I felt that the time had come to sink roots and grow the tree that might provide shade and shelter and fruit for those who sought what I had found.
My unspoken prayer was "Show me the way, and I will follow it."
Then, as in a dream, I saw a road stretch out before me. It entered a city but did not end there. It led to the shore of a large body of water. Over the water I saw a tiny finger of light, like the beacon of a lighthouse coming from the opposite shore.
In my imagination it seemed that all I need do was to look and think in order to acquire the power of locomotion in the direction of my gaze. So I imagined myself flying, as a sea gull, out over the water, drawn onward by that beacon of light.
As I neared the other shore, in this evening flight of imagination, I saw a little stream that the light illuminated. From a small inland lake this stream ran parallel with the shore through a pond into a shallow valley between a hillside of timber on the left, and more gently sloping hills of pastureland on the right.
I made a diagram of this visionary valley in my notebook, and wrote beneath it, "This is my valley. I am now going home."
Then I set out in search of it. I did not doubt for a moment that it existed. But I did not immediately find it. I went to California to meet friends who were to return east with me. We climbed to the top of one of the Hollywood hills, where we put up a large wooden cross as a landmark.
I looked down and said to my companions, "Someday I am coming back here again, and even now I can see how it will look then. All that we see from here will be filled with streets and building, homes, streetcars. And at night it will be ablaze with lights like the reflection of stars in a mirror. We could stay here and become a part of all that progress. We could own land here and become wealthy. But at what price? Are we to be as other men? Or shall we do what other men have never thought of doing, and discover things they little dream exist?"
I knew then that this was not the hillside of my vision. I knew that the valley of my dream must remain undesecrated by the world for another half a century.
* * * * *
It was Valentine's Day, and I had promised to spend the evening with Mother at the home of my sister Bertha and her family. They had built an apartment building and lived in one of the apartments, on the second floor. A few friends were expected to join us.
As I stood outside before going in, I saw someone in the lower apartment. I caught just a glimpse of a pair of large, dark, calm eyes beneath a clear, white brow. It was the face of a girl prematurely poised, like the portrait of a virgin newly emerged from the chrysalis of a childhood that lingered still like haunting, half-forgotten memories.
I thought: Where have I seen her before? But no answer was forthcoming, save that I had never seen her before. No such person had been in the neighborhood before I had gone west.
I shrugged to myself and dismissed the thought. But it was not to be dismissed so easily. Those dark eyes haunted me. Moreover, they seemed to challenge me, and I could not define why.
I thought: How deceiving their calmness, like the surface of two deep pools in the starlight. What fire, what pride, what depths of hurt or loyalty were hidden there?
A little later, when I was upstairs, I asked my mother, "Who lives below here?"
She said, "A young friend of mine and her mother. She visits with me often, and we sew together. I have been telling her about you, Joseph. I want you to meet her and talk with her. She is such a fine, sweet girl, much too young to be working all day every day helping to support her mother, and working at home besides. She does not have the social life that she has been accustomed to, and that she should be having right now. Perhaps you can help her and advise what she ought to do. She would not ask it. She is too proud for that. But you will do this for me?"
"How old is she, Mother?"
"She is sixteen or seventeen, but you would think she was older by her actions. She has the poise of twenty, and a quiet determination that exceeds mine. I often wonder at the nimbleness of her fingers and the things she is able to do so quickly and quietly that you hardly know she has done them."
"You have not yet told me her name, Mother."
"Haven't I, Joseph? Well, it is Lillian. I shall ask Bertha to invite her up here this very evening, if she will come, and you will see for yourself what I mean."
So for Mother's sake - and for absolutely no other reason - I found myself facing a slim, dark-haired little lady whose proud but graceful carriage and long, black eyelashes might have stepped out of the family portrait of a southern cavalier planter and his children before the Civil War.
From her black eyes, so calm, so poised, so indifferent at first, there now sparkled a flash of mingled amusement and defiance.
I exclaimed, "But your name should have been Mary!"
"Well," she admitted, "my full name is Mary Lillian."
"Then what are you doing this far north?" I asked her. "You are a southern girl, or I'll never make another guess about anything."
"Yes, that is true. I was born and reared in Kentucky, but now I live in Chicago . I don't see what my name has to do with that. There are lots of Marys in the North."
