Category: Ghost


I’ve spent the last several months trying to come to terms with Bill’s death.  And when I say this, I don’t mean his death alone, but the complexities of our former time together, how things ended, my behavior, his behavior, our separate paths and what might have been a good pairing of friends, his decision to end his life, the method he chose, his last postings, Facebook, how networking sites function to superficially bridge gaps, etc, etc, etc.  

My textual artifact is the suicide note; my last assignment involved another textual artifact pertaining to suicide and my first assignment was no less cheery.  In all of this, I had spiraled into a functioning depression; struggling to reconcile so much without anyone to talk with who really knew anything about Bill.  

Somehow this mattered to me.  I process through talking and in this case, I just couldn’t find my voice.  In finishing up this final project, I feel like I am finally letting go of everything Bill has represented in my life.  There were wonderful warm feelings, but there was also a lot of regret and wishing I could have ended things with more maturity or handled my life at that stage with greater dignity.  I’ve found myself obsessing over it – night after night of dreams filled with visions from the past, but with no sure way of venting my feelings other than to funnel this process into my schoolwork.  

I’m really fortunate to have patient friends and family.  Though Erick wasn’t around and only met Bill once in passing, he’s been a good support.  He can’t speak to who I was, but he’s wonderful about reminding me who I have become.  And in winding up the semester, and with spring offering a gentle nudge, I’m finding the strength of character to let go of the past and to move on.  

I’ve finally come to accept that Bill may truly have gone to his grave not liking me very much and this was really, truly hard for my ego to acknowledge.  At the same time, it’s so like Bill and that was one thing I loved about him.  I’ll not let go of the positive memories I have of our time together, but the grieving has ended and is being replaced with a renewed sense of responsiblity to those I love.

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Yesterday, the bat kept flying into my life.  When the bat flies into your life, it is a signal it is time to bury some old part of yourself that has long ago died, but you have continued to carry.  Last night I was thinking about a time in my life when I was homeless and sleeping on a stiff bench in the Art Department building on campus.  I remember waking up to a class beginning and concerned students leaning over curiously poking at my arm.  The not knowing what will happen day-to-day is exhausting.  

That moment reflects a period of my life when I was filled with a sort of listless wanderlust.  Wanderlust minus destination and purpose.  At the time, I couldn’t afford an apartment of my own and had seriously irked my parents over something.  

A week into my ordeal, my now-husband invited me to Nashville and I quit school and headed down south for a few months.  When I returned, I was offered a beautiful place to live rent-free, which I immediately and shamelessly accepted.   I felt enormous gratitude, but I was still without purpose and a constant thorn in everyone’s side.

In a very real way, I didn’t “grow up” until I got married and settled with my husband into a home of our own.  Our marriage, though rocky in the beginning, offered the kind of security I hadn’t felt before.  And as we began having children, I slowly began to explore my purpose on this planet.  Over the last ten years I have shed my old skin (or killed off cells with chemo), and now it is time to bury that part of me without direction, without hope.  

Partly, this moment is inspired by the election, but I also believe some internal cycle ended long ago was carried along unnecessarily in the form of guilt or shame or an unwillingness to connect with the people of my past.  At this point in my life, though much remains uncertain, I am filled with gratitude and a feeling of hope that accompanies each new, promising hint of change emerging daily.  I feel much like the butterfly bush whose old-growth skeleton as the new shoots come up through and flower.  I have weeded out those branches that no longer serve my purpose for growth.

Listen here at the Daily Beast.

Since coming home, we’ve all been busy unpacking, finding documents, getting documents, licenses, registering to vote, etc.  During this busy time, whenever I start to feel a bit stressed, I am able to step out onto the back porch (if home), or look out the window while driving, at some of the most beautiful horizons I’ve ever known.  It is a constant reminder of why we came back even as the temperatures quickly slide to near-freezing.  

In particular, I’ve missed the sound of wind in the trees.  How I love that sound; a song that brings the spirit of the woods to life.  And while in Elk Rapids the other day, I went on a search for wind-chimes – something I’ve missed since selling our house and packing up our old set.  After a number of stores failed to carry the larger style chime, I walked into a newer novelty store in town that looked hopeful.  The woman who greeted me was new to the store and told me she hadn’t seen any chimes, but motioned over to a side door with a sign overhead that read, “Bargin Basement” and said, “You may find them down there.”

I thanked the clerk and began walking down the steep stairs.  The basement was long and narrow and not terribly well-lit.  I stood at the bottom of the stair surveying the numerous articles sent to the seasonal discount bins to wait out the long winters replaced by fluffy white sweaters with sparkly letters spelling out “Elk Rapids, MI.”  The thought had just crossed my mind that I might not easily find a set of wind-chimes amongst so much stuff, when suddenly I heard the sound of chimes coming from one corner of the room.  

