The Doll in the Garden, A Ghost Story
by Mary Downing Hahn
I am, of course, way over the target age for Mary's books. However, I really enjoy them and share them with the target audience. I never share a book with a kid without reading it first, just in case. I read Mary's because I enjoy the stories, too - that's just my excuse! Her reputation in infallible in appropriate content.
She has a talent for seamlessly enduring characters and story lines that also have valuable lessons. Her material teaches morals, sympathy, empathy and so much more. They are also stories that can be very important for kids going through something similar to what the characters are enduring in the story line. In this case moving to a new location after the loss of a parent and all the things that go with that. It's a neat little mystery and ghost story all rolled into one about struggle, friendship and doing what's right.
This story does not disappoint and will keep a kid reading to find out what happens next. It is a five star read from a five star author.
The creek is such a different place in the winter. Only the sound of water gurgling over rocks is the same. Gusts of wind moaning through the boughs of the trees and the caw of crows in the distance break the stillness. The smooth waters are still tempting, but oh so deathly cold. Numbness would set in quickly; hypothermia fast on it’s heals.
I’ve often wondered at a death so sure and swift. I’m morbid that way. The winter creek is not terribly familiar to me. I cannot remember knowing it as a child. I would see it last as the fall leaves drifted to float away in the current and see it next when the leaves were just opening to the warmth of spring.
The snow covered mountains tower around like expectant ancestors, pines swaying in the breeze. It’s calming even now, even in the cold, the wind tugging at my jacket and turning skin to tingling ice. I see myself there, in the waters depths, at the bottom of the deepest pool. That is where my soul finds peace, security, safety, where no one can touch it or break it.
A murder of crows flies over in the deep grey sky, high lighting the dimness of the place. The shadow of its summer existence that is winter. The old Craft place, it’s failing structure out lined in snow, the lonely deserted graveyard staring down from the knoll over looking the creek.
This is a different experience, but I can’t help but see the parallel. Our own souls are much like this, our personalities too. We have mirror images within ourselves that differ in only the details, but the details are what make that startling difference. Light and dark, day and night, the good and bad that lies within us all.
My father brought us to the creek above, where he’d come as a child and I brought my children when they were young. Three generations have enjoyed these silken waters, the creek bed lined with smooth stones of all sizes. We learned to swim here, we learned to skip stones here and in a strange round about way, we learned to reflect here.
Back in the summer I sat at the edge of the water alone, as I had many times before. I go there to reflect, to think, to write and to make important decisions. That day was all those things. I no longer knew where I was going or why I was where I was, or even which direction to turn. I knew, however, that change was coming. It approached like a summer storm, the air around cooling, that special scent wrapping in around everything.
If there is one thing I have learned over my forty plus years, it’s not to fight change. Welcome it, embrace it. What’s meant to be will be and change has its place and it’s reason. To fight only makes it harder and it’s coming with or without your cooperation. It may be difficult or painful, but it’s for the best.
The problem then was that I wanted nothing more than to stay where I was at that moment. My memories were not there to keep me company. There was just peace there, in that place. Simple creatures doing what they do. That is all I want, to do what I do. To exist and achieve and cease to be. To someday end and blend into the peace that is that place. The dragonflies gathered around, all sizes and colors sitting on my legs, my toes, drawn by my brightness I suppose. Orange skirt, white skin, rose toenails. I envied them their simplicity.
Delicate veined wings, so perfect, big eyes that were studing me like alien creatures, stout, streamlined bodies so perfect. Such a variety of colors and markings. They will never fall apart from the ravages of old age or face the traumas of emotions and troubles. They live, they do what they do and they die. All in a neat order unless something else ends it early.
But to live here, in this place, out of reach of such horrors as the human race inflicts on one another, willing or not. In many, in fact most, cultures the dragonfly is either a messenger or a carrier. Some believe they carry souls to and from the afterlife. In others they are messengers. Since these seemed intent to visit in abundance I wondered what messages they were carrying? Word from those on the other side? Or were they simply sharing their peace and solitude? I didn't want to go back. I needed to find positive change. Maybe the answers lie in places like the creek that have carried me through lifetimes of joys and troubles.
I will be eternally greatful to my Dad for taking us there, for introducing me to that place that I will forever hang on to through the good and the bad. A place where I can find peace and reflect on pressing issues. A place where I can go to remember who I am and what I want in this insane world that brainwashes you into thinking you are not good enough to achieve your goals and tells you that you are nothing and no one. A place where I can find my balance, get my bearings and gather up every part of myself before striking off in the direction of my dreams.
