1837-38: Our family moved to here in 1837 to escape the bank failures, unemployment, and despair of New York City. We wanted to leave the chaos and crowdedness of the big city and settle into a much quieter, simpler, and self-sufficient lifestyle, away from the crime, poverty, and desperation of the big city. We wanted air we could breathe, clean, fertile soil under our feet, and fresh, clear, sparkling spring water we could drink. We settled into a quiet valley, near the river, on a little 25 acre homestead of rich arable land. We never realized how difficult this life would be and the challenges that we would face. We arrived too late in the summer to put in more than a few fast growing vegetables. The first winter was a nightmare as we nearly starved to death. We had no stockpile of wood and each day had to cut and burn green logs to keep the cabin above freezing. Fevers and coughs wracked us all. It was a blessing when spring arrived, and with it, better times. One bright sunny day, as our family gathered together in a respite from the constant work of running a farm, I discovered a little flower garden that I would often come to visit and where I could be alone and daydream. I loved my garden and spent lots of time there, enjoying the tranquility and beauty that surrounded me. While I would sometimes have to leave to perform my chores, my spirit never truly left that place.
1863: The noise is deafening! My garden is filled with the thunder of field artillery, the crack of musket fire, and the battle cries of thousands upon thousands of men yelling and cursing. How can this war have come to be? Families and communities torn apart as brothers and neighbors locked in heated battle, filled with hate and rage. I close my eyes and weep; all the while hoping and wishing this madness would stop. Mercifully, the chaos is brief and the fighting stops as the guns fall silent and the gunfire relents. But, the noise of battle is replaced with a sound even more frightening -- men and young boys moaning, wailing, and crying. I am beseeched with the sound of human suffering as these once brave soldiers call out in fear and sorrow; some begging for rescue, others begging for death to end their misery. A young boy, probably no more than 16, is lying near me. His features are soft and handsome beneath the dirt and blood but his face is twisted in pain and fear. He is too badly wounded to have any hope of someone coming to aid or comfort him. I kneel down beside him and stroke his cheek as I whisper soft words of comfort to him. He can neither see nor hear me, but I stay with him long into the night until he drifts off to sleep. Shortly before sunrise his eyes open and he finally sees me. He smiles softly and emits a soft sigh as he breathes his last breath.
1918: I watched the hearse pass by today, pulled by two chestnut Clydesdales. My neighbor, Mrs. O’Donnell sat with me as we watched her son laid to rest. Like 12,000 other young men from our country, he rallied behind French Marshall De Mitry to repulse the hun assault of General Boehm in the Second Battle of the Marne. He had decided to risk his life in the defense of freedom and sadly had paid the ultimate price. The flowers they put on his grave were almost good enough to rival those of my garden.
1944: My grandsons died today. Matthew, the eldest, drowned in the English Channel in water barely over his head. His body was too heavy for his arms to keep him afloat, and in the cold and darkness he was unable remove the gear strapped to him. Peter fared slightly better and made it ashore before he recklessly chose to charge a concrete bunker. His platoon leader wrote him up for a commendation, the Military Cross I think. There is a rumor that they are going to name the gymnasium of the new high school after him.
1990: Progress marches on. Trees have taken over and now surround my garden so that only a few scattered flowers remain, barely surviving under the dark canopy of leaves and the piles of discarded waste and abandoned junk. A large yellow ribbon is tied around the old oak, put there by a local woman in support of her husband who had been posted to Kuwait as part of operation Desert Storm. At least my garden has been left in peace. Though littered with society’s castoffs, it has not been paved with asphalt and turned into another of the ubiquitous parking lots that seem to be everywhere.
2064: It’s all quiet now. Everything is barren and silent as all sounds of life stopped two years ago when the warheads fell. Our leaders failed us as they failed to pay attention to all the lessons of self-sacrifice that thousands of young men before them had demonstrated. Now my garden is just a burned, scarred, and jumbled pile of stones on a hillside. But I am hopeful that we shall overcome this defeat and carry on. Last week, I noted the sun peeking through the dark clouds and with this morning's gentle rain, I see the tiny sprout of one of my flowers coming back. Its solitary tender green leaf almost ready to unfurl, protected from the wind by a fallen slab of granite bearing my name; “Martha Dennis nee. Smith, 1809-1838. R.I.P.”