As I walked toward the sound, I was startled to find a set of smaller chimes swinging wildly on their own. The clerk began walking down the stairs and I met her at the bottom, “Are you doing that?”  I asked.

She saw the chimes swinging wildly.  “No,” she answered and held her hands out around the swinging pendant to see whether unseen breezes might be at fault.  “No wind,” she confirmed.  We both stared dumfounded and assumed it must be some shift in the building or movement from the nearby street, but secretly I hoped for something more mysterious.  

Today, as I sat wrapped up in a blanket beneath my new set of chimes with little wind to move the heavy pendant, I couldn’t help but move them just a little as I had just stopped the girls from doing moments earlier.  As they made their music, I watched leaves flickering in the forest and and smelled the faint scent of cedar on the air mingling with the rich, earthy swamp smells.  I pushed the pendant again.  

As the sound flattened to inaudible tones, another sound took over.  It began as a hushed low rumble and moved through the swamp in a swarm of leaf-flapping fury until it touched the pendant and spun it along each bold note so they sang in unison.  I actually *giggled* with delight.  What I pixy I’ve become returning to Michigan.

Sunday mornings are always quiet in Uptown.  The business folk are home and the more playful bunch is sleeping off the night before; few people, if any, walk the streets.  This morning is no exception – except it is quieter.  And an eerie haze filters sunlight between buildings, casting odd shadows everywhere.  While walking Celli, I imagine I have slept through an alien invasion.  As I walk along the vacant tracks of the light rail, past abandoned construction equipment and vacant parking-lots, I can hear the voice of a man who has witnessed the terror.  He calls from the balcony of the Arlington, “What are you doing?  Get off the street; they’re coming, they’re coming!”  I see movement through the chain-link fence that separates our building from the site of the future condo development, but I think it is only my imagination.  Really, it’s the multi-dimensional space invaders, but it will be too late before I realize.  

So, that’s how I began my day – imaging an exciting, albeit morbid adventure that could be at any moment, and yet remains far enough away from reality, that I can still enjoy my peaceful morning walk.

Today is the last day of my twenties; tomorrow I turn 30.  I used to dread growing old, but in life post-cancer, growing old is a goal.  I thought the urge to reminisce would catch me off guard last minute; threatening to enact some hint of regret, but instead I feel content and satisfied in reaching my thirties.  

I’m also very glad to be in Michigan at this time in my life.  Two years ago on my birthday we took a trip to Mackinac Island.  I looked out over the bow of the boat at rainbows forming in the freshwater spray.  The wind whipped through our hair and out over the straits of Mackinac, the iron bridge took on a soft look in the bright sunlight.  It was a moment so well-engrained that while my body was secretly host to a silent mutation, I dreamed of my good-byes to family.  Each time I said goodbye in dreams, I walked into the spray and knew then I was passing into a new realm, though at the time I didn’t even believe in Santa Clause.  I discovered the lump two days later and my life was forever changed.  

In a way, being up here feels like the closing of some loop.  Like I’ve been here before, but my path has changed.  Left untreated, NHL kills within two-years.  Most recurrences take place within the first two years into remission.  Whatever the significance, this experience has completed a two-year cycle.  At a time when I believed I would regret the turning of a decade, I am elated to put my twenties behind me; to embark full-throttle on a new adventure; to leap into the next phase of my life uninhibited; to count rainbows on the spray and to take on the softer look wisdom grants us as we age.

 

Eight years ago this afternoon, I got married to this man in a beautiful ceremony on the shoreline of East Grand Traverse Bay on a narrow strip of sandy peninsula uncovered by low water levels that year.  Grandma Maxine (Marker) had commented to me one afternoon, as we swayed on the old porch swing overlooking the bay, that this peninsula only appears once every 75 years.  I thought it would make a beautiful spot for a ceremony!  One that would reminisce on its own long after we were dead and gone from this earth.

Josh walked me down the isle and doted on me the whole afternoon, having never fully approved of any of my male counterparts – he was reluctant to let enter into the confines of matrimony.  We walked barefoot down the beach as we had done many times before, only this time Josh wore a tux and I lifted my satin skirts above my ankles to protect the dress lovingly made for me by my close friend Kate.  Kate made all of the dresses in our wedding by hand and I love to this day that she so resembles Audrey Hepburn in all the photographs. 

Later, I would run into acquaintances from school who had heard I had finally married that Joshua Marker boy because people had seen us walking together across the street at our wedding.  Close, I would say, but not quite.