Do entities, spirits, houses, places haunt us? Or are the times experienced there, the best of times, the worst of times what haunt our psyche? Is it guilt for what we did or didn’t do, that we were happy there when so many around us cannot find happiness? Or is it what we had between us and another that others did/do not possess? Or perhaps it is these energies that give entities their life, their existence. Does deep seated love of a home give the house its energy, personality, pooling like a primordial soup until the soul of the place is born?
Or is it perhaps something that is always there, in existence, looking for a place with enough sustience to settle down into, like a hermit crab and a shell. How does it choose the location, the home or house into which it settles? Is it a possession? After all, it is a free entity – a soul of sorts – settling into a body of its choice. Are they like all of us? Some predominately good, some predominately bad, all with a past, emotions, experiences of their own? Can they pick up and move from one place to another at will? Or is there something that anchors them there, that has to go away in order for the entity to be freed to move on? And is there a beyond for them? Or do they wander here once born, moving from one existence, one possession to another?
I strongly believe that a place, a house or other location/structure can have a soul, a personality all its own. I know it from personal experience several times over. The occupying party/parties must fit with its needs and who or what it is in its essence. That's why some people are not comfortable in a place when another is, that's why some have experiences that are negative and others have positive experiences. That place was already occupied. The entity living there was there first, that is its home. Whether it is the structure or location itself that has an essence, or if there was an essence that settled there, that place belongs first and foremost to them. They must accept the new occupants and live in harmony with them. If the new additions are not a proper fit, then they must be dealt with much like anything else.
It’s a lot like when something moves into a location or home where we are already there. Wildlife for instance. We accept them and live in harmony or we make it unreasonable for the other and it leaves. This is all that the occupant of these places are doing, they wish to be accepted, in harmony. Either they accept you or they don’t, either you fit into their existence or you don’t. It’s no more right to expect them to leave than if someone moved into your home and expected you to leave without resistance because they suddenly decide to be there.
Think about it. How many times have people tried to “exorcise” a ghost? What right do you have to ask them to leave? They were there first after all. Or is it all in our heads? Are the ghosts, entities, spirits that haunt us our own subconscious? Is it our guilt or our desires or a result of any number of emotions? Or perhaps our own existence haunts us, our own perceptions of ourselves and our surroundings, our past and present and dreams. Maybe it all soaks into the environment around us to manifest in an external form that is more easily seen, lurking at the edge of our vision and consciousness.
What if? What if it is the result of residuals of someone else’s subconscious? Someone else’s hopes, dreams, demons soaked into the environment before we ever arrive. They are just residual emotions that manifested and were left behind by their creators. Wouldn’t that be an interesting twist?
Whatever they are we deal with them on different levels of consciousness and belief. Some don’t believe at all and ignore what is around them. Others are sensitive to their environment and cannot ignore it. Others approach it with cautious curiosity and then still others simply acknowledge and accept it as a part of their normal existence. I’ve lived in places that were sentient in their own right. I am of the latter persuasion, that they were there first and so long as we are both sharing the same place there’s little reason we would not get along sufficiently to both our benefits. I’ve never had a problem. We’ve existed in harmony with a rhythm all our own, each accepting the other as part of our natural environment and the relationship flourished as a result. Wouldn’t the world be a better place if we treated all our environments with such mutual respect?
December 12, 2012
It's FINALLY here!
Throughout history, myths and legends of extraordinary creatures have been told and retold. Fantastic tales of demons and banshees, gryphons and dragons, and of course, magic. Stories that every child grows to learn are nothing more than fantasy…or are they?
Beyond the world you see lies a hidden realm, the Mythrian Realm, inhabited by all of the creatures you’ve been told are mere fiction. Only one thing lies between humans and the truth: the Nexus. A magical barrier erected millennia ago to separate the two realms, it has stood the test of time. Until now...
Lindsay, Tell us a little bit about the story behind "Breaking the Nexus."
~For Mythrian Sha Phoenix, magic is nothing new. But when she stumbles upon a portal on the verge of collapse, her fate will forever change. Pulled through the portal into the Human Realm, she lands in the middle of Detective Connor Flynn’s brutal murder scene. Soon it is obvious someone is using blood magic to try to bring down the Nexus. Together, Connor and Sha must work to unravel the secrets before the barrier falls and the realms collide.
