Once upon a time the renowned British author Charles Dickens visited the United States. While his visit ultimately did not leave him with positive thoughts for our country, he did perform one act that to this day remains a mystery.
During his journey across the United States he made his way to Virginia around February or March in 1842. It is documented well that Dickens left with a distaste of Virginia because of its dependency on slavery. However, when a request is made of him, something that ultimately will align Virginia with the only evidence of his visit to the United States, he complies.
Deep in the thickets of Cumberland State Forest remains the unique literary gift that Charles Dickens bestowed upon a grieving family. On March 12, 1842, thirteen month old Charles Irving Thornton died and upon the request of a family friend, (thought to be American writer, Washington Irving) Dickens inscribed the epitaph that now rests quietly on the aging tombstone that remains hidden from the world.
To find it is no easy task as the forest likes to keep its treasures however with careful steps and patience, I was able to find the Thornton Family Cemetery where it remains and is quite literally deep in the shadows of the woods. Without the help of technology by way of my smart compass, I doubt I would have been able to uncover its hiding place.
As you can see from the images I was able to capture, it shows its age, the writing barely legible in some places and the tombstone itself suffering a full horizontal crack along its base. The following is the epitaph that Dickens inscribed upon it:
“THIS IS THE GRAVE
of a Little Child whom God in his goodness Called to a Bright Eternity when he was very young. Hard as it is for Human Affection to reconcile itself to Death In any shape (and most of all, perhaps First In This)
HIS PARENTS can even now believe That it will be a Consolation to them Throughout their lives and when they shall have grown old and grey always to think of him as a Child IN HEAVEN and Jesus Called a little Child unto him, and set him in the midst of them. He was the son of ANTHONY and M.I. THORNTON Called CHARLES IRVING. He was born on the 20 th day of January 1841, and he died on the 12 th day of March 1842. Having lived only 13 months and 19 days.”
While it was commemorated in the Virginia Landmarks Register and in the National Register of Historic Places in 1980, its remembrance thrives only with the trees within the forest. The family cemetery as a whole which seemed to be about five visible headstones, in its nearly two hundred year old existence has been taken over by nature. It’s significance, however is still very much prominent. This literary gift remains the only one of its kind in the United States and one of only two of existence in the world, the other belonging to that of Dickens’ sister-in-law.
It was a rewarding experience to actually find it albeit sad to see the lack of its upkeep. Its literary significance shall remain and the gift it became to a grieving family shall never die.
I’ve been reading different thoughts towards the various styles of poetry here recently and even more recently a certain opinion about the definition of a poet, down to even the choice and repetition of words used. This has sparked a nerve in me that I simply needed to express my frustration about. What better an outlet than here, where like minded writers, poets, photographers, simply artists as a collective, live.
Poetry is defined as a type of literature that conveys a thought, describes a scene or tells a story in a concentrated, lyrical arrangement of words. For starters, can we truly put a label on poetry? Sometimes they rhyme. Sometimes they don’t. Sometimes they are short, sometimes long. Okay yes sure, one can write in a certain structure such as sonnets or haiku’s. But even still, there is no “wrong” way to write poetry.
For myself, I’m a free verse lover. Just like my fictional writing, I’m a panster. I plan NOTHING. I just write and just as when I was a child with coloring, almost always outside of the lines. I once read somewhere, a good writer is one that doesn’t feel the need to edit their words written in the middle of the night. Can’t help but think that’s where the true heart of a writer lives.
I’m personally a huge fan of this tagged title now of “micro” poetry, which brings me to the largest debate. It would seem those of us that write “short and sweet” are being shamed for our lack of true length of what poetry should be. (I invite you to reread the definition of poetry as I cited up there with emphasis on that lovely word straight out of the dictionary, concentrated.) I mean please, tell me, is their a guidebook out there somewhere that recites a word count to the true definition of what equates to a poem? Anyone? Anyone? Yeah. thought so. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge lover of the classics. My God Edgar Allan is a rockstar and that Keats and Thoreau…more please. But does that mean the “micro” writer like myself is any less phenomenal? I don’t think so. If anything I think it becomes even more a talent, an art, to be able to move someone in such a way in as few words as possible. Just today a coworker came up to me, after having read my latest poetry book which contains poems of only ten words, and said to me how do you manage to pack such a punch in so few words! Of course I was beaming. Any writer would react the same at such praise. I often think of this piece by Ernest Hemingway when I adapt to this logic:
or a slightly longer piece:
Secondly, shame on those that even judge and ridicule another writer in the first place. Perhaps they themselves are feeling slightly insecure within their own writing (news flash we all feel this way about our writing) that they feel the need to lash out at another. Or maybe they are just that old fart sitting in the corner bemoaning how us young folks got it all wrong. (Sorry to all you old farts I do love the ones in the corner rooting us young folks on)
Speaking of young folks. I’ve recently taken to utilizing my Instagram site for more than just a gallery of my photography, as I discovered quite the community of poets and writers alike over there. I have been in awe over and over and over again at the words I’m reading, passionately so by the likes of teens and twenty somethings. This is where I must admit to eating crow upon talking one night to a fellow writer of my discovery and pegging Instagram as the “young crowd” and seemingly “angsty”. I ate my own words not long after that upon discovering these talented young souls that write both in quick snippets and long passages.