 

I think for both Erick and myself one of the most beautiful things about our ceremony was the love poured into every detail.  We had only $1200 to spend on the big event and asked for help in every aspect of preparation.  Kate’s mom made us a delightfully tasty cake (carrot – Erick’s favorite), Kate made the beautiful dresses and subsequently made them priceless, Uncle Doug made his famous ribs, everyone brought a dish to pass, the Markers outdid themselves offering their home for the reception – and decorating it splendidly, Erick’s father serenaded us down the isle and my step-father brought down the table he had crafted by hand to hold our cake.  It was such a fun occasion and I will always remember the people who made our day special. 

And it is the people still we remember more than anything.  So many have gone.  My uncle, who in the photos looks vibrantly healthy, died of cancer that winter.  My grandmother and Grandma Maxine, who called me (and everyone who joined her on the porch swing) “Darlin'”, Sandy Bottoms, Uncle Jack, Anne and others – it seemed this gathering for our family was one of the last to include so many of our elders.  And in such, we have some wonderful photos that we will always cherish.  

One of my favorite memories of that evening was Erick sitting down with my Uncle Craig to play some music.  They played together well into the night.  Erick’s father later joined in and the music transported us into the same nostalgic state I feel whenever I see the photos.   

Here, we’ve just uncovered the beautiful table made by my step-father.  A cottonwood slab balanced over the base of a large cedar stump.  Wow, we say, wow!

 

We didn’t get fancy with the guys.  Just black and white with attitude.  Behind John and Andy, you can see the sandy peninsula where the ceremony took place.  We were married unintentionally on Friday, the 7th in the seventh month (July) at seven o’clock.  Lucky us.  We were embarking upon the adventure of becoming a family.  Today we can look back and see how the fabric was carefully woven to include not only our children and immediate family, but also our friends and people who entered our lives after this date who will always be a part of the journey. 

*Please note, these are some of the few digital photos I have of our wedding.  The majority of photos are still packed away in boxes up north, but whenever we land somewhere, I’ll scan and share some of them here.

The word paranormal combines two words “para” or beyond and normal.  It’s the study of things that seem to defy scientific explanation.  Really, there are plenty of things in science this heading might encompass – For decades, the neutrino, a subatomic particle with little to no mass, defied our human understanding of how particles function, but you didn’t see scientists labeling the activity “beyond normal.”  Paranormal research began in at the turn of the last century as a way to study extra-sensory perception, or ESP.  Today paranormal research groups study everything from psychic phenomena like telepathy to channeling to ghosts to astrology.  In other words, literally anything beyond normal.  

I had always thought of the word differently: para as in parallel or a world or concept parallel to our laws of binding our physical universe.  I thought of paranormal as the research enveloping all things non-physical.  I’d still like to think of it as a science with the same approach to all things scientific – using hypothesis, conducting experiments, gathering evidence, conjecturing, debunking, etc.  

Poltergeist phenomena is my favorite.  Found in nearly all cultures and religious groups, the activity of the “noisy ghost” is widely reported and documented.  So are hallucinations.  And yet, a single poltergeist event can be witnessed/encountered by multiple people, so I put more validity into claims of this activity.  As a child, I experienced something that would be defined as poltergeist activity.  I don’t feel silly admitting this because I believe strongly there is a valid explanation for these experiences.  

In my opinion, we don’t have to believe in the supernatural, to better understand the paranormal.   In talking with people, I’ve found most have some story to share – even the skeptics – of something they just can’t explain.  And yet, they all share a desire to find some explanation.

Modern day ghost-hunters invest a good deal of time and money into capturing evidence of paranormal activity.  Whether actual ghosts or residual energy, these pseudo scientists employee EMF meters to measure electric-magnetic fields, recording devices to record “EVPs” or electronic-voice phenomena, infrared and thermal cameras to measure and capture movements or sudden changes in temperature in a room and other tools to assist the investigators with seeing in the dark.  

When I first met a “ghost-hunter,” I had a lot of questions and I wasn’t very polite about asking.  Questions like, “Isn’t hanging around grave-yards cliche?” or “Don’t you think walking around houses in the dark is a good way to scare up experiences that might not occur in broad daylight?”  

These questions were quickly answered.  Graveyards tend to make people uncomfortable at night so investigators take new people there to see how they handle fear.  Okay, makes sense, but why the dark?  I was told this was the quiet time and it was more likely you would capture genuine activity than during the day.  There are just too many noises during the day and investigators prefer to turn off any unnecessary electronics to avoid EMF interference. Hence, dark places at night.