Hmm... Sounds like there's some chemical magic in there too... and knowing Lindsey ~ lots of it!
~ Well, I love reading romance because no matter what may be happening in my life, I can always count on my books to end happily ever after.
So, it's only natural to write what you know?
~ The day I met my husband was the day I truly began believing in happily ever after.
So why did you start writing?
~ After hearing me complain a few too many times that I had “nothing” to read despite the hundreds of paperbacks scattered around the house, my husband began suggesting I write my own stories.
~ When I finally took his advice I discovered that although I enjoy my day job as a software engineer, my true calling is to be an author.
So why do you write what you write?
~ My sister drilled into me an appreciation for fantasy and mythology, something I try to bring to my books.
And how did "Breaking the Nexus" come about?
~My debut novel, Breaking the Nexus started as a book written for NaNoWriMo and has grown to so much more. It was the conduit that introduced me to a fantastic group of independent authors who have changed my life in unimaginable ways.
When you're not writing, what other things do you like to do?
~ When I’m not writing, I’ve found a passion for blogging and interviewing fellow authors. I also love reading (of course!), baking, crochet, sewing sock monkeys, playing video games, and all sorts of random crafts. I have an incurable love of rubber duckies and stuffed animals, and I believe nobody should have to grow up if they don’t want.
Spoken like the true heart of a writer!
Check out Lindsey's wonderful blog: http://lindsayavalon.blogspot.com/p/breaking-nexus-blog-tour.html
And the Blog Tour and Release Day Party at Facebook Events:
Lindsey always has lots of fun and giveaways, so stop by, say hi and lend your support to her debut novel:
Breaking the Nexus
After my week camping trip, well – camper camping, which maybe isn’t real camping – I have to wonder with great seriousness if I couldn’t live like this. There is an undeniable freedom in not being tied down to one place, in the knowledge that I could simply move because the mood hit me.
To be surrounded by the wilderness, where ever that wilderness may be, to be removed from society and civilization in the peace and quiet that comes with nature as a more permanent way of life. It has a tremendous lure. I suppose growing up the mountains contributed to the ability to be flexible to this type of life. In a place where electrical outages were common, we were not up on technology beyond electric lights and three TV channels and it was not unusual to go without running water for weeks at a time.
I sit listening to the birds, the creek running nearby, the breeze rustling the trees and I don’t want to leave. A cool breeze wraps around my shoulders and I wonder if I haven’t been gravitating toward this for a very long time. As I have moved further and further into the backcountry, strived to be away from civilization, become less and less apt to be in any way social. I have spent too much time giving to others to the detriment of my own soul, let too much be taken from me by others who had no right to what they took. I have spent too much time under the crush of other’s heals, tethered to whipping posts for things far beyond my own control and paying for unearned dislike from people who have no right to judge.
I stood in the woods just a little while ago, feeling the late day sun on my shoulders, a breeze in my face and fluttering the skirt that reaches to my ankles. A ball cap held my hair out of my face and my sandals are the barest insulation at my feet. No obligations, nowhere in particular to be, nothing to hold me to anywhere and little to hold me to anyone.
Between my silver rings and the silver hoops in my ears it struck me that in that moment I could pass for a stereotypical gypsy. Indeed I felt what it must feel to be that kind of free.
Could I chuck this life for the life of a real honest to goodness wanderer? Could I leave the tethers of civilization behind? The hardest part would be figuring out how to make a living that would support that life. It would take only a fraction of what it takes with all the weights of an anchored existence. It’s doable, it’s an actual feasible option, especially for a writer.
We do not have to be anchored to do what we do and in fact it helps to have new surroundings and experience new people and places regularly. It keeps the writing fresh and crisp.
I have long suspected that somewhere in my heritage there was a line of gypsies. And I have heard the stories of ancestral wanderers. Our extensively mixed bloodlines would indicate, in and of themselves that we came from such driven explorers. It is not exploration I seek, so much as peace from a world in which I don’t belong. A place where I have never really found a nitch into which I fit.
Perhaps this is my answer. Some people, as I believe I have said before, were born to wander. Maybe the answer has been there all along, I just wasn’t listening, instead seeking what society told me I should want rather than what my heart whispered to my soul. All I know for sure is that there is a level of peace here I find nowhere else. It is becoming ever harder to return to the structured urban landscape rather than stay in the wilderness where I don’t have to be anything but who and what I am.
