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Posts Tagged ‘haunted’

I want to write of ghosts, real ghosts or imagined, the kind who gently bump your backside as you brush your teeth. That happened to me in my bathroom, weeks ago now, and Jim had already shared his suspicions that a ghost lived in our house. “She’s not evil or bad,” he said as I pictured myself with fingers plugged in ears screaming so as not to hear him.

I like to believe the noise we hear most days, of the toilet flushing on its own, can be explained by pressure building up in pipes. And the times a shoe dropped from the shelf in the closet it was only because I left it perched precariously the night before.

Jim’s not afraid of the things he senses. Once he told me a bird was his brother, another his dog Roger, and now he insists she’s not anything to be afraid of, this woman who lives with us.

I try hard when I go into the bathroom to pretend she’s not real, clear my mind of any notion she might be there. But of course I always land on the fear that she’s somewhere, and I peek for her in the reflections from the heat lamp in the ceiling or try to catch her image in the mirror as my head rises from spitting water in the sink.

Or I am firm, enter the bathroom with a conciliatory tone on the brain, OK Ghost, you and me, we’re going to work this out, but I’m the new mistress of this house. You’re going to have to step aside, play a new role. You can help me keep intruders at bay or make sure I never leave the bathtub overflowing. Got it?

Even so, even when I am my most courageous, I’m not really brave. Jim can tell me all he wants that we have a good ghost, a female Casper, and still I will fear. I will worry about good and evil, about Satan and God, or worse, be flooded by all the horror flick gimmicks that still haunt me today.

Intellectually I believe this ghost of ours might be all Jim’s making, he said he once walked into the laundry room and saw a woman wearing an old-fashioned dress, or well, he saw the dress, maybe not the woman, and then he shook his head and she was gone. Intellectually, I am calmed by the knowledge that Jim’s eyesight is poor, by all the times we’ve been out driving and he’s said, Oh, there’s Mike (or Matt or whoever), but it’s not Mike, it’s not even close to Mike.

But in my heart I feel her too, and if I really open up my sensitivities, I know the truth. (Mom always said I was a sensitive girl, and now being mother to a sensitive child myself, I realize that “sensitive” really means sensing your surroundings, being able to see hurt, see pain, feel what’s happening around you even if it’s not evident at the surface.)

So what now? Does she haunt me? No, not really. I’ve spent nights alone, and besides wanting Otis and Rafael to sleep in my bedroom I’ve been calm.

I might let her stay. I say it as if I have choices in the matter. I might consult with friends who are better at this than I am. Have them talk to her. Tell her it’s time to move on. It can’t be fun being stranded on this side when surely there are people asking for her on the other side. Maybe that’s it. Figuring out a way to get her to move on. I can do that. I’m convincing when I want to be.

-related to post, WRITING TOPIC – HAUNTED

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I’m more haunted by the things that haven’t happened, than I am by the things that have. Half worn radials rumble over the railroad tracks near Winnetka and Bass Lake Road, wipers slap another day of dreary fog and rain; I drudge up the things that haunt me. Porcupine quills in tender skin.

There were no trains in the distance. I thought of Liz’s photographs of mustard engines, rusty graffiti, barrel shaped cabooses. She stopped at a crossing to take a few shots; there were two other men there, shooting the trains. One carried a long tripod, stood firm with his son. The train backdrop blurred behind them.

It’s comforting to me that people still love what is old, what is dying, what has passed.

Nostalgia. I’m haunted by nostalgia. I don’t have many regrets. I’m not a regretful person. I try to make amends. And live with the fact that I made the best decisions I could, for the time and maturity. If I’m going to cut myself that break, I have to cut others the same.

I’m haunted by not knowing. Not knowing what will happen to Mr. Stripeypants. He’s clearly in so much pain and cannot tell us why. Not knowing the right decisions to crucial questions about my future – about money, writing, teaching, art. That haunts me.

There is risk in moving into new territory. It makes me uncomfortable. Do I have the strength and stamina? Or will memories of failure continue to haunt me.

I’m haunted that I didn’t go to my Grandmother Elise’s funeral. That is one regret I do have. I would do things differently now. I would love her, hug her, call her and ask all the questions I never got to ask.

