Archive | 2:07 pm

Hauntings & Old Stuff

12 Aug

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I like old stuff.

…If we’re talking books or booze, photos or furniture, film or fashion …jewelry, appliances, houses or people…I like ’em most of all. I always have.

I was the kid who’d rather love on a hand-me-down doll with one eye and lopsided stuffing than a “new” anything out of a box. The more beat up and “used” a book: the better…and if “nature” had started to take the object back at all to reclaim it, I totally understood the feeling.

When I went to England and Ireland several years ago, I nearly exploded with too much old-stuff-awesome.  Because even the rocks, buildings, and air you breathe there, comes recycled from like a gillion years ago, B.C.  It crosses the “old” and “antique” mark into just plain “ancient.” 

It was ancient. 

It felt ancient. 

It smelled ancient. 

It looked ancient.

…I’d be standing on a heath (for instance) in the middle of nowhere, a once bogged peat land where the Celts had raised a stone circle for their protections and holy workings.  Center of this thing, it was still electrifying with the network of whatever had been infused into it centuries ago.  You could honestly feel the energy of it zapping you like those electric touch-globes they had back in the 80’s, connecting through your fingertips and skin and hair…to something elemental, base…a root network of being.

We’d take a turn in old manor houses…get lost in their hallways…or stay behind on purpose to be the only one left in a room just to feel it out a little.  Like hiccups in time, you could almost swear you could see the Lady of the house sitting at her vanity, applying scent to the  back of each ear and nape of neck.  The nursery was almost spooky with children’s giggles, nurse’s admonitions, and squeek of wood coming from the direction of the old rocking horse. 

…Sometimes (for maybe only a split second), whole dinner parties were sitting at table within the formal dining rooms…candles bouncing their light off the polished silver, under-butlers in black jackets and white cotton gloves attending in silence.  The studies still smelled of cigar smoke and gentlemen’s cologne.  The library’s books, (occupied floor to ceiling with volumes whose bindings you could never touch), once rested within the palms of hands while sunning themselves, or secluded somewhere in the network of impossibly manicured gardens.

…Paintings of previous owners would watch you from the walls, enroute exiting the main floors, retreating to the bowels of the homes where their empty kitchens were still a phantom bustle of activity, heat, food smells and ever-attending duties.  Ghost horses still live within their stalls…trees that had shaded picnics, games of cricket, and formal teas: shading you right now.

Sometimes the feelings were almost overwhelming.

…But then, I’ve always been sensitive to things like that. One part imagination (no doubt), but two parts what Gram and the Great Aunts used to call, “the gift.”  Apparently all the Kelly women have it.  Some more so than others. 

I remember stories from childhood, of experiences they had had…things they had seen, or felt, words they had heard spoken, in laundry lists of eery evokings that frankly scared the hell outta me.  It didn’t, them…they seemed perfectly at peace with it.  Basically because they had to be.  Stretching back into our line as far as we can source it, strange shit has been happening “to” or “around” our family for generations. 

…Sometimes, in the form of hauntings. 
(Any number of us like to come back and visit…which is a “comfort” I never quite understood and frankly wish they’d all cut the hell out. Also, we’re susceptible to seeing and feeling the non-familial varieties.  This doesn’t mean always in a visual form.  Sometimes it’s a voice, a touch, a breath…a general acknowledgment of “not-rightness,” followed instantly by cold sweats and the desire to get the hell outta wherever it is that we are.)

…Sometimes visions.
(Countless phone calls from my Nana would stream in at all hours, day or night, directly after some family emergency had just taken place.   She would know who was the injured party, just how life threatening it was, exactly when it had happened…and upon occasion, even what had taken place. And at least once she saved a life by it. The first words upon the answer of “Hello?” having been, “Get him to the hospital now.  Don’t wait.  It’s worse than you think.”)

…Or, prophetic dreams. 
(A car and motorcycle accident, one leg breaking from falling off a roof, a death in WWII, and one of the creepiest actual preventative stories of Gram as a little girl getting a yellow dress for her birthday, twirling too near a fire, catching light and getting burnt to death. The identical dress was in fact gifted, and destroyed, directly upon opening.)

Some were flat out spoken to.
(In most cases as a sort of “conscience-driven” inner-voice stipulating things needing to be done, or not, or fixed or rendered.  Sometimes: a literal voice, a whisper, a declarative warning. Often mixed in what I suppose you could categorize as “hauntings.”)

