This morning's earlier entry was for the reluctant scholars and (honest) skeptics--I'm pretty sure they're out there--but this is for those friends who know that my research, and self-reports, are real.
I was just taking a leak here in the apartment, where in front of me, I have a print from the "Dirty Dogs of Paris" series by Boris O'Klein. It has a special significance for me, because it once hung in the men's room of the "English Pub," which was connected to the "Jamaica Inn" in Key Biscayne, Florida. My parents would dine there, as a treat, when I was in my adolescence, and I was particularly fascinated with this print. The edges were worsted with a match flame to fit with the antique nautical decor, and laminated onto a black-painted particle board. It depicts dogs of various sizes and types, standing, human-like, and peeing against a wall.
When I say I have the print, I mean, I have the original. The actual physical thing that I used to admire, as a boy, about 50 years ago. Now, there's a past-life back-story to this, because one of Mathew's favorite humorous sketches featured an illustration of dogs gathered at a meeting to discuss the proposed leash law. Mathew, himself, was represented as a dog in white, taking notes as the secretary of the meeting. But I've presented those comparison pictures, before in this blog.
The point is, that it's very poignant for me to gaze at that picture, today. Fifty years ago, I craved a copy of it, and (as I recall) couldn't afford it, or never persuaded my parents to buy one for me. That restaurant was an iconic landmark in Miami--ask anybody old enough who lived there. Downstairs, near the bar, they had a peep-hole into the "Secret Room." I looked into it once--there were horrible, severed paper mache heads, with bloody arteries and shreds of flesh hanging down, suspended on the opposite wall! (It was great.)
I also remember falling in love with one of the cartoon girls on the menu, who was merrily delivering an order on roller skates--I think she must have subconsciously reminded me of Abby. (My longing for someone I couldn't quite remember was quite strong throughout my childhood.)
But the restaurant was damaged in Hurricane Andrew, and torn down. I could never, in a million years, have imagined that I would survive it--and that that very print, which fascinated me, would one day hang on my own bathroom wall--when I was 64 years old! Boys never think of such things. I could no more imagine that restaurant not being there, than I could Mount Rushmore disappearing (may it happen someday!).
What a colossal insult to the Indians who once lived in harmony with those mountains, to deface it with giant heads of white chiefs. To them, it must look kind of like the Secret Room.
But reading so many of my past-life travel letters, and my stories, and my poems in tribute to Abby after she had died...I can't express how poignant that has been for me, these past few weeks. The sense of Mathew's identity, and especially his feelings, lingers. I know that he kept himself occupied and distracted by traveling. So long as he could be immersed in beautiful scenes of Nature; so long as he was in the "cars," moving from one town to another on the train--he could hold off the gnawing, bottomless grief. Whenever he stopped, and if he paused from either studying or writing (because he read voraciously, and wrote continually), it would threaten to overwhelm him. If he saw a girl who remined him of Abby, his heart would be lost to her, and he'd have to scold himself. When an anniversary came around--of her death, or May Day, when he proposed--he would be plunged into it as though it had happened yesterday.
I know all this intuitively, but I also know it by one of Mathew's poems. Here, he is reporting on a "panorama," in verse, for a comic newspaper. A panorama is like a mid-19th century film. You sit in a theater, and a huge mural is rolled past you, putting you "on the scene." This one was of the interior of the "Crystal Palace," the huge glass structure which housed the 1851 London World's Fair. Mathew had attended that fair, but of course he hadn't been able to see everything. There was one thing in particular he had missed--a statue of the "Nymph of Lurleiberg." She sits with her lyre, quite naked of course, above a stream. But she isn't happy--in fact, she looks pensive, or even stricken, somehow, as her lyre remains unplayed, in her lap. The "Nymph of Lurleiburg" is German, and she is, in fact, a river sprite.
Mathew called Abby a river sprite, and she took up the identification in jest. Probably, she swam the Merrimack River near her home, as a girl. When writing pro-abolition letters to the editor with Mathew, they signed them "Kappa, Lambda, and Mu." A "Kappa" is a Japanse river sprite (a "Lambda" is a Spartan shield, symbolizing Mathew's guarded emotions; and "Mu" was their unborn first child).
I include all that background because what you are about to see, is a sign which Abby gave Mathew. Knowing how she works, today, she must have arranged the entire thing. Mathew was in danger--he was angering some nasty people with his satirical writing for the "Carpet-Bag." They were "on" to him, and very soon they would torch his flat.
So she gives him a sign, and also a visitation dream, in which she safely escorts him across a turbulent stream. That, Mathew portrays elsewhere--I had to put it together with the one I'm about to share with you. Mathew always struggled with his faith, and with the esoteric wisdom Abby had taught him. You see it in "The Raven," and you see it, here. He wanted to believe, but couldn't always quite manage to do so.
