Again, on a whim, and with an afternoon on my hands, I decided to drive from Portland, Maine, where I now live, to Union Cemetery in Amesbury, Mass.--where the body I used to inhabit, is kept. In short, I determined to visit Mathew Franklin Whittier's grave.
I had some trouble finding it, but had I relied on Google Maps in my phone, I think it would have been a lot easier. I really do feel like an old fogey, now, having studiously ignored the entire cell phone craze for as long as I possibly could. I do like the convenience, and especially the camera and video; but I still don't trust them for long conversations, as regards the danger of developing brain tumors.
It would seem that no-one sells local maps anymore, so I used the old-fashioned method of stopping and asking. That eventually got me there, and once I got into the correct cemetery (it appears there are two or three right next to each other, so that you can actually be in the right area and not be in "Union Cemetery"), the signs for the "Whittier trail" led right to the spot. The spot, that is, of John Greenleaf Whittier's grave, which is about twice as high, and twice as thick, as those for the rest of his family. This, in fairness, is no-doubt not John Greenleaf's doing, but rather, was accomplished by his fans.
The graves sit in a well-thought-out row; and their position probably was his doing. We have his massive stone off toward the left; then come his aunt, his uncle, his parents, his two sisters (older, then younger), and finally, at the very end on the right, is Mathew (spelled "Matthew"). Elisabeth's stone is next-in from his (spelled "Elizabeth"). Mary, of course, has her married name, "Caldwell," though she left her husband, who, as a result, hung himself in the barn. I don't know where he is.
On the other side of John Greenleaf's stone, to his immediate left, are Mathew's daughter, Elizabeth Pickard; and then, on the extreme left end, is Samuel Pickard, her husband and John Greenleaf's official biographer. He was also Mathew's nemesis, which is one reason that Mathew's legacy is so attenuated in the official historical record. Pickard couldn't even get Mathew's 20 years of service for the Boston Custom House right--I think he only acknowledged 13 years. This, being married to Mathew's daughter...if I remember correctly, he couldn't even get Mathew's birthday right. So much for a newspaper editor and official Whittier biographer who, if he was well-meaning and cared at all, should have been able to do better in this regard.
I approached the grave with my new cell phone, and, of course, shot a selfie video first. It's awful, but from the research standpoint, it's real-time documentation. I think the viewfinder reverses the image, because you will note I say that the stone is over my right shoulder, whereas in the video it's over the left. (I'm dyslexic, but not that much so.) Then, I switched to regular video mode, and continued giving my impressions; after that, not having a mini-SD card for the phone, yet, I continued giving my impressions, such as they were, with an audio recorder. Then I snapped a couple shots. All of this I prepared yesterday evening, so I could simply write this entry in the morning, and plug in the media. But I think I will artlessly list it, instead, after giving my comments now, the day after the visit.
Keep in mind that, once again, I have put myself on the same soil, as it were, but not in direct contact with something I had seen as Mathew. These stones look as though they were all replaced at the same time. They bear the same style, and the earliest ones don't look like they go back to the mid 19th-century. I would have to guess they were all created in the early 1900's, when John Greenleaf had become an iconic literary figure. That means that Mathew could not have seen his present-day stone, even after his funeral, with his astral body. My reaction was very similar to what I experienced (or didn't experience) at the intersection of Pearl and Congress Streets, here in Portland. That was once the site of Mathew's flat, above a grocery store. But nothing is now left of what he might have seen (unless the little park, diagonally across from the lot I have tentatively identified, was there). I was simply on the same plot of ground, at the same geographical coordinates, with nothing else to trigger my memory.
So nothing much was triggered, at least not the type of past-life glimpses (cognitive or emotional) that I am looking for. But there was one odd experience, which I duly recorded. I don't know whether you have ever looked at a stereoscopic photograph; I used to make my own, and I know how to "freeview," i.e., cross my eyes to create a stereoscopic scene, when the left and right images are also crossed. If you separate the left and right images too much, you can end up (there's a technical term which I've forgotten--on re-read, I think it's called "toeing in" or some such) with the objects in the photo looking miniaturized, as though you are looking at a 3D model. That was the feeling I had for a brief instance, regarding this row of tombstones. I can't explain it, but it was slightly disorienting and even a bit nauseating. I think the feeling was, "This is all an appearance, not reality."
As I have expressed in the media clips, gazing at Mathew's stone, while kneeling on his grave, I felt, as Mathew, a sense of satisfaction. My legacy has been recovered, and my work will be known and understood. I feel that even now, as I type this. Obviously, I can't definitely claim this as a past-life impression. It could simply be my own identification with this historical character. But I think it is, indeed, Mathew within me feeling this way. John Greenleaf may have his accomplishments, and his huge stone. He got it by posturing; and his posturing was indeed beautifully crafted, if one takes poetry as craft. He was a craftsman, no doubt about it.