Lastly, I think it is imperative for us to embrace one another within whatever writing community we find ourselves in. We are a unique lot. We strive to be our own voice. Whether that’s in short waves or long cruise ship journeys, it makes no difference. As long as we continue to be true to ourselves, even if that puts us out there by ourselves amongst the Emily’s and Poe’s of the world. Don’t be afraid to be a Hemingway. Do you. Don’t let anyone tell you that you’re simply writing in a “trend” If so, it’s the longest damn trend I’ve seen still going strong.
I’d love to hear your opinions or if you want to share that you’ve experienced this. Thank you for taking the time to read this. Be kind to each other.
I almost didn’t include this here for its meaning was somehow taken in a negative context when from its inception it was to lend strength to the fact that we all have setbacks in healing. I refuse to always write fluffy (mind you I adore fluffy) because we aren’t always walking around pooping rainbows riding unicorns.
Whether it be from abuse, addiction, heartbreak, depression. Part of the growth comes from the fall. Those peripherals can often be silent little daggers just waiting as we walk along the path we pave for ourselves with every intent to travel cautiously and wisely. We can’t avoid them but we can arm ourselves with the tools and the recognition of knowing when the daggers are there in order to help us stitch the wounds if they find enough strength to hit dead center.
The courage to recognize that we have stumbled can be the biggest crow of all (on a side note I personally find crows majestic but just like everything else in life, society has programmed us to believe they are demonic and depressing so for that reason I turn to them for expression)
We aren’t perfect. And when you feel as if your family, your friends, your children, your spouse, your coworkers all have eyes on you it can perhaps be difficult to admit failure. That’s where shame and guilt struggle taking a back seat and that’s when the recognition of just how imperative it is to have your own personal arsenal of cheerleaders shines like a beacon in the night.
As we approach a new year, a new decade, I thank you for taking the time to read this and i hope this finds you well and offers comfort and a reminder this is a dirty pretty world we live in. We are all walking each other home.
The following is an offering from my journal of paranormal experiences. I hope you enjoy and as always conversation and opinion is always welcome.
The Witching Hour…..June, 26, 2016
Most nights I find myself writing in the solitude of the darkness. A time when for me is most magicial. It is as if my mind unwinds, releases every qualm of the day and lets me invade the world in which my imagination takes hold. The words just seem to flow with ease during the hours of midnight leading up to three am. This particular night however did not find me under the covers tapping away on my keyboard. I instead was sleeping, that is until my eight year old son woke me up.
Unlike my daughter, my son since the age of four has suffered from growing pains. It was around two thirty in the morning when he comes into my room, limping and crying that his legs hurt. It didn’t alarm me as I have been accustomed to it and so I pulled the sheets back, patting the bed for him to climb in beside me. I began my usual routine of rubbing his knees and legs until his tears begin to subside. Within a couple minutes however he begins complaining of his stomach hurting. I ask him if he thinks he needs to go poop and he nods his head saying maybe. I encourage him then to get out the bed and try to go to the bathroom. As I’m saying this I look out to our hallway where the light from the bathroom spills into, and I see, quite clearly a white mass of a figure “float” past, coming from the bathroom heading towards my living room. I say float because I couldn’t see a connection with it and the floor and while it was the size of a person, it was not in the shape of a person. While it was a very quick vision, i saw it within a moderate pace. Imagine as if someone were trying to walk slowly, as to not make a sound but walking confidently, as if they belonged but not wanting to be seen. eah. That’s about the best way to describe its speed.
With every experience I still remain skeptical and this instance was no different. I instinctively brush it off as my eyes playing tricks on me, and not wanting to scare my son, I remained silent and continued pulling the covers back, watching him climb out of my bed. I did find it odd that as he walked towards the doorway he kept tilting his head as if peeking around the corner, peering out into the hallway.
Within a few minutes he returned. I pulled the covers back for him to climb back into the bed and once nestled in beside me he whispered. “Hey Mommy.”