I laughed. "Of course that's true. But I felt you were a southern girl at the same time I knew from your eyes that your name should be Mary. If one was right, I knew the other was right - and something else besides. You didn't want to talk with me, did you?"
At this she smiled, and said, "Well, I didn't believe all they told me."
I said, "I hope you didn't!"
She added, smiling quizzically, "Because if it were all true - well, it just couldn't be true, that's all. No one could know things like they say you do. And if they did, I would not want to know them. Imagine how I would feel right now if I thought you could know all my past, and what I am thinking, and what is going to become of me!"
I said, "If I tell you the truth about all that, will you keep it a secret?"
Surprised and suddenly serious, she said, "Certainly. I will not mention anything you tell me, but I do not ask you to tell me anything."
"Well, the truth is that I don't know any of the things people think I do, If I told you all about your past, I would not know what I was talking about. I might sense your thoughts, but I don't try and I don't pry. If it is given to me to see a vision for your future, it is not I, for I have no such vision of myself. I am only a little messenger boy delivering a wireless telegram. I don't even open it to read it, and try to remember it and understand it myself. Can you understand that?"
"I don't know. I'll have to think about it. I'll try."
"Then maybe I can help by showing you what I mean. I don't know anything of your past, but it is given me to realize by intuition that from the day of your birth up to now there has not been one single thing you have ever done or thought that you need be ashamed of. I see tears, because you have lost things in life that were dear to you. Through no fault of your own you have been deprived of much that should have been yours, in home environment and advantages. Your loyalty has robbed you of girlhood days and personal advancement. As I told you, I don't know what I am talking about, but you do. Don't you?"
She looked at me with wide eyes, her breath suspended. She whispered, "Yes."
"And to show you that details are possible, though we won't go into them, what happened to one of your three rings, the one you did not bring with you?"
"Why didn't you have it repaired?"
"Because it was hardly worth it. The ring wasn't very valuable."
"Oh, but it was. You knew those were real emerald, didn't you?"
"Yes." She said. "Yes, I knew it, but I don't see how you did, since I said it wasn't valuable."
"Well, there you are," I smiled at her now. "I didn't know it. I didn't have the slightest idea that you even owned a ring, or that the stones were emeralds, until it popped out of my mouth, and I heard myself telling you about it. Do you begin to understand how it is?"
She took a deep breath, and said, "It sounds so simple when you say it, but it will take me longer than this to begin to understand how it is."
"Well, all that matters right now, Mary Lillian, is that you realize that I do not claim to know these things myself, but when they come to me, if they do, they are true. That is the only reason for mentioning things that you already know. Now I will tell you something I see that you don't know. I am only doing this so you will stop worrying like you sometimes do, without anyone knowing about it. You don't need to worry about anything in your future. About a year from now you will have a home of your own, and everything will be changed."
"You mean I will be married?"
"Yes, you will be married before that time."
"Won't I be in Chicago ?"
"No, you will not be living in any city."
"Oh!" she exclaimed. "But I won't live on a farm! I've always said that I would never marry a farmer! If I had to live on a farm, I would never marry at all!"
"Well, I agree that you will never be a farmer's wife, but you will live in the country. It will not be a farm, exactly, but a beauty spot, with woods and a stream, near a lake. You will have flower gardens all about, and if there is any farming it will be only a kitchen garden for your own use, with pasture for cows and horses, so that you will have fresh milk and riding horses. Of course, you will visit the city from time to time, and later in life will travel. The older you get, the more beautiful you will become; and the best part of your life will come last."
After that Mary Lillian was often present of an evening in a group with her mother, my mother and sister, or a few friends. We grew to know each other, but it was a growth as intangible as that of the roots of a tree. In silence, and without even the touch of our hands, the unseen waves of understanding played between us. When the conversation of others took a turn that amused us, or bored us, or exasperated us, a brief glance at each other, a single flash of eyes, fully conveyed our view to each other. We had expressed ourselves; we had been understood; we were strengthened; we felt relieved.
* * * * *
With the summer ahead, I announced my intentions of going camping in Michigan. I was going to follow the little beacon light of my vision and hunt for my future home. The idea of escaping the city and camping in the woods by the waters of Michigan so appealed to our little circle of friends that when we took the boat from Chicago, on June 6, armed with tents, cots, blankets, and other equipment, we had a crew of six men, three of whom brought along their wives, and there was a woman besides who had agreed to undertake the cooking.