I was 29. Maybe 30. Insecure. I remember when I got the call. No cell phones then. The phone clamored and rang. She’d had another heart attack and passed away. I cried and cried and cried. Sandwiched between Bitterroot Mountains and Big Sky, I drove the cherry red Subaru wagon all the way down to Hamilton, Montana. I cried some more.

I wasn’t thinking about the beauty. And Montana is a beautiful place. I was haunted by everything I had missed. The connections broken. I was grieving my grandmother. I was grieving the past. I wanted to let go. How could I let go of something I had never fully claimed?

I visited her graveside with my mother, Amelia, last June. It’s across the Savannah River on a slightly sloped hill, in a wide open, ancient cemetery, along the border of east central Georgia. A silk lily had flown loose from another grave. I picked it up, thought about placing it on hers. But then I noticed the tipped container near the flat granite stone of a stranger’s grave nearby, and slipped the lily back into the brass vase.

Empty-handed, full-hearted, I sat with Elise for a moment. It was brief, short. Silent. My mother was there. And my step-father, Louis. We visited a lot of gravesites that sweltering day in June. And I taped a lot of memories.

Last week, I started transcribing them. Each day, I stretch out with headphones attached to my laptop and listen to wav files, voices from the past. I laugh. I cry. I type. I rewind to catch obscure snippets of Southern drawl. I think, “This is my life.” I am not haunted. I feel a great relief to know the bits of truth memory has to offer.

I’m haunted by not knowing. By what I have yet to do. Not what I have done. The haunting is fear, I know it. And I use all the tools in my arsenal to work around it, move through it, sit with it, even in it, when that serves me best.

I know I have to go to these places. I’m willing to risk feeling. Deep, intimate feeling. In return, I understand what it means to feel joy. The payoffs are big. The gamble is great. I could fail. I could make a wrong decision, the right one for the time.

Speaking of time, it’s up. Rain pelts the windows near my desk. Billowing gray clouds give me a feeling of longing. Can I live with the past? Or not knowing the future? If I’m present, neither of them matters. My grandmother is with me every day. I can always go home.


 -related to post, WRITING TOPIC – HAUNTED

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The Haunting, All Hallow's Eve By The Fire, Minneapolis, Minnesota, October 31st, 2006, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

The Haunting, All Hallow’s Eve By The Fire, one year ago, Minneapolis, Minnesota, October 31st, 2006, photo © 2006-2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



Maybe it’s the time of year — Halloween and Day of the Dead nearly upon us. Nights grow longer. Frost kills the plants, and another season is put to rest.

Or maybe it’s our era, so many things to haunt us. We seem to be troubled, melancholy. Is the world crying, or is it just me?

I believe in ghosts, and not just the kind that might spook one cold, dark morning. (Who just caused the book to fall in the room next to me?)

It doesn’t take much to be haunted. Something someone told you that you can’t shake. Or something you saw. Experiences can haunt, and the specter of disease can haunt, and memories — my, how they haunt!

Is it bad to be haunted? Or is the ghost only as menacing as we allow it to be? (Remember Casper, anyone?)


In the October 1, 2007 issue of The New Yorker, Philip Roth said this about the inspiration of ghosts and haunting for his novel Exit Ghost:

‘Haunted by the past’ is a commonplace phrase because it’s a commonplace experience. Even if one is not, strictly speaking, ‘haunted’, the past is perpetually with one in the present, and the longer it grows and the further it recedes the stronger its presence seems to become. I agree with the Chekhov character who, when, in a crisis, he is reminded that ‘this, too, shall pass’, responds, ‘Nothing passes’.

What do you think of when you think of haunting and ghosts? Are you frightened? Or do you regularly revisit your old ghosts?

Write about ghosts and haunting. You can write about the ways you are haunted figuratively, or write about your real experiences with the supernatural. The topic is rich. Write more than once.

At the top of your page, write these words: I am haunted by … and then for three or so minutes list all the things that haunt you. Just like in Writing Practice, don’t stop to think about your list. Just click off each item.

When you’re finished, pick one of the “ghosts” on your list and write about it for ten minutes. Pick another and write for ten more. If you’d like, send us one of those writing practices to post on red Ravine. We’ll publish as many as we can.

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