Stonehenge and Durrington

I had some thoughts about Stonehenge and Durrington.

Initially, I had the thought that in the 12th and 13th centuries, Stonehenge was a place most people ignored, a forbidden place believed to be inhabited by evil spirits that we were greatly afraid of.  I saw it in a brief flicker of memory of the place overgrown by ivy and small trees, and shrouded in mist late in the day.  It was both beautiful and eerie, a bit like a painting by Caspar David Friedrich.

My research found no proof of this, but I did discover that the connection to Arthurian legend came somewhat later thanks to Geoffrey of Monmouth, and that prior to the 14th century no one had even thought to draw Stonehenge let alone talk about it.  I also know that “Stonehenge” comes from the old Saxon “Stanhangen” meaning “stone gallows,” which may be a clue to how people really felt about the place.

Also, I saw a reproduction of the “woodhenge” at Durrington and my immediate thought was “They forgot the carvings and colors!”  It looks profoundly wrong to me without the logs carved with faces painted with mineral pigments.  Of course, any evidence of this would be lost forever, but my instinct tells me that these poles were not unlike the Totem Poles of the Pacific Northwest.

Interestingly, a documentary I watched mentioned signs of a settlement and a large feast at the Durrington site, and evidence of exposure burials.  I began to realize that the culture on the Salisbury Plain all those thousands of years ago may have been very similar to that of the Pacific Northwest up until the 19th century.  I came away with a strong intuition that the feast at Durrington was not unlike the Potlatch of the Chinook people, and the site itself was much like the ritual spaces of the Tlingit.  A gift-giving economy was at the heart of a semi-organized communal life where the people herded semi-wild hogs and gathered wild grains.  The climate was similar to the Pacific Northwest and the abundant resources and sparse population made life relatively easy.

I don’t know if or how I could ever test these ideas.  I don’t think my intuitions on the Neolithic culture of Wiltshire are from a past life though the thing about Stonehenge being a place we avoided and tried not to think about certainly might be from William’s life.

A Year And Then Some

Wednesday will be a year since I started this blog, but it’s already been a couple weeks since the first terrifying memories surfaced.

Before that day, I hadn’t really given much thought to the Great War.  It was a long ago tragedy that seemed to have very little to do with me aside from being one more step toward the troubled world we live in now.  I hadn’t done any research into it, and most of what I knew came from movies and from the memoirs of Eddie Rickenbacker; obviously, my bias was toward aviation and I knew very little about the life of an infantryman other than it was nastier, more brutish, and shorter than a 13th century soldier’s life on those same fields.

I’m not the same after that experience.  I’m still recovering from it and frankly, it’s slow going.  Over the last year I’ve gained more perspective than I had ever bargained for and when you understand what it’s like to watch others die while anxiously waiting your turn, life seems so frighteningly tenuous.

More than that, I’ve given a voice to someone who really needed it, a Somerset farm boy who never married, never made it beyond Private, and died violently at 38 with only scant records of his ever having existed.

I am overwhelmed by John’s memories, but I hope I can be worthy to link myself in any way with this unlucky but remarkably brave man and come to terms with what I saw- what he saw- on the battlefield more than 98 years ago.

Aucto Splendore Resurgo

Blood, Sweat, and Tears- Variations on a Theme by Erik Satie

This piece is based on Satie’s “Gymnopedies” though I’m not sure which one (I want to say the first or second).

The mood I get from it really makes me think of Flanders as it looks now, where the pillboxes are all overgrown and the graves and monuments are all immaculately kept.  It’s a tranquil but sorrowful sound and I love they way they paired winds with guitars.  The wind chime has never been a favorite of mine but it works in this case.

Memory Fragments

Today I had a couple of memory fragments.

First, while standing near a brick wall waiting for a bus this morning, I had a brief (and thankfully not too distressing) recollection of hiding on the other side of a similar wall, feeling bullets impacting with it and being hit by chips as heavy gunfire penetrated the wall on either side of me.  Once again, a vague thought that I ran for it with no clear memory of actually running; that seems to be a theme in my memories of the Western Front.

