Tuesday, February 12, 2008
Sunshine, Ghosts, & Giddyup
Today we're having a high of 16 degrees in the village of Johnson. The sun is out, blindingly bright and reflecting off the snow. I woke up to the sounds of two men on the roof of the house next door, shoveling snow into a truck bed below. It seems odd to me--even though it makes perfect sense--that snow must be hauled off like dirt. I mean, snow melts, disappearing eventually, while dirt just stays somewhere in a pile. Yet the huge amount of snow on the roofs of these houses (more than two feet) could do serious damage. It's an interesting cycle.
From my window the sky is blue above the evergreens, and it seems like it could be disarmingly comfortable outside: the perfect day to take a hike or walk. But it's downright freezing, and the wind chill is ridiculous, and I'm attempting to squelch that outdoor lover's guilt I can never shake. Besides, I need to write.
But before I do I'd like to discuss the subject of ghosts. I'm possessed of a fairly healthy imagination, and grew up in and out of old houses and dark, mysterious places like forests and mountains. I also am the daughter of a ghost-telling father who himself is the grandson of a ghost-telling grandfather, so the thrill that comes with being scared may just be genetic. However, a few incidents have happened lately in the house where I'm living this month that have me a little bit rattled.
I'm staying with several other people--men and women--in the Kowalski House, here on the campus of the Vermont Studio Center. It's an old Victorian home, and has wood floors, thin walls, several sets of stairs and random odd crooks and crannies, corners and even uninhabited closets, rooms and sections. I'm sleeping on the third floor, in one of the attic rooms at the tip top of the house.
A few nights ago I awoke to the sounds of two young girls (perhaps middle school or high school age) talking and laughing. At first I assumed that despite the late hour--maybe after midnight--they were out on the street, even though it felt like the sound was in the air around my room. When it didn't stop I got up, looked out my window to the street below: nothing. The sound stopped. I laid back down, but later, it began again, so I got up, looking out the window again, and was so disconcerted I walked downstairs to the bottom floor, opened the front door and went out onto the front porch to check. I couldn't believe that I couldn't find them: I knew I heard them nearby, but as soon as I got downstairs the sounds had stopped.
The next evening I was having a conversation with Mac, another resident and new friend, down in the living room of the Kowalski House. Several of us were sitting around visiting. As soon as we got to talking, Mac's mouth dropped. He had heard the exact same thing: the sound of two young girls talking and giggling! And he hadn't been able to figure out where he heard it, either.
The next night, the girl in the room next to me, Amy, said she heard it. She said it bothered her so much she lay in her bed with her eyes clenched shut. She said she almost came into my room, she was so scared.
There have been two other incidents: Mac has heard music in the middle of the night, a sound like it was spinning around his bed. I have heard heavy footsteps outside my door, that stop right at my door. This happened at about 3 a.m. last night. I'm thirty years old--a grown woman, for God's sake--but I was too chicken to get out of the bed and check to see who it was. There are a ton of people living in our house, and the sound of footsteps on this creaky old wood is a normal thing. But this was super-late at night, and I've grown accustomed to the noise the girls on my hall make when they go to use the bathroom--and this, unfortunately, sounded nothing like that.
There's a part of me that wants to ask the founders of VSC about the house and who lived there, or even to go to the little library in the village and do some research. It doesn't feel menacing, whatever it is, so I'm not living in fear. It's just downright unsettling. We've all decided that we might have to have a communal slumber party one night, where everyone throws their mattresses on the floor in one room, if this gets any worse.
It's funny: I've been going back and forth in my head, questioning my sanity. Am I doing this to myself? Am I making myself nuts, scaring myself for no reason? And undoubtably, the thought comes back: NO, I DID hear these things; they're real. So... it seems apparently that we have ghosts. And I'm trying to make peace with that.
As for the writing, I'm getting to it today, now that lunch is over and I've settled back into my studio. I slept horribly last night, not falling asleep until well after 3 a.m., and so I didn't get out of bed until 9:45 a.m. today. I'm feeling a little off, to say the least. But I'm trying to muster some gumption, some giddyup and go, so that I can get back to the good work.
It's supposed to snow another 10 inches in the next 36 hours, most of it tomorrow. I've got to write, write, write: the time is NOW.