Chasing Smallwood — .14. Perplexities

[Wednesdays, I am posting pieces of Chasing Smallwood, an early book now out of print. This is a book about four interconnected themes:

  • how to communicate with the dead;
  • the life of a 19th-century American;
  • the massive task facing us today, and

the physical world’s place in the scheme of things.]

[Christmas, 2005. 8:30 a.m. I have to laugh. For days I’ve had “Marching Through Georgia” running through my head pretty continuously. This morning I realize it’s Rudolph the Reindeer! It makes a change, anyway. But it’s ridiculous.]

Joseph, am I scaring you away – so to speak – by my own being scared about all this?

No. And you don’t have to be scared, just do it and have fun with it and when it turns out I’m not really here, tell yourself it was just having fun writing fiction.

Writers of fiction do research.

Sure, that’s so they don’t get caught making things up that the reader can check. That’s your public right now.

I know that. But maybe I’m making up this dialogue too!

And maybe you don’t really know one thing about the way things are, would that be so hard to imagine? So if you don’t know what you’re doing, you can’t even find out where to do your research – so just go with it, as you say.

[10:30 a.m.) I did a little research on the web looking for Joseph Smallwood in an Iowa Cavalry regiment – of which it looks like there were seven volunteer regiments. And a lot more infantry! No sign. I can give up looking, but what does it imply, that I can’t decide or find any trace?

The odd thing is that I saw a hand write Smallwood on a slate, years ago, when I was trying to get his name right. Wood? Atwood? And I saw it write Smallwood. So why should I have trouble finding him when I know the surname? It doesn’t make sense unless he was using another name – and I don’t see any reason why he would – or he doesn’t really exist. And what I’m doing is removing ambiguities so that it will pin it down one way or the other. I like the idea of being connected to other lives very much. I’m attached to the idea. It would be hard by this time to give it up. But maybe I’d have to?

Well, let’s do a little thinking about this – it’ll fit in the book [on guidance] too. If the past life information I’ve gotten has been wrong, doesn’t that make the guys’ information wrong? At least suspect? But if that is wrong – that is, if the guidance from the other side were non-existent or delusory – what would I have left? For I have felt these things. I have given wise counsel from a place beyond myself. I have known what I could not know by senses or logic alone, and I have –

[Lost the thread – went wandering and came back to an unfinished sentence that cannot be finished.]

I suppose it is time to return to you, friend Joseph, and see what you have to say – even while wondering if you really existed and exist, and, if so, why I find no trace. I find myself cleaning up the transcript – adding subheads, mostly – and I wonder where it will end. But I do know I want to hear more!

[11:30 a.m.] You forget, too, experiences you have that are not the writing or reading of words. You experienced me experiencing you shaving; for a split-second, until your mind caught up to what was happening, you experienced looking down at a basin from my eyes, shaving. You drove down the road and heard (though not with your ears) “pappy” and knew what it meant. [It was what his men called Smallwood behind his back.] You heard Harkins and suspected what it meant (though you weren’t and aren’t sure). You painted a blue-jacket with a long beard and two stars on his shoulder, years ago, and didn’t and don’t know why you put the stars on the shoulder-straps (didn’t seem to make sense) but followed your feeling. You are more in tune and you know it; it is only in this area of verification that you go backwards; excessive reliance on external confirmation, I’d call it.

Well, I don’t know what to do about it. A little confirmation from outside would do wonders for me.

Maybe this will help all the people who have to work without the possibility of outside confirmation.

Yeah, maybe.

You can only do as much as you can do.

All right. This doesn’t sound like Joseph so much as David.

TGU at your service!

Very funny. But let’s resume; I’m writing.

All right – and don’t think I don’t know how hard this is for you. We all do, and some of us – not me particularly but some of us – have been through it ourselves. So it ain’t like you’re having to fight us.

You heard it right yesterday, though you half forgot it since. They sent us down to Missouri to try to hold things together. Lyons was down there but he got killed pretty quick, and we were pretty close and maybe they figured they needed boys who were as much like them Jayhawkers as possible. Now – you notice you took down Jayhawker without trouble even though you wasn’t quite sure that was Missouri? And that you took down Lyons before you could remember if he was Union or Confederate? Just keep doing that – acting on faith, as you call it – and you’ll get through it.

Well, you already heard but can’t figure out how it can be that I wound up an officer in infantry instead of cavalry and you’re wondering if that meant you changed the story behind your own back when you looked in the Iowa cavalry units and didn’t find me. But that ain’t what happened. You remember how you sort of fought with the story when we were training the men first off? You had it in your mind that I was cavalry so you had it be cavalry I was drilling and you had it be while we was waiting for horses! And I could fight you on it or give you the story as best I could.

So now we go back and fill in, correcting mistakes just like I said. I did enlist in the cavalry but it didn’t take long for them to move me to infantry. Maybe they figured I could keep up better on a horse with men marching than I could with men riding, even though I would be on a horse [too].

Let’s put it this way: When they figured me for an officer, even though I didn’t know army any more than anybody else, that meant I was going to be on a horse, and that meant I could keep up better. I don’t know if you get that or not.

Anyway, they moved me to the infantry before I was half used to the idea of cavalry, and there I was, like I said, private, sergeant, lieutenant and now I was in charge of turning these clod-busters into a unit. We trained just like I said, no equipment, no anything, but the boys learned, and the stuff gradually came in, and we all marched down into Missouri. The march was done for the sake of the march as much as for the sake of getting anywhere, for they could have just dropped us down the river with a couple of steamboats. But marching somewhere gave the boys the idea of “sojering” like nothing else. They felt like they wasn’t practicing or pretending any more, they was doing it. And they were. We took our first casualties on the road down to southwest Missouri. Bush-whackers. That’s where the term came from.

[December 25, 2005] Joseph – ?

Remember this lesson, later. It is a good lesson for those who will come after you, learning to do the same things. A bit of time spent pondering – really thinking – will result in valuable insights.

That didn’t sound like Joseph.

Remember, too that you went 15 years with only the vaguest concepts of who or what The Gentlemen Upstairs could be. That didn’t stop you talking to us, questioning us, profiting from our advice and insults and opinions. It is not necessary, tell your readers, to know ahead of time what you are doing, much less how it works. What is necessary is that you do it.

All right. But at some point, one wants and needs verification! How long do I have to go shooting in the dark?

In which version of reality?

I will rephrase it. What do I need to do to find the version of reality that gives me verification?

Go to Karen Storsteen or another psychic who can give you arms-length views. They won’t be crippled by doubt and self-division.

Of course! And I don’t know why I didn’t think of that myself! Thank you.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *