Remember and move on

photo(3)I’ve written about places I know and about many I’ve researched but never seen. It is always odd to finally visit the real location that I’ve held in my imagination for a story. Today is a windy, overcast day in late autumn, and I stand for the first time on the grounds of the civil war battle of Cedar Creek in Northwest Virginia. Battle grounds bring a hush over us all. People died there, often in the most difficult and painful of ways, and we know that they did. Lots of people lost their lives at this site, and thanks to my determination to write a battle scene as accurately as I could, I know more about these people than I do about those in any other battle ever.

I’m not a big fan of military history.  I have very mixed feelings about enshrining war and about the civil war in particular. I’ve lived in the south for most of my adult life and I still cringe at attempts to glorify the reasons behind the conflict. But my quasi-time travel novel z2 needed a complicated battle that could have changed the outcome of the war, and my history loving husband was delighted when his research acquainted us both with Cedar Creek.

photo(6) There is much about this battle to intrigue even the barely interested. A surprise attack at the crack of dawn began with soldiers sneaking single file along a pig path in the dark. It was a near victory for the south, close enough to the nation’s capital to have alarmed a war-weary nation already pressuring Lincoln to stop this nonsense and let the bastards secede. Cold, half starved confederate boys took advantage of a halt at a union camp to scarf down food and find themselves shoes and jackets. There was a commander who couldn’t or wouldn’t move those boys along, giving the union reinforcements the time they needed. There was a quiet engineer who received little credit for his contribution and a showy General Sheridan who rode in on horseback amidst trumpet blasts to save the day. In the end all the stories melded into a Union victory, a little more time for Lincoln and, well, the rest is history.

I don’t particularly like monuments, and I don’t think we should glamorize war. But as I stand in the wind I hear ten thousand stories calling to me and I stop and listen to a snippet here and there.

photo(7)Let go, let go of this painful past and move on, part of my brain cries. Enough with the deaths and the sad things they died for.

No! Remember us. Remember how it happened. Remember why.

Remember and move on. Such a tricky balance — to let go of the anger and hatred and yet to keep the lessons and even to keep the stories. Because they were real people. Real suffering. Real hopes.

I pause, and place my hand on the ornate plaque that tells a historian’s short version of the events, and I let the other stories I have read of those involved wash over my brain and heart. The wind picks up, my husband heads for the car. “You coming?” I nod. It’s time to move on.

For more thoughts about letting go check out my post on throwing out everything when cleaning out closets at Face Painting for World Peace, and my post about the difficulties of describing teens drinking on New Year’s Eve at With a Breath of Kindness Blow the Rest Away.


A Simple Lesson

I’ve taken a bit of break from blogging for a lot of good reasons. Finishing my fifth novel, d4, turned out to be more of an overwhelming experience than I expected, and the timing overlapped with producing a mild rewrite of my first novel x0. I’m proud of all my efforts but, as I keep learning the hard way, you can only do so much.

hippiepeace9If you try to do more, you are likely to not get enough sleep, grow frustrated with everyone you care about, and eventually with everyone you don’t. Pretty soon you are honking at random strangers because they have dared to slow you down for two seconds and you realize that you’ve become the very person you hate. It’s time to stop glaring at the people ahead of you in the check out line and let go of something.

So for over a month I let go of my blogging, which I love, and Facebook and reading other people’s blogs and almost every online activity I enjoy. For the last month I have been focused, very focused and even that still wasn’t quite enough for me to go back to being as pleasant a person as I would like to be. But it was close.

The novel d4 is now in the hands of my first beta reader, and the new and improved x0 is available everywhere that the old one once was. I’m on vacation. A real vacation, where I can stare out at mountains and I’m not on a computer all day working. Where I can write on my blogs just because I want to and most of all where I can remind myself that life is good and that I just need to calm down and get through the crazy times because good ones always follow. It’s such a simple lesson. I hope that I remember it next time.

(Please drop by and give the fine folks at Hippie Peace Freaks a like on their Facebook page for the great image above.)