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Saturday, October 10, 2009

The amazing miracle of the Internet.

I love it when events and circumstances “triangulate” as I call it. Linda and I often note that seeming five or six degrees (or less!) of separation between us and almost anyone we meet.

I also nurse this theory that history constantly repeats itself, and that we would all be so much better off if we bothered to learn the lessons of history. So in an effort to explore that notion, and perhaps learn with my readers that which our ancestors would love to have taught us, if they could have, I offer a series of blog entries that will be not only interesting, or even touching, but voices from the past, connecting into our life-stream. With any luck, or Divine help, hopefully these glimpses into the past will somehow triangulate with the present, and you will read something that will add to your day, or even give you inspiration or even answers for your own journey.

To begin, I will be offering quotations and paraphrases from two of my favorite diaries. One is the diary of Adolphus Sterne, writing a daily journal while living in Nacogdoches, Texas in the 1840’s. The other is the precious diary of a relative, Margery Cushman, who made her entries as a teenager while living on a plantation in Louisiana in the 1850’s. I will tell you more about them as we read their most intimate thoughts, thawed out and compared to our own stories, still in progress.

In these crazy times, when everyone agrees that our Country, and perhaps the world is searching fruitlessly for answers, it is not so outrageous to consult those who have gone before. While it is true that the world today is very different, nature and people are pretty much still the same. And while we have learned so much since then, I fear that we have lost much more. Modern Americans suffer today from information overload and technological tyranny, and unnaturally reduced human interaction, that has led to a giant meltdown in all of our personal relationships. Many people today have everything, except someone to talk to. As you will see, there are people who had much to say, and were even poetic in their communications, who imagined that someday you might trip upon their diaries, and left some insights for living, and they have just been waiting for us to ask…

So imagine for a moment that your computer is a time travel screen, and you have surfed into a distant time, when your ancestors still enjoyed each other’s company, sat in the parlor for hours and played music, or sang or read poetry to one another. A time when life was lived on the front porch, and was never taken for granted, when every moment of safety and health was a gift, and when people knew from whence those gifts came. In 1857, in the middle of her diary, Margery offered, “Perhaps it may be a pleasure in after years to glance over these pages and reflect of the pains and pleasures I passed through…” A pleasure indeed, cousin Margery, in fact a privilege, to share your character and Faith and winsome perspective with those separated from you by mere degrees.

Diary of Margery Eliza Cushman
Oct 8, 1853: “Nearly a week has elapsed since last I wrote, and why this delay? It is this. I have really been so very busy that I have had no time, it is study, study all the time, and not time for anything else. I have known my lessons pretty well this week. I remained with Miss Jeannie this day so as to have time for working on my worsted [homespun yarn and the fabric made from such]. Oh, when will this pestilence cease? When will I feel satisfied with our condition, another of my friends has been taken away in the bloom of her girlhood. I sincerely hope she was prepared to meet her fate. I spent the night with Anna this week, enjoyed myself very much. I wrote a composition for last Wednesday, which Miss Jeannie complimented me very highly upon. I shall copy it here. My scholars are progressing very rapidly I think….” Margery makes a few comments concerning her duties as a tutor for smaller children, and the ominous illness of many of those around her. People everywhere were dropping like flies from Yellow Fever… “Brother Walter returned from the river yesterday evening. Pa will remain there until the last of next week. I expect he thinks he will make a better crop than we thought. I hope it may be for our good…

“Memories of Summer”
Regal Summer is now standing beside me, but her brow is growing wan and pale, although her sunshine is as bright and merry as formerly, yet while smiling o’er hill and prairie, the winds are chanting her wail. Tread with solemn step, for she is dying, she is slowly passing away, her reign with its brilliant pageant show, will soon be over, even the flowers growing upon the brooklets margin, sadly droop, as the wailing winds pass o’er them, to hear the waters moan. How silent is all within the forest, not a single sound to be heard save the farewell note of some bird taking its departure for a warmer clime. The strong boughs slowly swaying to & fro, remind one of some form hopelessly grieving, while a few struggling withered leaves, the last remains of the beautiful foliage of early summer, are falling one by one, like a mourner’s tears. Ah Summer, with her gay and courtly train, her fleeting pleasure, will soon pass away, but not so the lasting sorrows, the saddening memories she leaves upon the brain…

…It was a grievous sorrow never more to see that face with its pure and placid sweetness, not behold that form with its graceful beauty, but we should bough our heads in submission to the holy will of God, and although filled with sorrow, yet we could not wish to lure thee hither, from your glorious happiness. No, earth was not home for thee, gentle spirit, for thy saint-like purity, thou dost inherit that bright land.
“Heavenly Father may these mem’ries
Fit us for thy blessed love
As we tread our pilgrim way
To thy promised courts above.”

This is all of my composition, rather short but better than nothing. I am getting too sleepy to write any more so will have to retire…

The diary of Adophus Stern
October 12, 1843: Rain last night, did not hurt my Corn much- splendid day today, wind n. E&N. Mr. Hoya left for Natchitoches, loaned him my Saddle Horse, hawling in Corn as hard as we can- western mail- and no news- Doctor Starr is better- good- this has been once a great day here in Spanish times- this being the anniversary of the patron saint of the place - our Lady of the Pillar.

Do you see any differences in the way these individuals communicate? One a debutante born into the last age of chivalry, the other a Jewish German merchant on the Texas frontier. The things they have in common? The things that were so important to them, that we take for granted? These two will surprise you continuously in their observations and how much they had in common, as they show us what we have in common.

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