We often think of superstitions as something of the past, though plenty of small ones are present and observed in the modern, up to date world. In my line of writing I often explore lore and superstitions. They are a treasure trove of details and ideas for use in all sorts of ways. But imagine living with the multitude of them on a daily basis, deciding many aspects of daily life. What a labyrinth that must have been.
In a way they enriched the world around the believer. The middle ages, for instance, were a miserable time in many ways. Short life spans, famines, wars, plagues, violence. If one were to research a particular superstition they will usually find that they were beneficial in some way. It may not have been the power of any one thing believed in, but it may have prevented behavior that was in some way risky or even detrimental. Many simply gave hope and hope can often prove to be a means of self-fulfilling prophecy. If one believes that something is going to happen it often will, whether it is some act of fate or destiny or the subconscious steering us in that particular direction.
It certainly would make life more interesting. Imagine many of these superstitions put to use in today’s world. Though there are places where they linger and intertwine in the lives of those with one foot in the present and the other in the past. The deep Appalachia’s for instance. There are places where some form of sitting up with the dead still takes place. It was once believed that if the body were left unattended before the burial took place it could be occupied by a demon who would borrow it for ill intent. Therefore, the body was not left unattended, but vigil was kept from the moment of death to the completion of the burial.
Mirrors – and in some cases all reflective surfaces – were covered in a house upon the death of an individual so the soul would not get trapped in it’s own reflection or become confused thinking the mirror a doorway and get trapped trying to leave. In many cultures this was practiced along with all the windows being opened to provide easy exit. The later practice would have more practical applications if the person were ill – in airing out their room and the house and encouraging cleansing not only biologically, but also psychologically.
Many look down their noses at superstitions of long ago, but they had their place in their time. In the places they are still practiced they may still have their purpose. Even as heritage, practiced out of respect for bygone eras and the ancestors that lived them. So long as they do not produce harm (like burning the wife with her deceased husbands as in India) what is anyone to judge if they make someone else feel more at ease?
Meaning of the size of a group of crows:
One for sorrow, two for mirth,
Three for a wedding, four for a birth,
Five for silver, six for gold,
Seven for a secret not to be told.
Eight for heaven, nine for hell,
Ten for the devil’s own sel’. (seal)
Someone had asked me recently if I believe in ghosts. As someone who started out life in a haunted house and who has lived in several since, I was not hesitant to say that I do. Being a writer whose subject is often along paranormal lines I have often tapped into that belief in some very unique ways.
After all, what is a ghost? It is my feeling that the word itself is a general term, for the definition of a ghost can vary from one belief to another. I lost two brothers when I was a young child. One before I was even born. While I didn’t know him, he still haunted my life. Not in form, but in memory, essence and in the empty space he left behind. Though I’d never known the space when it was filled with his presence before he died, it was a very real and hollow place in our household. It had the resonance of a huge bell, doubled by the matching space on the other side of it by the second brother. He died when I was four, just long enough to know his presence in my daily life, just long enough to feel the empty space for the rest of mine.
This effect was multiplied for my sister, who was sandwiched in between the boys in age and thus suffered not only the hollows on either side of her, but the repercussions throughout the family itself, being intimately tied to all their memories.
So they haunted us all, for some of us stronger ghosts than others. There were occasions when it was their spirit in the corporeal, but more often and intently it was what was not there. An indefinable memory of what had been kept alive by those who cherished their memory to the point of their own determent, not to mention the other members trapped in that household of hollow places.
There are many kinds of hauntings. The filmy spirituous kind are the least harmful and often the most feared, which is ironic considering the nature of the others is far more destructive. Memories and anxieties slip quietly in and do their dirty work while we aren’t looking, eroding away relationships and courage, drive and ambition, all the things that allow us to move beyond the past and thrive in the future.
Just as we are haunted by the bad, we can be haunted by the good. It is how we take this haunting that determines whether or not it is beneficial. The good things than have come and gone can drive us to seek more of the same, or it can drive us to mourn for what is lost. Our own outlook will determine which path we choose to follow.
We are all haunted in some way, on some level. It is up to us to decide if our ghosts are to be tolerated, embraced or expelled. Choose carefully and with a clear view of what you want the future to hold.