Also, a thought that my severe aversion to bits of onion or unidentifiable bits of this or that hidden in my food may have come from the rather revolting things that tended to fall into one’s food in the trenches.  To this day, I get a strong gag reflex when I find onions, green peas, or field peas hidden in my food but back in 1915, it was probably bits of dirt, insects, worms, rat droppings, and any number of other contaminants.  I prefer food that has a single consistency, or where ingredients of different consistencies are visibly separated (for example, I don’t mind onions on a hamburger but I prefer them sauteed and cut in large pieces, not diced).

Perhaps there are two of us…

My roommate may have also lived in the court of Richard the Lionheart.

Some months back, he and I were sitting together tried scrying with a red glass ball, but it got nowhere, only a vague sense of nostalgia for having done this before (with a similar frustration and lack of progress, probably in the 15th or 16th century).

Later that evening while gazing into the flame of a candle without the aid of the glass ball, I also had a memory of a king with a red, pointed beard in a blue robe who looked worried.  My roommate explained that I might have gotten that through him and that he’s seen it for years (we had put our hands together with a candle between us, I think).

However, I know that Richard the Lionheart, with whom Longespee faced many campaigns, had a red beard.  I also know that my roommate and I have had a strange connection for a very long time; once, he and I had simultaneously had a really bad intuition about my fiance being in danger on the way back from a recording session at a friend’s place, and so I had my friend take him to the transit center on the way back instead of driving him on the freeway.  I’ll never know if my fiance was ever actually in danger of an accident had my friend driven him home on the freeway, but it was always strange how we both had that premonition simultaneously; especially since at that time, my roommate was living in Kansas and I was already in Oregon.

Shortly after he moved in, my other roommates who had made my life a living hell moved out.  Life became bearable again.  He’s extremely respectful and always good on his word.  I believe he may have been present when I had my first memories of the Great War too, as at the time there was no space for him, so he stayed in our room on a cot in the corner.

We compared notes on a facial reconstruction of Richard.  He said the shape of the beard threw him and he didn’t immediately recognize him as the guy he saw, but I pointed out that this was a funerary image and he was probably somewhat older than the man we remembered, with a different style.  I mentioned the blue robe, and he said he didn’t remember the robe so much, but the crown.

My roommate’s definitely not a medieval scholar, by the way, and neither of us knew about Longespee the first time we encountered this shared memory.  Neither of us could have coordinated what we saw with a resemblance to Richard because we weren’t looking for Richard at the time.

Also, I was correct about the blue robe as that is an Angevin royal color.  Longespee dressed in blue to show his Angevin lineage after Henry II acknowledged him as a son.  I think Henry and John both had beards of a similar color but were darker and not as striking as Richard’s.

Interestingly enough, though he’s of much different stature (closer to the stature of the mustached man seen in several of my memories), my fiance sports a very noble face when he lets his reddish-brown beard grow in.  However, he has no memories that corroborate with having lived in the Middle Ages and so I won’t make any presumptions.

I’m still conflicted about believing what my roommate says.  On the one hand, he had nothing to gain by saying that memory was his at that moment.  On the other hand, when someone says something that might mean that you knew them in a past life 800 years ago, that does rather beggar belief, especially when the initial exchange is a “me too” sort of thing.

We’ll have to see.  If he can come up with something obscure about the last years of the 12th Century that I have a difficult time verifying, it might help me believe him.

Missing England

I don’t know what to say except every now and then, the urge to go back gets strong and it’s very strong for me right now.

It’s not even rational.  I don’t think the political situation there is inherently much better than the one here (especially considering the huge number of surveillance cameras in the UK and the fact that it’s become a playground for big banks and the US government).  But the fact is I’m scared about the near future Stateside and I feel the need for familiar comforts.

The fact is, I’m homesick for an England that doesn’t exist any more and I know it.  I already made that mistake in 2003-05 when I studied in London to get away from Bush, and I should have learned.  

