IN THE DARK OF NIGHT, THE SOUNDS WE HEAR – Marilyn Armstrong

I have to start this out by explaining that just a couple of days ago, I heard a noise in the bedroom. It was the kind of noise the wakes me right up because it was a little squeaky noise. Like the sound a mouse makes. And it was followed by little scrabbly sounds.

We had a  mouse in the bedroom!

Now, we’ve put a fair amount of energy and money into controlling our mouse problems and we know we haven’t had any up here, and just a few in the basement. The last time the mouse guy was out — just a couple of weeks ago — I asked if there was any chance we’d solve the mouse problem and he said, “No. You live in the woods.”

I said: “I know the mice are just looking for a warm cozy place to spend the winter, but not here.”

He looked at me. “You are,” he said “Exactly what they are looking for. You live in the woods. The mice will find you. Do you know they can slip in through a space no wider than a dime?”

We spent considerable time cleaning the bedroom but didn’t find any sign of mice actually setting up a home in our bedroom. But if I hear that sound again, those mice people will have to get back here and do their mouse annihilation thing. I sympathize with chilled mice, but not my bedroom. Sorry small furries. If I won’t sleep with my dogs, I ain’t sleeping with you!

There are other sounds I’ve heard that cannot be managed by the mouse guy.

From ghoulies and ghosties
And long-legged beasties
And things that go bump in the night
Good Lord, deliver us!

– Traditional Scottish Prayer

I’ve never met a ghoul and I have questions about long-legged beasties, but I can speak from personal experience about Things That Go Bump in the Night. Long ago in a house far away, we had our own ghosts. Friendly ghosts or at least, they were friendly to us.

Ghosts have been part of human mythology as long as tales have been told around campfires. Maybe before campfires. I don’t think if any religion excludes the possibility of ghosts. There seems to be a general agreement that ghosts and wraiths are spirits of the dead who linger on Earth after they have slipped that mortal coil. Some are malevolent, others benevolent or merely curious. Ghosts vary by mythology, religion, and era. Even today, there are rumors and stories.

I cannot claim to have seen a ghost, but I lived in a house where everyone could hear our ghosts. It was 1965 when for $20,300, we were able to buy a tidy little brick house built in 1932. On the first floor were two bedrooms and a bathroom. There was a big bedroom on the partially finished second floor. The house was small but solid, walking distance from the college where my husband worked and I was finishing my degree.

The ambiance of the house from the moment we walked into it was overtly friendly. It welcomed everyone and made them feel at home. The little house had been built by a couple who had lived, raised children, and then died in it. They were not murdered or anything sordid. They merely grew old and passed on in the home they loved.

We loved it too. My son wouldn’t come onto the scene for 4 more years, but it was a good house to raise babies. I could feel it.

The house was a bit neglected. Not falling down but in need of paint and some modernization of its infrastructure. It still had its original heating system, converted from a coal burner to an oil furnace. Not very efficient and the radiators were huge, old and iron. Oil was cheap; we didn’t worry about it. We’d get to it eventually.

Initially, we lived on the first floor since the bathroom was there. The upstairs had been an attic, but half of it had become a bedroom. We wanted to move up there. It was bigger and had great light, but we needed to fix it up first.

Before anything else, we wanted to paint. The entire house was painted pale salmon pink. It wasn’t ugly, but it wasn’t any color we’d have chosen. Worse, it was high gloss paint, like one would use in a kitchen or bath.

We painted the downstairs first. Every night, we heard our ghosts walking. You could hear the sound of heavy, loud footsteps upstairs, sharp, like the soles of hard leather shoes or boots. Everyone on the lower floor heard it.

The walking started around eight in the evening, continued for a few minutes. Then the footsteps would pause and restart randomly until around midnight. The footsteps always stopped by midnight and never began before eight.

We called them “The Old Man” and “The Old Woman.” They wore different shoes. Her shoes had a sharp sound, like high heels on a hardwood floor. His were clunkier like maybe work boots. Both of them had died in the house, so they were prime candidates for ghosthood, especially since no one ever lived in the house until we moved in.

At first, we also heard them on the steps, but after we painted the stairway, the footsteps retreated and we only heard them in the attic and bedroom. After we began painting the bedroom, we continued to hear them for a while in the attic and then, one day, they were gone, never to return.

Were they watching to see if we properly cared for and loved their home? I thought so. Were we all hallucinating? It was the 1960s, so anything is possible, but I think it was the couple who had lived there watching to make sure we did right by the house. We did and I guess they felt it was okay to depart.

Life is full of strangeness. If anyone has bumped into a long-legged beastie, please tell me about it. I’m dying to know.

GHOULIES AND GHOSTIES AND LONG-LEGGED BEASTIES

From ghoulies and ghosties
And long-legged beasties
And things that go bump in the night
Good Lord, deliver us!
– Traditional Scottish Prayer

I’ve never met a ghoul and I have questions about long-legged beasties, but I can speak from personal experience about Things That Go Bump in the Night.

