Ok, I didn’t see it from my bike today. I saw it from N.’s car. She drove me back to Virginia to pick up my car after it broke down there last week. How nice is that? People are awesome. Anyway, I didn’t see it from my bike, but it’s why I have a car, and it’s something I’ll come back and see by bike someday, because the Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park has a bike map! Sometimes cars are really helpful. Anyway, this is the house where Stonewall Jackson died after one of the battles at Fredericksburg over the course of 18 months during the Civil War, halfway between the two capitals. Now it’s the site of a National Shrine–really, that’s what they call it. We learned that it’s called that because at its dedication in the 1920s, one of the girls who lived at this farm before it was taken over by Stonewall Jackson dying there called it that, but it didn’t really refer to a divinity then like it does now, so maybe it’s not as creepy as you think it is. We got there just as two men were leaving, having clearly enjoyed their spirited conversation with Ranger Longfellow* about how if Jackson hadn’t died here, the Confederates would have won and everything would be better today. I asked the ranger about the rooms of the house. He told us about Jim Lewis, Jackson’s servant. We asked if Lewis was a servant or if maybe he was an enslaved person. The ranger told us the evidence leans toward enslaved, but they can’t tell–spotty records in the postwar South, receipts that showed Jackson gave Lewis money for something–but yeah. We looked at the rooms, saw the bed Jackson died in, one of the blankets that lay atop him as he died of pneumonia, and the clock that marked the time he passed. I considered whether or not the authentic article mattered to me, and then we left with solid directions to the burial site of Jackson’s arm, by way of Chancellorsville–make sure you get a parking permit so the park police don’t think you’re there with your metal detector, up to no good. The shrine was beautiful–look at this picture, the sky, the spindle trees against it, the house. I wonder if it would be beautiful if I hadn’t been taught to find views like this beautiful. We continued the drive, I fetched my car, made a stop at Fredericksburg, where in one battle, men died at a rate of 1,000 an hour, but I couldn’t concentrate. I mean, do you think the car will start up this time? And then I was back in Baltimore. Next time I wonder if I’ll just pop Brompty in the back, or if I’ll use the rack and bring the Surly.
*Actually his name.
I love everything about this entry, especially the question about whether this sense of beauty is subjective or objective… not really the right words but this is something I visit in my mind when I watch sunsets… wht do we gather to watch colors change.,, or see a tree reflected in a lakes…. … anyway… your friends are good to take you to all these places.
My spontaneous affirmation of beauty confirms, for me, the intrinsic value of natural beauty. The question itslelf is interesting though.