I could have just as easily titled this blog post- ‘We live in a rational world, and I, as it turns out, am not a terribly rational girl.’
Recently my oldest daughter was talking to me about auditory hallucinations. Something which I think most of us experience every now and again- you know that voice that calls your name out of the blue, when you know you’re alone in the house? It got me to thinking though, how much more common some of this phenomena seems to be in childhood, and I wondered why that should be? For instance the bogeyman at the end of your bed- when you would wake up and see a dark man standing there and were paralyzed with fear until he disappeared? I know most of us have had these experiences, in one form or another, our ghosts after all are personal and shaped to fit our our particular experience of the world.
I think sometimes that there’s a door open in childhood that gets shut in adulthood, or at least gently closed so that we can’t peer through it in quite the same way. But sometimes a breeze comes along and the door cracks open again, only what comes through isn’t always lovely and shivery, magical yes, but not lovely. For instance there was the day this gentleman presented himself to me:
I am the Crooked Man and I come by crooked ways, along the phantom roads of a country that is no more. I walk by night, under the moon, both dark and full. I have seen all the foibles and furies of man, his tempests and his tragedies. I have known what it is to lose all and gain it back, only to lose it again. I remember a time when my country was still in the mists, before history, when the white stag roamed in the forests and the wolves called from hilltop to hilltop.
I am the Crooked Man and I carry within my bones the shells of the seas and the dust of the heavens. In my blood are the waters that covered the land long ago, the ice that gouged the canyons and hills, the valleys and streams, the lakes and rivers.
I am the flicker in the corner of your eye, there and then gone, seen only in passing and then dismissed by your eyes and your head, though your backbone knows better. I stand at the dark crossroads. You know, you have seen me there, deny it though your daylight self will. I am the chill that quivers your flesh and makes you look behind on dark nights.
I distinctly felt a ‘presence’ in the room with me that day, and didn’t dare look behind, as the hair was already up on the back of my neck. It wasn’t something I could even talk myself out of later, it simply was and he was for the time it took to put him down on paper.
I think perhaps, it comes down to circular thinking- believing in the life/death/rebirth cycle, of knowing that we all end up where we begin, as energy in the universe, therefore we are able to feel the energy of that which we can’t see with the naked eye. It still exists only our sight is too limited to see it, or we only catch a glimpse and then talk ourselves out of what we’ve glimpsed moments later. Children don’t talk themselves out of it though, they simply accept what comes through.
I blame my Celtic ancestors. The Celts viewed time as a circle- each day, each festival began at dusk, their year began with the festival of Samhain on October 31st, when nature was putting itself to sleep for the winter. Samhain was when the veil between this world and that thinned so fine that the dead could pass through and come to warm themselves at the fires of the living and the rare living person- mostly poets it was thought- could enter the Otherworld through the doorways of the sidhe (fairies) such as the great Hill of Tara. To not just believe such things, but to know them means they would truly exist- reality after all, is only our perspective of it. How spiritually rich such a life would be.
Fall is my favourite season, because there is a sense in the air that invisible portals are there just out of reach, but you can catch a glimpse of them now and again, shimmering in the air, there and then gone.
For this was the thin time when the earth laid bare her bones and showed her gems in the random berry left on the vine, the sheath of ice forming in perfect geometry across a pond and the black gleam of a naked birch branch. This was the threshold of winter, when the soil slept, harvests were put up, and life could hang by a thread. In this time, dreams came unbidden, rippling up from the dark wellsprings of the unconscious, murmuring things one would rather not know. These were the dreams that haunted during the daylight hours, spun fine as webbing round the senses, bringing hard questions into the light.
There is no way to know when the door will open to that other realm, sometimes it opens when you least expect it and sometimes it remains firmly shut despite your best efforts to conjure it open even just a crack. And maybe that is why we always miss childhood, and long for it as though it’s our own personal Avalon- lost in the mists and filled with orchards of golden apples and silver pears. Because we no longer know how to leave the door open. But still we stand on the other side, hand upon the doorknob, hoping.