Now This Is Strange…

I had a brief memory flash of serving in India during colonial times.

Now, I know for a fact that Jack (the life I lost in WWI) had served most of the Edwardian era in Secunderabad.  However, the flash I had was of going into arid hills with a band of soldiers to hunt bandits.

According to a quick scan of search results on Google, hunting bandits in arid hills sounds more like the 19th century.

I am pretty sure that I was a soldier in my mid-19th century life, but could I have been in India during that time as well?  That would be two lives, back-to-back, as a British soldier serving in India.  I’d had a strong feeling that I had been to India in that life before, but after I discovered Jack’s tour of duty in Secunderabad I had nixed that.  I hadn’t considered that I’d been there in two subsequent lives.

That would explain why the flowery trappings of British Victorian orientalism seem so stuck in my head, in some deep place that I can’t quite see.  Two lifetimes of that is enough to make a deep impression.  Every time I saw some fragment of that cultural phenomenon while I was in England in this life, it gave me weird feelings.  The Royal Pavilion at Brighton was downright eerie in that respect, with its orientalist whimsy bordering on madness, stylized banana leaves all around in places where they were really not needed.  In some part of my mind, I see flashes of dark, smoke-filled rooms with dim lanterns and brightly-colored fabrics all around.  I smell a hit of exotic spice.  But this isn’t a place I’ve been necessarily; it’s a cultural construct of a place I thought India might be all those ages ago and it’s still there, in my mind, a dated and ego-dystonic construct born of Imperialist naivete.

I wish I could remember something more, something concrete that I could track down and confirm once and for all.  What did I do as a soldier in that earlier life, and what went wrong that saw me drummed out and turning to the seafaring life?

Thinking of doing a past life regression again soon.  It seems that earlier life has come through pretty clearly in regressions and dreams, so it’s probably not very deep in my subconscious.  Exactly why this life in particular would be so close to the surface is anybody’s guess.

So Just Who Was I?

While not being the author Philip K. Dick is a great relief, it leaves a gaping hole in my 20th century experience.

Who was I?  Where was I?

I think I’ve mentioned here that I have had competing notions that I had been British in my subsequent life.  I feel strangely warm and familiar when I think of England in the 1930s but I have no specific memories.  I enjoy the work of Dame Vera Lynn and Sir Edward Elgar and I adore 1930s British car designs.  One of my dream cars is the Alvis Speed 25.

I also feel strongly like I might have had something to do with aviation.  My best books have a lot of golden age aviation themes, and pilots and engineers have complimented my understanding of how aircraft are designed and flown.  Some of my favorite computer games involve flight simulations and I notice I’ve actually got a knack for them.  One of the first jobs I wanted in this life was to be a fighter pilot (I was only 2 or 3 at the time) and I still love going to aviation museums and air shows, especially when they bring out the old war birds from WWII.  But all of this could be from my background as an air force brat which pretty much sealed my love of aviation from a very early age.

I had briefly considered that I was Nevil Shute, but that would cut into my life as John and the home he grew up in is nothing like the home I remember; John’s childhood home, on the other hand, is a perfect match.

But it’s all very circumspect and there’s just nothing solid.  I’m left wondering if there’s anything to it.  Maybe I really did just cease to be for most of the 20th century?

A Lonely Road

Last night my fiance and I were sitting together listening to music from the first half of the 20th century (music hall, Swing, Foxtrot, and ballads from about 1900 to 1950).

At one point I played a slow foxtrot song from 1939- a year I still have strong feelings for (I would have been about 10 at the time, and deep into science fiction magazines and pulp adventure novels). I asked him how he felt when he heard it and he responded that he felt nothing.

I then played a song from 1929, hoping an earlier piece might resonate more with him. He replied that while he enjoyed the song, it wasn’t any specific feeling and that the only music that had specific feelings for him was the music he grew up with (mostly early 70s prog and 90s alternative).  For him, the music of the first half of the 20th century is a rare import from a distant past, an exotic acquired taste; for me, it’s a rare shred of something I once had.

It just reminded me of how weird I was. Every time growing up I heard a music hall piece from Edwardian times and wondered “When was this made? It sounds so familiar, why?” or every time I saw that same bare upstairs room with a single bed, a table, a record player, and a bare lightbulb when I heard music from the 1940s, I was experiencing something not everyone goes through and I feel like such a weirdo.

Stranger still, I have a weird feeling that my fiance might have been my first wife, Jeanette Marlin, back in 1948 (an old photo of him without his beard looks bizarrely similar to a photo of her from high school). But if he was, he has no memories. For him, the slate seems to be wiped clean, though he does give me the benefit of the doubt.

Music From 1948-1960

A few songs from the period of 1948-1960 (the years spanning Phil’s marriage to Jeanette and his marriage to Kleo as well as the earliest years of his marriage to Anne) stand out for me.

One night while listening to songs from 1948, one song stood out for me.  It’s called “A Tree In The Meadow,” sung by Margaret Whiting.  Now I can’t think of what little I remember about Jeanette without thinking of this song, though I don’t know if that’s a recent impression or an old one.

I first heard the song “26 Miles” by the Four Preps, a hit from 1958, some time in the late 90s, but it didn’t really stand out to me until one day in 2007.  I was in Boulder City, NV, a town full of mid-century West Coast urban architecture much like downtown Berkeley, so I was already starting to feel the hair on the back of my neck stand up.  I walked into an antique store, surrounded by mid-century artifacts, and this song started playing.  It has since remained a part of my consciousness for the last 7 years.  I still get shivers when I hear it.  It isn’t the sort of song I would have liked terribly much, but one I know I heard everywhere and often in those days.

