Thursday, July 26, 2018

Does Seeing a Ghost Change Things?

 Image result for images little big horn

I went on my first ghost tour back when I was in college. The late, very great Richard Crowe was just getting started with his Chicago Ghost Tours and I convinced my sister, my brother-in-law, and my younger cousin, to take that bus tour and find out about spirits and hauntings in my city, some of which were familiar, and some of which I'd never heard. It was fantastic. And apparently, habit-forming.

Since that first tour, I managed to take two more with Mr. Crowe before he passed. (Interestingly enough, the man is buried in a cemetery that was included on his tours.) And Jim and I have taken a ghost tour every time we travel, if one is available. And every tour I've taken, from the first to the last, I've heard the history of the place, learned about the ghosts said to be present, and never seen any of them. Until Gettysburg. And that wasn't even on a tour. That was just, well, because Gettysburg.

Now, Jim and I are both history buffs. He is also very interested in Native American History and to that end has taken classes, attended Sun Dances, gone into sweat lodges (taking me along for some of those), and enjoyed Pow Wows. He is very taken with the history of the Lakota, and for that reason, I know a visit to the Little Big Horn Battlefield is probably somewhere in my future.

Do I go???

I am also interested in the history of the Lakota. I introduced Jim to it by having him read Crazy Horse: Strange Man of the Oglalas, by Mari Sandoz, a totally amazing book. And I always wanted to see Little Big Horn. The operative word in that sentence is "wanted."

Since meeting up with a dead soldier from Gettysburg, I'm not sure I'm up for what I've read and heard is present at the site of the Little Big Horn battle. All you really need to do is Google "Little Big Horn" and "haunted" to get, oh, a little over six million results. YIKES. I've read books about the spirits there. Compared to the energy at that Montana site, Gettysburg is a park. And I don't mean that in any disrespectful or derogatory way.

The soldiers who died at Gettysburg, although meeting violent ends, seem to be at peace with what happened to them. I'm sure some of them believed in their cause and gave their lives without hesitation. Others may have simply been resigned to the possibility. But although the town of Gettysburg feels unsettled to me, I can't help feeling like a lot of that is due to the enormous amount of life energy expended at that site in a short and violent period of time. Little Big Horn, on the other hand, seems steeped in terror and anger and pain, and the ghosts that have been documented there certainly reflect that. 

I don't know that any battle with a great loss of life can ever be considered "good," but there is an aspect of that for Gettysburg. It was one battle in a war fought to keep this country together, fought to free a group of people wrongly enslaved, and fought for whatever principles men held dear at that time, in that era. Little Big Horn was fought for that ugly concept "Manifest Destiny" on one side, and for sheer survival and preservation of a way of life on the other. The conflict was not just bloody, it was born of hatred, rationalization, racism, greed, and desperation. The explosion of life energy expended there is certainly tainted by all of this.

So back to the title question: did seeing my ghost at Gettysburg change things? For me, the answer is unequivocally yes. Henry, the name I bestowed on the Union gentleman I saw, was pretty much benign. The only thing about him that was really frightening, of course, is that he's dead. But the spirits at Little Big Horn can appear terrified, anguished, angry, and all other manner of uneasy that accompanies the kind of deaths they experienced. And I'm not really in a hurry to run into that.

At the moment, we don't have plans to head west and see the site. At the moment. If it comes up, I will certainly keep you posted. And as for doing a ghost tour at Little Big Horn? You know, that may be the first and only time I will ever say that I might just give it a pass. Call me a chicken, call me a measly coward; I just don't want to have to call a therapist...

Thursday, July 19, 2018

What's In Your Office?

I've been writing about Ray Bradbury a bit lately, and I promise this will be the last thing I write pertaining to him. At least for a while. But if I can touch on the Ray Bradbury Theater TV show for one more time, I'd like to bring up a memory of it that maybe some of you have, if you ever watched the show.

The opening showed him in his writing office. I'll never forget it because in addition to his typewriter and the shelves bulging with books, he had idiosyncratic items scattered around the whole space, like a plastic T-Rex, a robot, I think an airplane, and a bunch of other things that either meant something to him personally or were just things he liked having around.

So today I'm going to talk about my writing space. 

I am blessed to have an office Jim set up for me when my daughter and her son moved back into the house and we needed to reclaim a bedroom for our little guy. I had been using our third bedroom as my space, but that was no longer an option. So we enclosed our screened-in porch and made a beautiful place for me to type words into my keyboard.

And I do have a keyboard. Once upon a time, my writing space was one end of the dining room table where my Royal portable, manual typewriter sat. Dead of Summer was written on that manual, and so was a great deal of Saving Jake. I held out as long as I could against the incoming tide of computers, and it took me a while to get used to working on one, but I think I've got it, now.

