(Un)Haunted

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Writing a ghost story has turned out to be harder than I’d thought. When I was told I’d need to have a tale prepared for the next group gaming session (dice, pens, paper, all that good nerd stuff), my first thought was that a tale to chill the listener would be just the thing to suit our players and the tone of the game so far.

What I didn’t expect was how difficult penning this thing was actually going to be. I’ve been working to try my hand at writing stories of different genres, lengths, and styles this year but the ghost story still eludes me. Is it because I don’t believe in the supernatural? I’m a realist. An atheist. A pessimist. Call it what you will, but without measurable, repeatable data I don’t believe that it’s there.
Enough about my grumpy self – back to ghost stories! Whatever it is that we do or don’t believe in as readers or writers, there is still something undeniably spine-tingling about being haunted by what we cannot explain. And while many of the monsters, themes, and recurring story arcs find their way into our popular culture, the age of the ghost story is undeniably long past. When you can just turn on the lights to check for spectres at any hour of the day, a lot of the terror starts to ebb.
Ghost stories, as do most stories not written in the past 200 or so years, began as an oral tradition. Imagine the Victorian era – creaky floorboards, oddly behaved house staff members, flickering gas lamps, squeaking doors – riddled with fuel for the most haunting yarns. Nights would be passed by both the servants and the residents of any decent home telling tales of the uncanny and, with so many ambient sights and sounds, how could they do anything but believe these tales to be true?
Long, dark winter nights that begin early in the evenings are the perfect time for stories of the eerie and and inexplicable. Reliable electric lighting, easy access to various media sources, and a healthy dose of skepticism have brought these stories to the very edge of society to the point of easy derision. Honestly, that’s where I’d prefer they stay. Except when I need a bit of a boost writing about a cursed sword. Ah well! Back to the spooky drawing board!

What Birds Have Taught Me

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In addition to being a writer (and a hopeless coffee addict) I am a bird lady. Two parrots live with my husband and I and we also act as a foster home as needed. Meeting such a wide range of companion birds through a local rescue and rehoming organization has given me a new perspective on animals, people, trust, and relationships.

The parrots found in most homes are wild animals, most no more than two generations removed from their free-flying tropical brethren. They are also prey animals, unlike the cats and dogs to which so many of us accustomed, and so they react to us and to the world around them very differently from the way that predators do. When a bird gives you its trust, that is an incredible little gift.

Bringing an animal into your home is a commitment. It’s also a fantastic opportunity to learn from one another. I’ve learned some lessons from the birds that have shared my home:

Enjoy food. Love food. Throw food around if you have to – and if you are a bird, you have to – to make sure it brings you joy. Eat your greens and your fruit and your health food and steal the good stuff from the plates of people you love. They’ll forgive you.

Snuggle up with the important people in your life. Get warm and close and comfortable with the ones you love. Kiss them and touch them and take care of them. Never stray too far for too long from your flock.

Choose your friends wisely. Almost everyone can be a good friend but only a few people can be your special someone. If you give your love and trust to someone, be sure they are worthy. Stay loyal to them for the rest of your life.

Forgiving can be scary. If someone shouts at you or hurts you by accident or frightens you, it isn’t always easy to give them another chance. If you can find the courage, though, try to believe that they didn’t mean it and that they will work hard not to do it again. Forgiveness is hard but but second chances are powerful opportunities for everyone. Try to believe that people will be good.

Take good care of yourself. Make sure your body is in good shape and, if you want to, go ahead and make sure you are pretty! Put aside time every day for self-care and preen if you want to. Preen until you are the prettiest bird around.

Sing and dance and shout with joy when you are happy. Celebrate when life is being good to you. Don’t get so caught up in the difficulties of life that you can’t just let loose once in a while.

 

On Apologies

What is an apology?

“I wish I hadn’t done it.” “I wish I hadn’t hurt you.” “I wish I had phrased it differently.” “I regret having said that.” “I will try not to do it again.”
But you do. You do it again. And again and again until the hurt is what is expected and the thoughtful action becomes the surprise.
So then what is an apology? It is lip service. It is empty air. It is a sequence of sounds with no meaning. It is hollow. It is nothing at all.