I have been accused of melancholy and told that I hold tight onto its inner feeling, that I search actively for those lost moments I cherished, and that I enjoy the touch of wistful sorrow.
Perhaps they are right.
When I was a boy, I read a book, and something in it stayed with me.
There was a short passage of moving insight on the subject.Two Years Before the Mast
, by Richard Henry Dana.
It was a fine book of adventure and action and thought, describing so well the power and nobility of perseverance, hard work, and other such virtues. It explains so well how men must depend on one another and so be dependable for a higher cause than that of their happiness or comfort. Nature is a force against which to struggle, or with which to work. I would give this book to all young boys of character. I never went to sea, have never been on a ship or on the ocean, but I read this book.
There is a scene - an evening in the Pacific, and the men are on deck, quiet for there is no wind, and they have the opportunity to talk whilst they sew sails and fix ropes and so forth. And our hero, the cabin boy, is listening, to the men tell tales of their past, himself half-dreaming in the twilight. And he is struck with sadness at their loss of things so beautiful they have held them long years, working far away from home on the harsh sea. And he says, not aloud, but reflectively writing the book, that melancholy is the most wonderful of all the emotions, next to pure joy.
And for some reason I was touched by that, and thought long on it, back in Georgia before the war, when all the world was green and warm and our lives were perfect, moving naturally - celebrations, deaths, births, the ebb and flow of the seasons. And I knew then I must love my mama, my cousins, our bright life, for on day I would surely feel so. A sadness of past dear, but never again attainable beauty, and a fingering - a valuing and re-experiencing of all I then loved.
It was perhaps a strange vision for a boy, untroubled by need or want of anything, proud and with all the world before him. And yet, I knew it, could see it in that passage, in my mind's eye. And I did my best to notice - to value - so those memories would someday be richer, more complete, and closer to me. And I remember perfectly now - my mama, Robert, Mattie, my uncles - Tom, William, my Uncle John, my cousin George, my aunts and all the others.
The war came and blew it all away. I was exiled and lost them all.
And yes, I remember and cherish those memories, for though they bring me sorrow, they bring me a vision of beauty and touch me, give me the company of their clarity and value. Perhaps they haunt me, and I am willing. So very willing! Though there are few I would share it with, for it is private. Yes, I hold melancholy, seek it and enjoy it. And I am proud of that too, as always, and grateful for the ability, with a kind of wonder. It is a gift.Name: John H. Holliday, DDS.
Word Count: 571
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Nulli Virtute Secundus