On the south side of White Lake we set up a small permanent camp for the season. Other friends were to come from time to time, and for varying periods, for their vacations.
Mary Lillian and her mother came over to spend the last two weeks in June with us, and there, with the wind rustling in the pines, with the water softly lapping the shore at sunset, with the fragment smoke of wood burning in our campfire, the alchemy of nature completed her binding. Yet nothing was said to reveal it. But when they left I knew the time had come. I was so lonesome that everybody noticed it, and concluded the reason. A pall settled over the whole camp. Finally, the others all talked it over behind my back, and decided that the best thing to do was to send someone across the lake to bring Mary Lillian back again. But the moment I knew what they were planning, I put an immediate stop to it. I saw a quaint and wistful vision of a little lady stepping out of the pages of history to whisper, "Why don't you speak for yourself, John?"
So I went back to the city, myself.
When Mary Lillian saw me she did not ask why I had come. I held out my hand and she placed hers within it. I said, "Come," and she followed me out into the summer evening.
Then she looked up into my eyes, and asked, "When?"
I said, "Now and forever."
We were married on July 3. Then I brought her back to camp again.
I had placed a diagram and description of the kind of place I was looking for in the hands of real-estate agents. It was not long before one of them, Frank Pryor of Montague, told me, "You know, there is such a place as you describe just north of White Lake on the Old Channel. Your description sounds just like the old Redman estate. The creek runs through it, and there's a stand of pine timber on one hillside, pastureland on the other, with a house, barn, pigsty, and woodshed. The house is nothing to brag about, but - "
"How much land is there?"
I said, "It's mine. How much is it worth?"
"Hold on a minute," said Mr. Pryor. "I'm just telling you that there is such a place. But it's not for sale."
"Take me out to see it. I want to talk with the owner."
"But no one lives there. The owner lives in St. Paul."
"Then wire him an offer of thirty-five hundred dollars cash for it. That is all I can raise just now."
The offer was accepted. The place was ours. But it was the next March 17, St. Patrick's Day, before we arrived bag and baggage, horse and wagon, to take possession.
From the crest of the hill overlooking the valley we faced another hillside covered with a stand of nearly virgin pine timber. At the foot of the hill a little creek wound south, to the left, through marshland and groves of cedar trees into a pond or bayou, beyond which could be seen and heard the waves of Lake Michigan pounding onto shore and leaping high with outstretched arms of white spray.
There was no mistaking it. This was it. The Valley of the Pines - and the valley of my vision.
* * * * *
Then one day as spring slipped into summer, Mary Lillian whispered to me, "It won't be long now. He kicks like a boy. I think we're going to have a mechanic!"
The night watch began while an electrical storm was gathering its forces. Thunder and lightning had always terrified Mary Lillian, but now there was a different look in her eyes. As the hours crept by, I could almost see the white mantel of motherhood descending upon her.
The whole house shook with reverberations of thunder, which somehow seemed determined to emphasize this night as a special event in our lives.
At ten thirty the storm reached a climax in one terrific bolt of lightning. It struck so near the house that the sound of the concussion that nearly deafened us was simultaneous with the wake of the bright flash that lit up Mary Lillian's pale face. She caught her breath, and I thought for a moment that she was going to scream, but she did not.
I rose to go to her, but the doctor pushed me aside, because he was busy.
Joseph Junior had entered the world.
When the doctor had gone and she was resting more easily, with the baby in her arms, we looked at each other without saying a word. I reached out my hands and she understood instantly. She laid our son in my arms.
It was only a symbol, but I could not find the words to explain it. So without saying anything, I raised the child toward the ceiling as if offering it to the Most High. I heard only a murmur from Mary Lillian, but I knew that she understood me, for she whispered, "Amen!"
* * * * *
Somehow, as time went on, the world beat a path to our door, until we had to build a large gate across the road leading into the valley, and keep it closed except to those who came by invitation.
We never allowed much publicity, but a friend would bring or tell a friend who told a friend... and finally I began to receive letters from all over the country, and other countries, questioning me along the line of mental phenomena and intuition. And I, in turn, began questioning others about their views and experience, until a large correspondence became part of my research, in which I would ask others in all parts of the country to check whether there was any foundation to things that I sensed.
