathew wrote to a friend (one "Mrs. N.") in 1863. It's a copy of the only physical letter written by Mathew which I was ever able to purchase. He has been working in the Boston Custom House for two years, and evidently he is considering transferring. Mrs. N. apparently has a contact in Washington; but Mathew says that while he will consider it, he thinks it is probably unwise. Washington is too close to the South, and Mathew is an Abolitionist who secretly worked under William Lloyd Garrison for many years. He may have recently been threatened to stop publishing his satirical "Ethan Spike" series (because this is precisely the time when he mysteriously retires that character). The Civil War is raging. But what he really wishes he could do, is return to Portland.
Portland, by 1860, was not kind to Mathew. He had been "outed" as the author of this "Ethan Spike" character about three years earlier, and he can't find work. Partly it's the economy, but partly, I think it was shunning. I am fully aware that karmic patterns tend to repeat. I am braced for a similar experience there, in this lifetime. Anyone who Googles my name, will come up with gobs and gobs of frightening and disturbing information (as it will seem, to them); and if there are 50 applicants for a job, it is all too easy to simply pass on this one. But even if it isn't malicious, when 200 prospective employers are nudged into that decision to "pass," the effect on me is devastating.
Still, I am drawn like a magnet--already, my future on-site landlord--who has the full-blown "down east" accent--says he knows a local historian he wants to introduce me to. This is based on my having studied Portland of the 1800's, and Mathew Franklin Whittier--not having been him. These people may simply be mildly curious, and perhaps mildly amused. Not everybody freaks out about such things--they just accept your eccentricities (as they see it) along with everybody else's. That guy is nuts about model trains, and I believe I had a past life. It's all good.
The logistics of this move--for a boy raised in Miami, who has never experienced a real northern winter--are a challenge, to put it mildly. Add to that I am taking a geriatric cat with a penchant for yowling at the drop of a hat for her food, into a group living situation, and the fact that I need to find a job with the spottiest of resumes at age 64, and you can see what I'm up against.
No problem. It's all good. And you'd better believe I'll be hitting a few historical libraries and estate sales.
Stephen Sakellarios, M.S.
*I am looking forward to showing the historian, or whoever is interested, one of my prize artifacts--a check from JGW's publisher, representing an advance on "Snow-Bound"--the check itself being made out by Mathew, when he must have been moonlighting for that publisher. Talk about poignant. Mathew is only permitted to do freelance bookkeeping for Ticknor and Fields, the publisher for many of the big names of the day--and it is he who makes out the check for his brother's big hit. But now look at this irony--I have the check, which I can feature prominently in my book, and which will someday have an honored place in the museum.
Music opening this page, theme from "Antiques Roadshow"