Therefore, Abby has arranged a double-whammy. Not only does the "Nymph" look very much like Abby, but she's a river sprite. At that time he gets a spirit contact; and then, that night, he gets a visitation dream. Just how much clearer could she have made it?
I know the Nymph looks like Abby, because I have a copy of Abby's miniature portrait--and I located the statue of the Nymph. I don't have the image that Mathew saw, because, presumably, these panoramas were too bulky to preserve. But I have photographs of the statue; and I have a drawing, published in a London newspaper, of the statue. In my book, I compare these side-by-side.
In my most recent work, I found three poems Mathew wrote in tribute to Abby, in 1849 (eight years after her death). Or one of them might have been a couple of years later--anyway, several years after. They are deeply poignant, and I remember, on some emotional level, what they meant to me. This wasn't just love-inspired imagination and fairy-dusted remembrance. Abby really was a remarkable lady. She was truly noble; and really-speaking, too refined and too beautiful for this rough world. She lavished all her love, and all her talents (gained through upper-class private tutoring), on her husband--who, having been raised on a poor Quaker farm (where music is discouraged), appreciated them as no-one else could. She understood his deep heart as none else ever would, as well. Driven by loneliness after her death, he occasionally tried to replace her, which he found an utter waste of time.
His heart, however much he buried it, always belonged to Abby--and I incarnated, in this lifetime, with the same devotion. I just couldn't find her, because she wasn't here, on earth.
I was going to share that poem about the "Nymph," but I see that between Abby's journal and mine, I have shared it quite a number of times. Really, what I wanted to quote was just the following lines, by way of confirmation of Mathew's feelings, a decade after Abby's death:
And now it seemed as if in truth
A beam of light that gleamed and quivered
Upon the silvery tide of youth
Came back to cheer, and not in vain,
A spirit dulled with voiceless pain;
Perhaps, instead of reproducing that entire poem, I should share one of my more recent discoveries. I think he started over from scratch on this idea a couple of years later; but as often happens, the first attempt is the most powerful, so that's the one I will present, here. It was published in the March 24, 1849 edition of a weekly paper he frequently submitted work to. Abby died on March 27, 1841.
All around and all above thee
Is the hushed and charmed air,
All things woo thee, all things love thee,
Gentle Zephyrs perfume breathing
Waft to thee their perfume sweet,
And for thee the Spring is wreathing
In their caverned, cool recesses,
Songs for thee the fountains frame;
Whatsoe’er the wave caresses,
Lisps thy name.
Greener verdure, brighter blossom,
wheresoe’er thy footsteps stray,
O’er the earth's enamored bosom,
Wheresoe’er thy presence lingers,
Wheresoe’er thy brightness beams;
Fancy weaves with cunning fingers,
And the heart forgets thee never,
Thy young beauty’s one delight,
There it dwells, and dwells forever,
This was during a period when, as I gather, Mathew had officially separated from his second wife, Jane, which incompatible marriage had been pushed upon him by his family. Abby, it appears, had then felt free to start contacting him spiritually. But for those of you who, like myself, are romantic idealists, I am sad to have to report that, shortly afterwards, Mathew must have entered into a brief romance. The two pieces he wrote about it, suggest that he "rescued" a girl who was socially isolated, and perhaps disabled in some way, only to have the affair blocked by her guardian. Afterwards, he briefly became cynical about love and marriage altogether; then, he softened and wrote a conciliatory poem. It would seem that while the relationship was unconsciously a matter of "buying" love via rescuing, for Mathew, it was primarily an emotional port-in-the-storm for the young woman. Abby tells me that she fell in love with Mathew while attempting to improve him; but she says, never attempt this with anyone, unless they are your soul-mate. In other words, it worked only because we were soul-mates. The reason being, as I take it, that in a true soul-mate relationship, mutuality is built-in. Otherwise, it is not, and the basis for such a relationship won't hold when its inherent imbalance is manifested sooner or later.
This business of "rescuing" damsels in distress is a pattern which carried over into my present lifetime, until I understood it and put a stop to it. As you know, I ended up with the solution I should have stuck with as Mathew, i.e., waiting for Abby and attempting to carry on our relationship across the Great Divide as best I can. Mathew didn't have enough faith to resist the temptation of physical girls who reminded him of Abby; nor did he resist the advice of family and friends to remarry on a practical basis, given his native sex drive. It was a massive mistake to have listen to them. An astral lover can join you in sex, at least at the level of energy--enough to satisfy most people who don't define sex entirely as physicality. And communication can be developed, rudimentary and uncertain though it may be, especially at first. You just have to want to make it work badly enough, like any relationship. Never mind doubts that it isn't real, or may not be real, or any of that. It is real; only you have to have enough faith to sustain it, in the face of societal ridicule and a sparsity (not a total lack) of physical evidence.
Stephen Sakellarios, M.S.
Music opening this page: "My Heart Will Go On," by James Horner,
performed by Celine Dion, as the theme for "Titanic"