I used to keep track of this correspondence by sticking pins in a globe and on maps, in some seven hundred cities in forty countries. Often in the evenings or late at night, I would look at those pins and let my eye be drawn to one of them in connection with a feeling that someone was thinking of me, or that someone was ill, or dying, or in trouble. If I could sense or figure out who it was, I would write and ask them to confirm it, if that was the case.
Sometimes, too, my eye would be drawn to some other part of the map, where there were no pins, where there was no one I knew, or had ever contacted; yet I would imagine a fire or a storm or a ship sinking, and then express this to witnesses who would watch the news to see whether I was right.
Again and again through the months, the plight of people on sinking ships, of miners trapped and doomed to death in mines, of planes out of control, of individual tragedies forced themselves unsought upon the screen of my mind. It ceased to be a problem of establishing the facts, but rather of gaining and providing a better understanding of them, so that, perhaps, some day - who knows? - there might be developed a sort of clearing house for amateur "human radios," as there now began to appear for wireless and amateur radio "hams."
Would it ever prove practicable for human sensitivity to be harnessed and directed to do some good in the world, to prevent things that are sensed, or to go to the rescue of men who would die unheard and otherwise without help? Some system of sifting out false thoughts would have to be developed, so that a thousand groundless fancies need not interfere with the evaluation and function of one truly intuitive thought. If we could "pool" our intuitions, one might supplement the other, and in the strength that comes from union a great deal of good might be accomplished. But working alone, the only purpose that has been served by a great many of my own intuitions was the satisfaction of my own research and the enlightenment of a few friends.
For example, during the latter part of March 1912, Charley Abel was helping me put a star clock on a little tower we had built on the hill overlooking the Valley of the Pines. For several evenings we adjusted the clock, checking the hours in connection with the advance of the date.
One evening I began to feel excited, and wondered why. It occurred to me that if we watched closely and did not fall asleep between times, we might see a meteor. I spoke of this to Charley, and we watched for three or four hours, but nothing happened. Charley would doze off, and I would wake him, saying, "Keep awake, Charley. This is something you will never see again."
To myself I wondered why the feeling of excitement persisted over seeing a meteor. I had seen hundreds of them flash across the sky.
But never before, and never since, have we seen anything like what we saw toward midnight that very evening. From northeast to southwest, a large ball of flame (which I assumed was a meteor) shot diagonally downward toward Lake Michigan. I don't know how close it was; therefore I don't know how large it was. We heard no sound of its striking anywhere, but in passing us a crescendo of sound like high-pressure steam so thoroughly startled us that we just could not take it standing up. Both of us sank down on the platform, perhaps instinctively seeking protection behind the flimsy rails that were but toothpicks, had we stopped to think.
Later, while still looking at the stars and talking about it, Charley wanted to know how I knew we were going to see a thing like that.
I answered, "I didn't."
He said, "But you told me to watch for it."
"Yes, but I didn't know it would be like that. I only felt that something was going to happen."
‘What made you feel that way?"
What we were doing, I guess, working on this clock and watching the stars. We were looking north. Now when I look south, it is different."
"Yes. It's warmer, isn't it? It's pretty cold up here still. Looking south makes me feel warmer, even thinking about it."
I said, "You stop too soon. When I look south feeling cold like this, it makes me think of men freezing to death in the Antarctic. But there you are. If we weren't standing here, I wouldn't be thinking of it. So what makes one think of anything? Just because we are talking about it now, I can feel the thoughts of a man in a little tent in the Antarctic. He is dying, and he has no fuel or food. He's trying to write, but can hardly hold the pencil in his hand. He has been badly disappointed, and now he feels entirely hopeless. He has been to the pole, but someone got there ahead of him. There were dog tracks and a tent with letters in it."
Charley asked, "Is he all alone?"
I said, "I think there were five in all, but now only three are left. They are all wrapped up in some kind of sleeping bags. They don't much care what happens to them. They feel that they have suffered and sacrificed for nothing."