Gogi Grant’s version of “The Wayward Wind” (1956) was a song I first heard on a cassette that my father got second-hand from my grandparents in the late 90s, in a box of odds and ends they didn’t want any more.  Not sure why this one stands out for me but it’s one of the few songs on that tape that made any sort of impression.

“My Prayer” by The Platters (also from 1956) is a song I probably heard on Oldies 102.5 in Charleston, SC as a child.  It stands out for me as a song I knew even if it wasn’t a favorite; however, this is complicated by the fact that it’s actually a song that goes back to 1939 in its lyrical version (Vera Lynn did a lovely rendition but I probably knew Glenn Miller’s version).  This could very well be a childhood memory from Phil’s life.

The most recent of these on my list is The Theme From “A Summer Place” by the Percy Faith Orchestra, released in 1960.  Another song I know from the oldies radio station, and one I’m not sure about how well I knew it back then.  It does make me think of the Marin Headlands around Point Reyes, though, with its saccharine imagery of chiseled coastlines and Pacific sunsets.  It certainly was many people’s idea of the perfect “summer place.”

Memory Identification In Doubt

I’m starting to question my identification of Count William since it seems rather flimsy when I look at it.

First, a lot of my few medieval memories were misinterpreted or strung together from disparate fragments to form narratives that have inevitably proven dead ends; I think trying to string them all together into a coherent story was a mistake.

Second, my ID of William Longespee becomes really questionable when I consider that I did note that I was wearing 14th century clothes in that memory of the church with dark columns.  That memory was previously linked to Salisbury Cathedral, where I found Count William’s tomb and linked his life to a few things I remembered, places I traveled to, coincidences with John’s life, and coincidences with my first novel.  However, I was never certain about such a tentative identification in the first place and when I revisit certain details, it seems even more doubtful.

Obviously, 14th century clothes, and the colors I remember wearing (black and red) would cast doubt on Longespee, who lived in the 12th and 13th centuries and whose colors were blue and gold, but I had initially written these details off because I had been working heavily with 14th century imagery in a recent novel at the time.  Now I’m starting to reconsider these memories and the prospect of having been a 14th century yeoman of minor status (liveried but not titled), rather than a 13th century earl.

Also, it bears mentioning that a number of churches and cathedrals in England have columns of Purbeck Marble and admittedly, it could just as easily be Westminster Abbey or even some church that is no longer standing.

That being said, if I was wrong about the ID, it would leave a mountain of weird coincidences involving Count William up in the air; also, it would leave my ID of Roland in question, since I had not known that Roland was Henry’s court jester nor had I correctly identified him at first (I had variously identified him as my father and as a fellow knight previously).

At any rate, the memories I have aren’t easy to sort out because this is an era I had studied… if only tentatively.  I did pay more attention to objects and places than what every William Fitz Henry and Henry Fitz William was doing in 1190-something so these aren’t people I was necessarily aware of.  Still, I could have confabulated the whole thing easily and just gotten confirmations by all the darts of possibility I threw out.  The memories are also dim, fragmentary, and of an era so remote from our time that even someone who had lived continuously for 850 years might have a difficult time zeroing in on specifics.

My memories of John and Phil’s lives carry more weight because they’re more complete, involved little or no guessing, and were easier to confirm.  John’s life was easy enough to trace that I made several very decisive place matches, and in Phil’s case I was actually able to speak to someone who knew him and found proof that he’d had flashes of WWI before American involvement.  I have a pretty good circumstantial case for those lives.  But anything before 1877, I have to admit, I’m completely stumped and might never be able to nail down at this point.

Dream

Last night, I had a dream that was largely nonsensical, but there was one element that stands out.

In the dream, my fiance said the word “army” with a heavy Somerset accent (maybe he was trying to talk like a pirate?).  Just hearing the word “army” said that way triggered something undoubtedly past-life related within me and soured my mood.  It left me feeling unpleasant even after I had woken up.

What else?  I seem to remember there was also a moment going to one of those small, mid-century grocery stores with tall glass fronts that were still common in my childhood (but seem to be vanishing now that everything’s gone to big-box retail).  The usual colorful kiddie rides and candy vending machines were out front.  I wonder if that means anything?  It was a lot like the Piggly-Wiggly in Goose Creek, SC that we would shop at if we were down that way when I was young.

Beyond that, the dream made no sense whatsoever and I’m still in a hazy, dreamlike state (probably because I took something for anxiety right before bed…  I hate what those pills do to me though so I rarely take them).

That Makes Sense…

Last night, I had some memories that suggest that I may not have been a fox in Japan after all.

The memories were in Japan, but they challenge the idea of having been a wild animal.  Most notably, I remembered things in color (I have memories from another time that were in blues and yellows that were more convincing).  

Second, there was a care-worn old woman (my grandmother perhaps?) bathing me, rubbing something in my hair and saying “Yosh, yosh, yosh,” (in this case, roughly “there there”).  I had brief flickers of toys or children’s books or something brightly colored.

But there was also the memory of the back door of the temple, where I remember being among foxes.  Was I a foundling?  Was I a child, then a fox or vice versa?  Or was I a pet fox, kept by an eccentric old woman and treated like a child (the way so many ennobled pets become convinced that they’re people)?

Whatever the case, if I was a human child I must have died at a very young age some time in the 1920s, which is sad to think about.  It’s curious to think how different the story plays out if I wasn’t a fox; a generous lifetime for a small, wild animal is a tragically short life for a human being.

But which was I?  I’m really at a loss.