fairies

May 28, 2019

This beautifully titled novel is, I suppose, a fairy tale, since there are fairies in it, or, anyhow, beings called fairies. They aren’t visible to everyone, yet can affect the lives of people who don’t see, or don’t believe in them. In that, they play in modern industrial England something like their role in the folklore of the past. They don’t, however, fit conventional notions of what a fairy looks like: they aren’t the tall, fair ones who carry you off under the hill, nor yet the tiny Peaseblossoms and sprites the Victorians loved, and they are most definitely not Tinker Bell. Walton’s descriptions suggest that the great illustrator Arthur Rackham was one of the people who could see them: “In the same way that oak trees have acorns and hand-shaped leaves, and hazels have hazelnuts and little curved leaves, most fairies are gnarly and grey or green or brown, and there’s generally something hairy about them somewhere. This one was grey, very gnarly indeed, and well over towards the hideous part of the spectrum.”

Mori, the protagonist and narrator of the novel, has always seen and known the fairies. Though she’d like them to be Tolkien’s Elves,  they aren’t gracious and powerful,  but frustrated, marginal, somehow diminished. Some of them are probably ghosts. They are untamed, uncivilised, and unpredictable. They speak Welsh, mostly. They don’t answer to any name, but if asked properly they can grant wishes. They are like fragments of the wild, surviving only where a trace of woodland survives, haunting whatever remains of the unhuman: old parks, pre-industrial, untilled places, forgotten roads out past the edges of towns and farms.

Ursula K Le Guin
Review of Jo Walton’s Among Others
The Guardian 30th March 2013

spirits of the dead

May 12, 2019

I don’t believe that ghosts are “spirits of the dead” because I don’t believe in death. In the multiverse, once you’re possible, you exist. And once you exist, you exist forever one way or another. Besides, death is the absence of life, and the ghosts I’ve met are very much alive. What we call ghosts are lifeforms just as you and I are.

Paul F. Eno
Footsteps in the Attic

And so you haunt me. Always with me, you are the invisible diner at our table, the constant presence that trails me as I go about my daily routine…. In the darkness of a closed-lidded world, you are alive and vital, unchanging, mine. You are the ghost of everything that once was lovely… a shadow casts its majesty over everything that remains…

Samantha Bruce-Benjamin
The Art of Devotion

without protoplasm

May 11, 2019

Surely the supreme problem for science to solve if she can, is whether life, as we know it, can exist without protoplasm, or whether we are but the creatures of an idle day; whether the present life is the entrance to an infinite and unseen world beyond, or “the Universe but a soulless interaction of atoms, and life a paltry misery closed in the grave.

William F. Barrett
On the Threshold of the Unseen

I believe in ghosts

February 28, 2019

In one aspect, yes, I believe in ghosts, but we create them. We haunt ourselves.

Laurie Halse Anderson
Wintergirls

apprehensions of witchcraft

February 2, 2019

Our forefathers looked upon nature with more reverence and horror, before the world was enlightened by learning and philosophy, and loved to astonish themselves with the apprehensions of witchcraft, prodigies, charms, and enchantments. There was not a village in England that had not a ghost in it, the church-yards were all haunted, every large common had a circle of fairies belonging to it, and there was scarce a shepherd to be met with who had not seen a spirit.

Joseph Addison
The Spectator, Volume the Sixth, No. 419

Dreams & Moonlight

February 1, 2019

Wednesday 30th January

Last night, misty moonlight in the window. Our duvet and bedroom furniture turned milk white in this strange, uncanny light – which makes me drowsy and dull, the same feeling you have after lovemaking.

In reality: I’m the ghost of a third rate Edwardian poet trapped between dimensions, here, in the snow, on this moor. It’s sad you should have to find out this way – but that’s life, as they say.

Now, for my next trick –

P

A house is never still in darkness to those who listen intently; there is a whispering in distant chambers, an unearthly hand presses the snib of the window, the latch rises. Ghosts were created when the first man woke in the night.

J.M. Barrie
The Little Minister

How to talk to the wind

January 12, 2019

1. If the wind falls silent, she is listening to you. Speak.
2. Always whisper.
3. In case there is a wind swirl carrying autumn leaves, step back. Let her dance.
4. Don’t go outside if the wind is howling. The ghosts are passing through.
5. She already knows everything about you. Never lie.
6. You may play the flute.
7. Listen to storms. Don’t talk.
8. She gives life to your words. Make them meaningful. Especially when you talk to her.
9. If she whispers in your ear, listen closely. It means she trusts you enough to share her secrets.
10. Words travel far and fast. Don’t say anything that could awake the spirits.
11. She has a strong temperament and gets angry easily. Make sure to always be nice to her, you don’t want to be on her bad side.
12. If she is talking to thunder, leave them alone. They don’t want you to hear.
13. When she greets you with a breeze the following morning, pretend you didn’t hear them.
14. A sudden draft is always a bad omen.
15. Never, ever, complain about her. She will remember.

HGK477

Artifacts

October 29, 2018

Exploring a dead relative’s dusty attic. Ghosts here crying over lost love letters, or the two porcelain dolls with putting red mouths, the ballerina shoes, the tinsel Christmas decorations from another age, the ancient travel brochures, and a broken egg-timer. Boxes of secrets. A chaos endured to maintain secrecy, these pieces of a life, of a soul, the hopes, the desires, the dreams unfulfilled and discarded here in the shadows. Christ, it is so disheartening.

Time for a poem instead:

A Faith, Rotting

She wore the kind of cross necklace
you would find in a bargain box,
the holy rejects of sacrilegious salesgirls,
their pearls undulating, effulgent.
She didn’t care that the gold shed
itself into a bastard green, branded
and belligerent against her pale
butterfly of a throat. To her, there
was a beautiful irony in the decay
of something so consecrated by
sadness. To her, there was no
religion without the ululation of
a mother’s lamentation, rotting
into romance, idolatry in the
immaculate inferiority: a necklace
losing sight of heaven faster than
she did the night God weighed
her losses, wrote them into being.

Megan Mealor

the slush of ourselves

October 9, 2018

Paint ghosts over everything, the sadness of everything. We made ourselves cold. We made ourselves snow. We smuggled ourselves into ourselves. Haunted by each other’s knowledge. To hide somewhere is not surrender, it is trickery. All day the snow falls down, all night the snow. I try to guess your trajectory and end up telling my own story. We left footprints in the slush of ourselves, getting out of there.

Richard Siken
War of the Foxes