But it doesn’t go away; I really do miss being there and any time I come across all the saber-rattling from so many angry Americans (who have a right to be angry but are usually angry for all the wrong reasons), I just want to go to the English countryside I remember and stay in some out-of-the-way village as if I’d always lived there.  I’m sure somewhere, in the back of my mind, I’ll be wondering what ever happened to the village poacher I used to buy pheasants from or the lads who gathered hops and apples in autumn in Hereford.  They’re gone, though, and I know it.

I love where I live right now.  It’s relatively peaceful and one of the few parts of the country where being poor isn’t a crime.  But I worry that all this will be gone soon and when it is, I wonder where I’m going to go.  Will I just keep looking for the England that exists so vividly in my mind every time the going gets rough in the country I was born in, even though I know it isn’t there because I already looked?

Some things defy reason.  The fact remains that I’m deeply attached to the English countryside, that I still love the taste of blackcurrant jam, Double Gloucester cheese, and Cumberland sausages with Colman’s mustard.  I still get a warm feeling when I hear British patriotic songs.  Before I had even traveled there in this life, I was told I had a trace of an accent (at times a trace of the Somerset drawl would even slip through).  Even my family and friends have joked that I’m more British than American.  

One day, I’m sure, I’ll inevitably go back to England for more than just a casual visit though on what terms, I don’t know.  I just hope I don’t make the mistake I made back in 2003 and think that I could not only hide from a global dystopia, but that some ineffable thing that I was only dimly aware of at the time would still be there.

Getting My Second Wind

I was listening to a favorite classical music recording this evening, feeling extremely low.  I still am not sure about the state of mind I’m in, and I have a lot of worries about the future. 

The music began playing my favorite part of this particular piece, and along came my cat who curled up next to me, huddling under the covers to keep warm.  I suddenly felt such a warm and loved feeling, and I’ve been needing to feel it so long.  I had been having a hard time feeling emotions recently and it felt like a breakthrough to finally start feeling human again.  

This summer hasn’t been pleasant, but soon I’ll be back in class doing something for my future, and I’ll be happier.  It seems the only time I feel any sense of hope any more is when I’ve got a chance to work toward the goal of getting my life back.  

Ile de Re

Just found a wonderful video of someone cycling through Ile de Re, which is the French island that William Longespee was stranded on.  Of course, at the time it was an English possession, and thus a safe haven for the shipwrecked English barons who landed there.

Strangely, while Notre Dame de Re is now in such a ruined state that it no longer gives me any sense of familiarity, it was the views of the strangely narrow beach heads, the farmer’s fields, and the young buds on the bushes that gave me chills.  I remembered that these were among the signs in the natural turning of the seasons that told us it was time to go back to England.  The neat rows of the fields in the video also reminded me of the fields the monks used to tend.  

I think I wanted to stay at that abbey once I saw it in spring.  The windy bailey at the center of Old Sarum would be so drab by comparison.  Perhaps my memory of a conversation with an abbot about becoming a monk isn’t so far-fetched after all.

That was a strange memory.  Sort of sad, since Longespee was already ill by all accounts, and died just a short time after his return to England.  But not a fearful sadness like John’s memories; more like the sort of sadness a very old person would feel as they walk through a field in the spring time.  It’s almost as if I had known I was dying even then.  I don’t know if this necessarily contradicts the poisoning theory but I don’t think I died uneasy at all.

An unrelated note:

In the course of this blog you may notice that I alternate between first and third person when referring to presumed past lives quite freely.  This is for several reasons:

1. I often have a difficult time knowing which way to use when referring to past lives since there is no grammatical protocol for that in any language as far as I know.

2. It seems to be a good contextual clue to the fact that I don’t know for sure if I was any of these people, and that I have only presumed that thanks to the vividness and veracity of the memories.

3. Because “I” and “me” are too hopelessly vague when referring to multiple iterations of the self across several centuries.

4. Because sometimes, I really feel insecure and think I might be doing someone a great dishonor saying that I was any of these people (hence the reason I won’t name my most recent past life).