I also don't have as many books in my space as Mr. Bradbury: most of those are out on the bookshelves scattered throughout the house. But I have my dictionary, my thesaurus, a book of quotations, and my Plain English Handbook for when I get stuck grammatically. 

I also have a glow-in-the-dark plastic cave bear skeleton; two Happy Meal Minions (one of whom used to speak Minion but alas, his battery wore out); four gargoyles - two of which are matching bookends, and one a candle holder; family photos; an actual picture-pin/brooch of Eternal Silence that I won by answering a trivia question ("Who wrote Rosemary's Baby?"); a bottle of eye drops; my entire CD collection and a genuine twentieth-century boombox to play them on; an orchid; grandchildren art; and all my Important Papers. Ray Bradbury had said about his space "I'll never starve here," which I assume meant he would always find inspiration among his things. Me, not so much. I get stuck. S-T-U-C-K and in a big way. Like right now while I'm supposed to be finishing up book 6. Or should have finished it a couple of months ago. Oops.

As Virginia Woolf mentioned, I guess every one should have A Room of One's Own. Now that I do, I consider myself very lucky.

Oh. And I almost forgot what else I have. Ghosts. I have ghosts in my office...

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Heart Knowledge


Last week, I mentioned writing about that little bit of precognition or clairvoyance or "shine" as Stephen King put it, that so many of us seem to have. There are little things, like getting a song in your head and then hearing it on the radio a short time later. Or maybe thinking about a movie scene and then running across that movie on the TV when you turn it on. Sometimes it's getting a phone call from someone you haven't seen or heard from in ages, but who randomly popped into your head. I know people who have picked up the phone to call someone (this was on the old land lines, mind you) only to have that very person already on the line. The folks I know had intercepted the call before the phone had time to ring.

But sometimes, when relationships and emotions are factored in, the info we draw seemingly from thin air is a lot more complex.

When I was in high school, I fell head over heels for my first real love. (Ask anyone who was with me during my senior year; they heard all about him ad nauseum.) As things worked out, I was much more enamored with him than he ever was with me, and I carried that brilliant but very heavy torch for more than a year. He was also a class behind me in school, so I was already in college when he departed for his own freshman year at his chosen university out west.

At the time, he was the love of my life and everyone knew it, including his family. I had gotten quite close to all of them, especially his dad, who was like a second father to me. Well, one morning I was sitting in lecture at U of I (Chicago Circle, as it was called back then) when I started feeling ill. I mean, really ill. I put up with it through the rest of class but by the time lecture ended, I knew I needed to go home and crash. So I did.

And while I was sleeping, I dreamed about my guy who was away at school, about a girl named Candy who had long blonde hair and blue eyes, and who also had a white Mustang. And when I woke up, all I could feel was anxiety. Cold, gut-clenching worry. I held out and tried to will myself better for the rest of the day, but by that evening, I called his dad and said, "If your son had been injured or was really sick, you'd know about it, right?" That piqued his interest. I told him about the dream and he said, "Well, that's got me curious. I guess we'll have to pretend that his mother is missing him and give him a call." About an hour later, he got back to me with some information.

Yes, his son was injured. Not in a bad car-crash way, but hurting enough to make going to class impossible for a day or two. Yes, he was with a blue-eyed blonde whose name was Connie, not Candy (oops). And yes, she did indeed drive a white Mustang. After he finished telling me that, he said that I could stop worrying. And I'll bet his son said that I could stop dreaming. Actually, the nature of our (almost non-) relationship changed after that phone call. I think I maybe frightened him a little. I think I frightened myself a little.

But what I've decided is that I'm a better receiver than I am a broadcaster, if that makes any sense. I pick up things from people I'm close to (not physically, but emotionally) and in weird ways, at times. I had a very close friend in high school who was prone to depression, and sometimes if we were sleeping over, she would wake me up to talk. I woke up one night to hear her calling my name and was out of bed to go sit on hers and chat before I remembered that she had married and moved, and that I would probably never have that kind of middle-of-the-night talk again. But I did call her the next day and she admitted she had been so depressed the night before that she almost called me. She didn't because it was so late.

I don't get information this way all the time (and thank God for that!) But I do get it, sometimes. I like to think that when people are really close, they find ways to share without needing words, or a phone, or any other kind of device. Just a kind of mind-to-mind thing. Or maybe mind-to-heart. I don't know. I know hard-core scientists scoff at this kind of stuff because it can't be replicated or proved in a lab. But then again, I don't know that love can be proved in a lab either, so I'm okay believing what I do without any scientific proof whatsoever. After all, as Pascal said, "The heart has its reasons which reason knows nothing of...We know the truth not only by the reason, but by the heart."