…And some just had the uncanny ability to read a person or a room, instantly.
(Bad things “were” or “are” done here. Something about him just isn’t “right.”  She’s hurting a lot, it’s all around her but no one is noticing. There’s something big about to happen…a lot of energy…its “full” right now.)

…Apparently, I deal mostly with the past-tense.  So I suppose it isn’t’ surprising at all that me and old things are attracted to one another.  We are lovers from the past, connecting again.

I’ll forget to actually “read” a book, I become so consumed in touching and smelling it…tracing my fingers over the signatures of it’s previous owners, trying to get a grasp on them. I can’t just “look” in antique stores, I have to skim and make contact…hold the things in my hand and get the weight and history of them in my grasp.  As a kid, I collected buckets full of rocks, and trinkets…not like other kids collect them…but because they had been hand selected, and adopted from places I had been (a camp site, a lake, a hike, a cave) and “felt” things at.  One of my favorite places to visit are old cemeteries…not for the morbidity, but the life and history still wandering around them.  I’ve been the only person in a room full of “others” I can’t see but fully know are there.  I’ve stepped into houses where bad things have happened and know it, with the kind of instant terror they can’t breed into you with the most horrifying Hollywood thriller. I get deja vus like crazy, will stop cold in a doorway or while standing on a piece of land to “listen”…because I could swear that something just told me to.

…For the parts of this that I am “comfortable” with, it’s been a strange life of feeling like I was born out of order and don’t actually belong to this time.  People don’t always understand my consuming fascination of history and “the past,” that I am completely delighted that I have.  For the parts that freak me the hell out,  I fought it (believe me) and tried to pretend it was all a load of fantastical nonsense.  Until I couldn’t anymore.  I certainly do not “encourage” it.

…But what was amazing…what blew my mind those years back on that trip abroad, (and still does when revisiting my thoughts and dreams now and then, as it does from time to time), is that being there in those places…particularly in the oldest outer-reaching ancient parts of Ireland, it was probably the first time I was “at peace” with whatever gifts had been handed down in the bloodlines. 

It was intense, and full and populated with air and energy and presence.  It was jerking in time from then to now.  It was peaceful, then bloody, then peaceful again.  I could almost hear the people’s words in a language I couldn’t understand, and smell the fires that had cooked their suppers.  Tiny cottages and ramble roads seemed like old friends. A rock wall and I could have a whole conversation almost, just sitting side-by-side and though I’ve never in my life smelled such a thing as burning peat…the fireplaces stoked with it brought the kind of memories back that only things like lifelong Christmas traditions do.

I can’t explain the connection with things that I had there. But I “belonged” to it.  I knew that.

…Which goes back to the old man in the pub, in Avoca: a tiny village, where we sat one afternoon over a Guinness, ‘tween ongoing rambles across the countryside.

Old Man On A Stool: “Americans, is it?  And how do you like us?”

Ma: “We love it.  I’ve had this aching pain to come here, as far back as I can remember.”

Old Man On A Stool: “You’re Irish then.  What name?”

Ma: “Kelly.  How’d you know?”

Old Man On A Stool: “Because that’s the way of it.  You can take the Irish out of Ireland but not the other way ’round.  We always find our way home again, else never feel ‘right’ about it.”

Me:  “What do yuh mean?”

Old Man On A Stool: “The roots, girl.  It’s in the roots, in here. (grasping his upper gut)  Can’t escape it.  And you feel it too…don’t you?”

…Only every second I spent on the land, is all.

Being in the “old country” just re-energized everything.  Like coming back to the absolute roots of me and plugging into the network that my blood first came from…fighting battles and building this intense bond with the land, the type of nature, the rocks that built their houses, the people that lived inside of them.  I remember extreme specifics of the places we visited…far out-of-way roads we travelled.  I can remember accidental monuments and churches and villages and homes we stumbled upon.  Conversations with people we met.  Comparing separate experiences we’d had at day’s-end.  I can remember this one turn in a garden path, and that bush over there…the feel of the mossy stone with tiny wildflowers growing out of a ruin.

…When I dream of it, they are always really intense dreams…where I can actually feel the texture of things when I touch them and smell the smells.  I get totally lost in it and wake up a little sad to see I’m not actually there.  It’s very like the opening of “Rebecca,” launching into this singsong, haunting rhythm…

“Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again…”

And last night, I did.

I miss it.

~D

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