“Yes baby,” I say.
“Remember when I told you it felt like I had to go to the bathroom?”
“Well when I looked out in the hallway i saw this white thing walking by.”
Yeah…my heart stopped.
I had at no time even remotely told him I’d seen something. Still, as to not scare him, I brushed his hair and said “it’s late baby, it’s probably just your eyes playing tricks on you.”
His words, in what he saw, matching my own, convinced me of what I’d seen and no one could convince me otherwise. The fact that we’d independently seen the same thing, yeah. It spoke volumes to me.
So naturally I set out to figure out what it could have been. The obvious of course, a spirit. But what kind? My intrigue in the paranormal world had been just that and aside from my group experiences with CVP, and with my father when my son was born, I’d not had any personal experiences so I had no clue what a white cloudy mass meant. Yeah insert Casper here.
Upon researching it seems what we saw that night might have very well been a benevolent apparition. An entity of a protective nature. One that I believe was a family member, specifically that of my paternal grandmother who raised me. Perhaps upon hearing my son crying, coming to watch over him, protect him as was her nature.
Whatever it was, and as uneventul and “non movie material” this night was, it was real. It was real for both me and my son whom I’m certain will never forget it. I know I won’t.
It’s taken me over three years thus far to travel up and down the East Coast in search of the places entwined with the history of poet and writer, Edgar Allan Poe. His works have been such an inspiration to my own pen muse and he birthed my love of poetry. And since I’m OCD about everything, it makes perfect sense to divulge in every place Mr. Poe once lived, visited or has some historical tie to. Right? Right.
Edgar was born in Boston, Massachusetts to David and Elizabeth Poe. He had two siblings, older brother Henry and sister Rosalie. The children at a young age found themselves parentless as their father abandoned them and at the age of three, Edgar’s mother, a then actress in Richmond, Virginia, died of tuberculosis. The children were then separated. Henry was sent to live with his paternal grandparents in Boston, Rosalie to the McKenzie’s of Richmond and Edgar was adopted by John and Frances Allan, also of Richmond, Virginia.
While the places I have visited thus far are all of importance and have their own individual connection to Poe, they are not in historical order and notably the states of New York and Massachusetts I have yet to be visited which I hope to do in the future.
This stop brings me to the home of the Ravens…Baltimore, Maryland. Poe left quite a legacy to this bustling city so much so they honor his memory by naming their NFL team after one of his most popular poems. Poe spent a lot of his life here and fate it seemed was deemed the place for him to die.
My first stop had to be the most notable place that Baltimore offers. His grave.
What more fitting a place for Poe’s final resting place than that of Westminster Hall, a converted gothic style church built above Westminster Burying Ground, creating catacombs. Upon discovering them I was disappointed that time wasn’t allowing me the opportunity to take one of the tours that the church offers.
Not only is Poe buried here but his wife Virginia and her mother Maria Clemm as well. Historically however Poe originally was buried in the back of the church grounds in an unmarked grave that today has a stone memorializing his original resting place. However just like all things Poe, rumors grew of the accuracy of the move. To read more about it, check out http://www.eapoe.org.
Because I’m a geek when it comes to Poe, I already knew this upon entering the church yard and knew exactly where to go hunting for the original memorial. Some other fans that happened to be there at the same time as myself, clearly weren’t as obsessed….errrr prepared as I was and didn’t have this little tid bit of information so naturally I offered to show them. My daughter took a picture of me guiding the tourists so as to memorialize my Poe geek status reaching its all time high. And no, I will not share it. Grrrrr. But I will show you where I took them.
Because I have a natural love for cemeteries, not only was I snapping multiple pictures of the grounds but I found words brewing and wrote this as I came upon this corner with the broken stones.
The church and the grounds were quite lovely and offered a moment of solitude amidst the extremely busy streets of downtown Baltimore that pretty much nearly swallow it.
Located on the same street as the church just a short drive up the road is what is left of the home that Edgar lived in along with his Aunt and wife while in Baltimore.
Operating now as a museum by the Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore, the home was built around 1830 and was originally rented by Edgar’s aunt, Maria Clemm along with her mother, her daughter Virginia and Edgar. Poe left his family here however around August of 1835 moving to Richmond, Virginia where he’d been taken on as editor for the Southern Literary Messenger. Around this same time Ms. Clemm’s mother died resulting in a shortage of money and the family was faced with being unable to cover rent. Another family member having heard of their circumstances offered to take her and Virginia in but Edgar hearing the news and perhaps fearing he would lose his family, wrote a heartfelt letter proposing to Virginia at which she accepted and the family was rejoined in Richmond. Check out the emotional letters here. Good stuff. You won’t be disappointed.
