Often in abstract form
From child hood on and on, endless
Wonder is what I do almost every day.
Wonder in every way
“A remarkable person exists as a wonder to those he or she may perceive with great wonderment.”
One day not too long ago, in another century, I found myself atop a hill in a far away land for then, but not for now; across a massive expanse of water, requiring most to cross by boat. Because of things yet to be discovered, my communication with those covered by the word "love" was accomplished through the mail. While I had yet to feel any real sense of mortality, those at home wondered about my safety. I had not yet discovered boredom, neither as a device stimulating anguish, nor as an excuse for taking chances with my own life. Of course everything relevant at age nineteen, most of what I was up to wasn’t part of what I considered to be overly dangerous. The accompanying photo is that of a very young da harv, sitting on top of a box containing a variety of explosives to be used for clearing the very same hill he’s sitting on. Our location is thirty-five miles north of the thirty-eighth parallel, in North Korea. (I wonder if any of the trees made it back to life?)
Can you be in a state of "art", when the "art" has not yet been invented? I wondered about it, and then in what flew by in less time than I might have imagined, this new form was there for me to concern myself with.
By foot, by horse, by boat, by train, by plane or by rocket ship propelled to the moon; all in a single lifetime, only taking a second or two to marvel at this magnitude of mans doing. With all these in my lifetime, in order to complement a mans quality of life, these same men manage to wage war in order to destroy what they think they have created under the guise of their endless search for peace.
A single explosive blast and all life on the hillside I’ve depicted would be gone for another lifetime, or perhaps forever.
A ten-year-old boy or girl born in the early thirties, without the benefit of a hill high above their asphalt-covered turf, can only wonder about the shortages, that surround them. They have not yet contemplated relationships, such as their own value to our world, or their net worth as human beings. What has happened to them, without warning is the outrageous introduction of fear.
Begun in 1939, World War II is now ablaze, and their lives as little kids have been summarily renounced. Sure, they still run and play the kids games synonymous with the children of Brooklyn, New York in the early forties. What have dramatically changed are the people around them. The children are privy to the expressions of pain so vividly being registered on the adult faces around them. It is a time period when each of them becomes a working entity within their community. The schools organize paper, and scrap iron and metal drives. The kids are told they are helping the war effort. The word "war" has become common to them as breathing. Though common, it remains beyond comprehension for these ten-year-olds to fathom.
On a bright, warm spring day the children were ushered into their school's assembly hall to meet and listen to a veteran soldier. Excitement ran high for all of them. They wondered what this man hero would be like. Boys and girls alike were charged with the heroic depictions being offered to the general public on a regular nightly radio diet. Truth be told, what the public was hearing was totally controlled government approved information. The documented facts of the time period tell a story of us and our allies getting our brains beat out, on almost every corner of the globe. FDR had decided it would be in the best interest of the country’s morale if the citizenry were kept from hearing the real downtrodden truth.
The children wondered about why many of their parents were on hand for the event. Little did they know, children and parents alike were about to have an experience, which would stay with them for a lifetime? The schools history teacher, himself a returning, wounded World War II veteran, took the stage and briefly introduced the star of the show. His preface was a simple statement of fact:
“Like the soldier you are about to meet, I to have experienced the cruelty of war. And as a veteran, I share a bond with all other veterans who have served our country in time of war or peace. We are a large and proud group of men and women. I will count today as one of the finest moments of my lifetime.”
And then he said: (In a much softer voice than before)
” Albert Henry Woolson is here with us today as a returning Civil War veteran, He was born in 1850, and had entered our Union Army, some say at age fifteen. We hope you all will enjoy what he has to say about this great country of ours.”
At that moment the parents and children were instantly united in wonderment as this Civil War veteran, age ninety-three, made his way across the stage to the speaker's rostrum with only the use of a single cane assisting him. The history teacher adjusted the microphone, which was attached to the speaker's stand, and then signaled for us to rise, as he turned, placed his hand over his heart and stood facing our flag. Albert Henry Woolson raised his right arm as straight as he could make it go and began the Pledge Of Allegiance to the flag of the United States of America. It was the best salute any of the parents or children had ever witnessed. His voice was quiet, but strong. His delivery was deeply prideful. All in attendance marveled at this patriot, the antithesis of inspiration during this time of our countries greatest conflict.
“It was seventy eight years ago, in 1865 when our terrible Civil War came to its end. I was a young man then; the reports say I was fifteen years of age. When you get as old as I am, it becomes hard to remember anything other than how scared I was at the time. But some things remain with me…like being high up on top of a hill one day. By myself; you know, wondering about a lot of things. One of which was wondering if there could ever be another war as bad as this one. Well a few years later I got my answer; it was called World War 1;and they said it was the war to end all wars. It began in 1914, just forty-nine years after our Civil War ended. By then I was sixty-nine years old. I moved into my own home high up on top of a nice grassy hill. There was a lot of time then for me to wonder about things. I figured I’d seen the last of big wars. But you know what, I was wrong. In just twenty short years, it all began again. This was what we live with today. We call it WWII. Here I am again, wondering if this will finally be the one to end all wars and preserve the peace we thought we were going to have as a result of ending our civil unrest. We lost our great leader then, president Abraham Lincoln. I sure hope none of you ever have to go through the sorrow of losing your president, for whatever the reason may be."
He completed his little presentation and marched off the stage to a loud and lengthy ovation. Two years later the president of the United States, FDR died. Albert Henry Woolson lived on for another thirteen years.
Note: Albert Henry Woolson (February 11, 1850 – August 2, 1956) was the last surviving member of the Union Army, which fought in the American Civil War. He was just turning age fifteen when he entered the service of our country.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt, was the 32nd President of the United States. January 30, 1882 – April 12, 1945; he was sixty-three years old at the time of his death.
And so, as I began with my own wonderment revelations; continuing today, unable to refrain from the same wonder of wonders; the passage of time.
The changes and the sameness continue on. Today, I once again find myself high a top of a hill. There are no explosives to be found. I live here in the present, but remain in contemplation and wonderment.
One day not too long ago (a lifetime), in another century (1952), I found myself a top a hill in a far away land. There remains miles of separation, across a massive expanse of water; commanding those before me, but relinquishing their command to jet planes. My communication with those covered by the word love remains covered, much as in the past; now faster, but not better. While I had yet to feel any real sense of mortality then, today the more human aspects have taken over. Those at home who wondered about my safety are no longer.
Note: My safety is no longer in the balance. The safety of my country, and of my comrades at arms remains alarmingly the same.
If one day I am the old man to walk across a stage, in a theater filled with children and their parents, will I be unassisted and able to raise my arm in a salute, and be able to lead them in a pledge of allegiance to our country? I wonder!