Suddenly, I felt horribly depressed, and said, "Oh, it's too bad! Only one of them is left alive right now. The other two are dead, and he knows it. He could save himself, but he really doesn't care. He knows it is the end, and does not fear it, but he is heartsick. He keeps on writing, and I feel a pain in my kidneys and bladder when I think of him. He knows that only a few miles away is warmth and safety. He wonders if anyone can know his thoughts, and the reason he wonders is because he senses that someone does."
All of this made me feel so bad that I could not bear to think of it any longer. I did not then have any idea who the man was, but my heart went out to the man whose last thoughts were of those he loved, and of things he was too much of a gentleman to write about, of disagreement among his men that was aggravated by their disappointment, of a useless struggle. It was all so depressing that a man would not have the resistance that would save him.
This was the beginning of my interest in polar research. We did not yet have a radio, and I was not familiar with the news of world's explorations. I did not know for several months that all this was really true, and that the name of the man was Captain Scott, or that Amundsen had reached the Pole ahead of him.
But that very night I did tell the rest of my Valley, who bear witness to it, of this experience. I told them that there had been too much needless sacrifice in polar exploration.
I said, "But it will not be allowed to go on. Scientific developments will enable men to fly over the poles in safety, and they will be able to rescue men who call for help by wireless telephones. There will be no need for more lives to be lost in polar research."
* * * * *
For a while, my secretary Clarence Christian worked for George Mason, Sr., as office manager of the Montague Iron works. Mr. Mason became a very good friend, and I began to feel anxious about his health.
One day I told him that if he did not take a rest within three weeks, he would be forced to go to bed, and perhaps never get out of it again. But he could not see his way clear to abandon his work for a vacation, so he ended up at the hospital in Muskegon.
During this time Clarence carried on his work for Mr. Mason, and stayed at his home. One day, Clarence became so nervous he asked me to stay with him. As I entered the parlor in Mr. Mason's home, I said, "Clarence, listen to this peculiar music that comes to my mind."
I sat at the piano and played what I heard in my mind. It was so solemn and sad that it affected both of us. Then suddenly I realized that I was playing a funeral march. I imagined seeing a coffin and the remains of George Mason. My eyes filled with tears, and when Clarence asked me what was the matter, I told him.
A few mornings later I was notified that if I did not come to see Mr. Mason before noon, I would not be able to see him alive. It was impossible for me to get there in the morning, because it was already past train time. I told Clarence, "George Mason shall live till I see him. He cannot die. He shall not die."
I did not "pray" that he might live. I "willed" him to live until I might see him once more. Perhaps my assurance was based on a feeling that he would. Perhaps he would have lived until afternoon, in any case. But in all probability George Mason himself had something to do with it. For when Clarence and Charley and I arrived at the hospital, at three forty-five that afternoon, he clasped my hand, and said, "I can go, now that you have come."
My vision and the music that I had played on the piano in Mr. Mason's living room were materialized at the funeral.
For some time previous to the illness of George Mason, the large iron safe in his office had not been locked fully. The tumblers had not been thrown over. But one night after his death, Mr. Mason's son accidentally closed and locked the safe. It was then realized that no one but George Mason, Sr., had known the combination. His personal papers pertaining to the estate were in the safe, and it was now necessary that it be opened. As office manager and acting secretary, Clarence made every effort to open the safe, but without success. As a last resort, before breaking the lock, Clarence asked me to try to open it.
This was the kind of spontaneous necessity that I was always watching for as a basis for experiment. If George Mason had asked me, while living, to see if I could open his safe "just for fun," in order to see whether or not I could do it, I would not have tried it, and would not have expected to succeed if I had, unless I should sandpaper my fingers and try it as an exercise in safecracking, But with Mr. Mason dead, with no one else knowing the combination, and with the pressing need that it be opened, ideal conditions were set up for a real experiment.
I took off my hat and coat and sat at Mr. Mason's desk, just as he had always done, bending over an open ledger. I asked Clarence to blindfold me so that I would not be distracted by sight or by muscular effort to hold my eyes closed. I asked him to wait long enough for me to fully think myself into George Mason's personality, then, while I was pretending to be Mr. Mason, suddenly to ask me to open the safe.
This Clarence did; and scarcely knowing what I was doing, I turned to the safe and, to his astonishment and mine, opened it in about ten seconds. But I still did not know the combination, and immediately afterward could not have done it again with my eyes open.