But by-and-large, he was--I'm pausing to be fair--he was writing "as if." He was approximating or imagining most of what he wrote--it wasn't his authentic feelings, nor was it necessarily even his authentic morality. I go into detail with this in my book, "Mathew Franklin Whittier in his own words." John Greenleaf, I think, suffered from Asbergers syndrome. Mathew, I feel, was protective of him, and never wanted to show him up in the literary field. So Mathew kept his light under a bushel, wrote under pseudonyms, and didn't even tell his brother what he accomplished in that arena, lest it aggravate their sibling rivalry. John Greenleaf, being sickly, could not have earned a living any other way. Mathew knew this. He used to publish his brother's poems, by way of introducing them to the public, when he worked as an associate editor for two successive newspapers in New York City. John Greenleaf was publishing his poetry in the local Haverhill Gazette--it was thanks to Mathew that some of them got exposure in New York. Didn't know that? Neither did I, until I ran across it. Obviously, Samuel Pickard didn't tell you about it. That's probably because Mathew never even told his daughter Lizzie. Some of the things Mathew told Lizzie--as I feel--she simply didn't believe. John Greenleaf, who raised her, probably told her that Mathew was making things up, thus discrediting her own father in her eyes--when actually, it was John who was making things up. You see how convoluted this family became. It was not what you see in JGW's hit poem, "Snow-Bound."
I would not, of course, dare to express such insights here, in New England, where John Greenleaf is a literary hero.
Because JGW's house in Amesbury, Mass. was less than a mile away, I visited that, as well. It wasn't open for visitors (being now a museum), but I was able to walk around it and take a couple of photographs. I do know that Mathew visited his brother there, and no-doubt stayed overnight. On the left side of the house, is a narrow porch with a couple of askew steps, leading to a simple door. I could be wrong, but my impression was, "I would have entered at this door, not through the main entrance," and that the room I stayed in would have been somewhere beyond that door. There is also a little house--a "garden house," or kitchen, in the back of the property. My feeling was that their older sister, Mary, might have stayed there (although I recall reading that she stayed "down the street" after her divorce).
That's it for impressions at that house. Inside, is an original of a painted portrait of Mathew as a young man. Someday I hope to take the tour, and see it personally. Should the people who run that museum be concerned, no, I would not try to steal it. I have the same high ethical standards I did when I was Mathew. If I was the "black sheep" of that family, perhaps it is because I had my eyes open and insisted on seeing reality. Many supposed "black sheep" are actually the only white sheep in a "black family."
Actually, it was a complicated family, as most families are. If the people who now manage the vanilla-coated Whittier legacy could accept me, I would be able to share some treasures with them--a photographic portrait of Mathew, probably taken at about the same age as the painted portrait--a priceless anecdote about Uncle Moses--and more. Ah, but they won't give me the time of day. I am saving a visit to the Whittier farm house for another day (when I will also visit Abby's grave, and that of their two children, probably in the spring when I can place some wildflowers on them). I am almost tempted to use a false name to be sure I am permitted to take the tour of the farmhouse--but a lifelong commitment to strict honesty would make such an incognito appearance too uncomfortable. No, if the caretaker recognizes my name, and contrives an excuse not to show the place to me, so be it.
Someday they will regret the opportunity they had, to welcome a reincarnated member of the Whittier household.
I had mentioned that Mathew had a penchant for revenge. I still have it, of course, buried somewhere in my subconscious. But revenge is a matter of patience. You don't have to do anything. And by the time it comes around, you wish the person didn't have to suffer the consequences of their former stubbornness and ignorance. I would rather these people understand who and what I am, than to reject me and then suffer regret later on. But it is all natural laws--I have nothing to do with it. My job is simply to be myself.
Here is the unedited media I recorded on my latest venture, in the order I recorded it (as in the previous entry, the videos will take awhile to load). Note that I mis-read Aunt Mercy's death date as 1816, when it was actually 1846, which means that my inclusion of her in my novel about Mathew and Abby was approprite, after all. I should have known better, because there are accounts of Aunt Mercy living at the Amesbury House, which was purchased in 1836. I would typically edit out such mistakes, if they don't influence the research, but I haven't had time to go through the tutorial for my newly-acquired free video editing software, yet. Where I briefly allude to "Baba," this is a reference to my Guru, Meher Baba.
en route commentary
Selfie video (click for low-res version)
Graves video (click for low-res version)
Stephen Sakellarios, M.S.
Music opening this page, "Gem," by Eric Johnson,
from the album, "Up Close"