The tour of the house includes poems and short stories that Poe wrote while in Baltimore, facts about his life and death and features Poe’s chair, lap desk and telescope. The room in which the items are set up is thought to be the room that he would have slept in so yeah of course, I was needing my salts. To think I was in the same room as the macabre master had once laid his head and no doubt dreamt up who knows how many of his short stories humbled me. It was surreal. Well, for me. And yeah, I stood there for a bit soaking the moment in.
Upon leaving his home I went next to the Edgar Allan Poe Room at The Enoch Pratt Free Library and to say I was blown away by the appearance of the library itself is an understatement. The architecture geek in me was bleeding a smile. But I’ll refrain from getting sidetracked and sharing the gazillion pictures I took once inside.
Dedicated to Poe on the 125th anniversary of his birth, The Edgar Allan Poe Room is in essence an exhibit of letters, memorabilia, and a copy of a daguerreotype of Poe by Thomas Corner. It is used as a meeting room and this is where my OCD kicked in when upon arriving I discovered it remained locked unless it was being used and was not typically open to the public. Obviously that wasn’t acceptable. I mean hello. So the determined five foot three inches Poe fiend went searching until I found the biggest security guard I’d ever seen. I smiled and told him without using said words such as geek or stalking or obsessed that I would like to see inside the Poe Room. He gave me a look over, grinned and said “for a just few minutes, follow me.” Ahhhhh and the rebel wins again!
After snapping pictures like a bat out of hell and speed rushing through my oooooh’s and ahhhhh’s I thanked the very kind giant and continued my journey. I couldn’t help but think he was probably saying “another crazy white girl.” under his breath. I giggled. Yep. No doubt I fit that bill.
Although Poe lived quite some time in Baltimore, many of the places that had a connection with him have over the years been demolished, so those places I skipped this trip as their quite a few. But I got them written down in my trusty notebook aka Poe app. Yes. Poe app. Nevermind that. So lots of pictures of what now might be Taco Bell’s and laundry mats is in my future next trip.
I saved the saddest for last. The site where he died. Such a shame I didn’t have any of my paranormal investigation tools back then. Just saying. At his time this was the location of Washington College Hospital where he was brought after being found near dead on a street nearby. Four days later he was dead. Many stories surround the hospital including kidnapping and body snatching. Of course. You can read an in-depth article about it here. http://www.eapoe.org/balt/poechh.htm
Thanks so much for reading and please make sure to check out my other write ups as I journey up and down the East Coast to feed my need. The struggle is real…
It is sometimes, no scratch that, most times hard for me to come to terms with the sincerity of a cold mind. The inability to have a conscious that has the power to strike you at any given time into a vulnerable coma.
I’ll never understand the capability of one such soul perhaps because of the way I see the world. The way my heart starts and stops again at all the beauty of what in truth God or science has given us. The way my heart bleeds at another’s misfortune. The way I smile at another’s triumphant battles. The way I feel when I hear a baby cry. The way my heart warms when I see an old couple hold hands. The compassion I have for an addict. The need to advocate for the mentally ill. The desire to adopt every single stray animal. The moment I capture the most breathtaking image.
I’m no angel. Far from it. I’ve made some fucked up choices. Many things I regret, resent and still haunt me. But you see I have the ability to recognize my own faults, to own them, to learn from them and most importantly to be apologetic when I should be and unapologetic for simply being me. The remorse I carry for poor decisions. The weight that burdens me from a broken spirit over and over again. Those are things I cannot push away. They own me. Every waking, breathing dirty broken moment. So how is it that others can go numb to any semblance of humanity?
Is it possible that somewhere even in those darkest of souls there lives good? Could it be possible that for every dark soul there is an equal darkness that covets enough light for the other to see? That somewhere, somehow goodness overcomes evil? Or does evil make everyone its whore? The older I get my hope is fading. I see now why my Grams had such hard lines upon her face yet did the best she could rearing me and my sister. She struggled with the same reality of humanity. I think there comes a time when all of us have to grow up out of the perfect world we paint it to be. Yet still, its hard to stomach. Even with every roadblock life has given me, it always will be. For those of us holding on to the pretty side of this fucked up world.
I do love when I stumble upon an image that stops me in my tracks. An image that is fueled with so many different emotions where the words just start screaming at me to come out. Below is one just image that will stick with me for a while followed by the words it evoked. The power of art, words and music and the beautiful path where they meet where imagination is born, inviting us on an epic journey…