I’m actually more impressed than anything getting to know people who study ghosts on the side.  They’re not crazy as I expected.  They’re not charging people money to do bogus investigations.  I was told if someone charges for their work, beware.  Most investigators will do anything to discredit their own findings because they know these findings will be equally scrutinized by any skeptic.  Still, the fact remains, if you haven’t experienced the paranormal, can you ever really believe it?

Then again, I’ve never seen a neutrino, but I am no less a believer.  

We had an offer in on the Poe House, but it was countered and we decided not to counter again.  This was sort of a last ditch effort to find a house in Charlotte.  It’s now time for a break while we collect our thoughts, spend some time back home in Michigan and determine our course.  I wish things were easier right now, but nothing is easy in this economy, so why bother feeling down about it?  I’m going to have to buy another copy of the Grapes of Wrath, since my own copy is buried in some warehouse back home.  We (us, our country) are nowhere near the edge of turmoil experienced by those who survived the Depression or are we?  Is it simply that our poor are better hidden in the shadows cast off corporate buildings?  

I’m researching an ancestor of mine (or piggybacking off the research of my step-father), McDonald Clarke- known by many as “The Mad Poet” and revered for his eccentricities and his innocence.  He often found himself poor and alone, but many, including the best poets of his day, marveled at his uncanny ability to smile in the face of cruelty, to find decency in anyone and to seek out the stars through a large hole in his attic-room roof, rather than suffer the misery of defeat of being poor.  In his poem, Humility, Clarke writes,

“Do you call me poor, you slugger? // Won’t Posterity let me hug her, // And won’t she hug me back again? // Isn’t my pen // The Sceptre of Eternity, to wave //  Over Earth’s grave?”

And we are by no means poor, but we feel the pinch and empathetically are suffering with the worst off for we know these are families not unlike our own.  And because we have had to worry at times in our own lives about from where our next meal might come.  

The beauty in these times is that they are less superficial.  Sincerity seems to flow in all art, music, from the pen.  These are times when we build strong foundations – not of brick and mortar, but of friendships that will lead us through the hard times.  

“By calling me poor, you slugger,

Psho!  Psho!

I’m sure I don’t feel so –

So I should think

From this hurricane of ink.”  -MC

 

Erick joined us right before the march began and the whole family (including Celli Belle) walked to raise money for research to beat cancer.  We met so many nice people and beautiful pups.  There must have been over a hundred dogs and their families.  Along the walk, there were water bowls and wading pools.  The police escorted the march, so we were able to spread out across the street and it was then you could see just how many people were out early in the morning heat in support of a cure.  Warm fuzzies all over.

Later, Erick, the girls and I walked down to the festivities in Uptown.  We saw the Calypso Tumblers performing on the street – VERY cool and wild.  I hadn’t heard of them until yesterday, but they’re amazing stage performers.  We watched them jump over a line of people about 10 deep.  Crazy stuff.

After a few hours in Uptown Erick and I thought it might be fun to take the train down to Pineville, so we purchased day passes and hopped the train.  We had to stand the entire 20-minute ride, which at 70mph, was pretty exciting and when we arrived in Pineville the temperature had soared to 100 degrees, so we were pretty slow-moving, but nonetheless determined to have a good time.  We meandered through shops and enjoyed milkshakes and a lot of water before boarding the train for home.  And this is when things got strange again.

I’ve mentioned openly before seeing “ghosts,” but I haven’t had the pleasure while here in Charlotte to see much other than the overriding face of fast-paced life all around.  Maybe it was because I was more relaxed than usual, having found a seat for the ride home; or perhaps I was suffering from a heat-stroke induced hallucination, but regardless, yesterday I saw my first “ghost” in Charlotte.  

I heard a boy laugh and I turned my head in time to see a little boy, about nine-years-old, approaching my girls.  He wanted to engage them, but clearly they couldn’t see him.  He faded out, but I remember him clearly.  He was black, wearing a little-league uniform with the colors green and yellow.  The cap had a lot of yellow on the front and he showed me a ball – the ball also had a lot of yellow.  He was connected somehow to a man seated behind me and I got the feeling he was someone’s brother.  I didn’t get the feeling of grief that might accompany a parent losing a child, but rather one that might accompany someone losing a peer.  I also felt like his passing was sudden – so accident or sudden death by other means – not a drawn-out illness.  I also felt like his death happened some time ago – more than 10 years.  

Those were the feelings that accompanied the vision.  I’m sharing the experience here for future reference.

As I have mentioned in the past, it is my belief that these visions may be a glimpse of someone else’s projected thought.  The strange thing was I saw the boy before the man connected to the boy got on the train.