Ghosts have been part of human mythology as long as tales have been told around campfires. Maybe before campfires. I don’t know if any religion excludes the possibility of ghosts and many have a strong link to them. There seems to be an overall, yet non-specific agreement that ghosts and wraiths are spirits of the dead who linger on Earth after they’ve slipped their otherwise mortal coil. Some are malevolent, others benevolent or merely curious. Ghosts vary by mythology, religion, era, and ethnic origin.

I cannot claim to have seen a ghost, but I lived in a house where everyone could hear ghosts. In 1965 when for $20,300, we were able to buy a tidy little brick house built in 1932. On the first floor were two bedrooms and a bathroom. There was a big bedroom on the partially finished second floor. The house was small but solid, walking distance from the college where my husband worked and I was finishing a degree.

Bedford Ave marilyn owen
The house on Bedford Avenue

The ambiance of the house from the moment we walked into it was friendly. It welcomed everyone and made them feel at home. The little house had been built by a couple who had lived, raised children, and died in it. Not murdered or anything sordid. They merely grew old and passed on in the home they loved. We loved it too. My son wouldn’t come onto the scene for 4 more years, but it was a good house to raise babies.

The house was a bit neglected. Not falling down but in need of paint and some modernization of its infrastructure. It still had its original heating system, converted from a coal burner to an oil furnace. Not very efficient and the radiators were huge, old and iron. Oil was cheap; we didn’t worry about it. We’d get to it eventually.

Initially we lived on the first floor since the bathroom was there. The upstairs had been an attic, but half had been turned into a big bedroom. We wanted to move up there. It was much bigger and had wonderful light, but we wanted to fix it up first.

Before anything else, we wanted to paint. The entire house was painted pale salmon pink. It wasn’t ugly, but it wasn’t any color we’d have chosen. Worse, it was high gloss paint, like one would use in a kitchen or bath.

We painted the downstairs first. Every night, we heard our ghosts walking. You could hear the sound of heavy, loud footsteps upstairs, sharp, like the soles of hard leather shoes or boots. Everyone on the lower floor head it. The walking started around eight in the evening, continued for a few minutes. Then the footsteps would pause and restart randomly until around midnight. The footsteps always stopped by midnight and never began before eight.

We called them “The Old Man” and “The Old Woman.” They wore different shoes. Her shoes had a sharp sound, like high heels on a hardwood floor. His were clunkier, like maybe work boots. Both of them had died in the house, so they were prime candidates for ghosthood, especially since no one ever lived in the house until us.

At first, we also heard them on the steps, but after we painted the stairway, the footsteps retreated and we only heard them in the attic and bedroom. After we began painting the bedroom, we continued to hear them for a while in the attic and then, one day, they were gone, never to return.

Were they watching to see if we properly cared for and loved their home? I thought so. Were we all hallucinating? It was the 1960s, so anything is possible, but I think it was the couple who had lived there watching to make sure we did right by the house. We did and I guess they felt it was okay to depart.

If anyone has bumped into a long-legged beastie, please tell me. I’m still waiting to meet one and I’m all ears.

GHOULS DON’T DO TAKE OUT

No Halloween visitors expected here on our street. It’s dark and quiet with long shadows from tall trees.

We used to run out of candy back in Boston. Here, we don’t buy candy. At all. We live so far from anything kids won’t come down our long, dark street … and especially not our long, dark driveway where the trees lean in from both sides.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

It’s dark and lonely and it would be a perfect Halloween path for the brave of heart. But kids are not brave. They want well-lit suburban houses.

Scary should not be really scary. So they go into town where the street lights make everything cheery and every household has pounds of candy. “Boo” they say, and that’s plenty scary enough.

ART & COMICS: Evil Squirrel’s Nest – Witchy Women

We used to give out 20 pounds of candy every year when in Boston, but out here? No one comes. Even with the lights on. So, happy Halloween. Have some wine with that candy, why don’t you?

IN HONOR OF HALLOWEEN – GARRY ARMSTRONG

A Halloween Special

Photography by Garry Armstrong

Poetry by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow


Photo: Garry Armstrong
Photo: Garry Armstrong

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882)
A PSALM OF LIFE


WHAT THE HEART OF THE YOUNG MAN
SAID TO THE PSALMIST

TELL me not, in mournful numbers,
Life is but an empty dream ! —
For the soul is dead that slumbers,
And things are not what they seem.

Life is real ! Life is earnest!
And the grave is not its goal ;
Dust thou art, to dust returnest,
Was not spoken of the soul.

Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,
Is our destined end or way ;
But to act, that each to-morrow
Find us farther than to-day.

Art is long, and Time is fleeting,
And our hearts, though stout and brave,
Still, like muffled drums, are beating
Funeral marches to the grave.

In the world’s broad field of battle,
In the bivouac of Life,
Be not like dumb, driven cattle !
Be a hero in the strife !

Trust no Future, howe’er pleasant !
Let the dead Past bury its dead !
Act,— act in the living Present !
Heart within, and God o’erhead !

Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time ;

Footprints, that perhaps another,
Sailing o’er life’s solemn main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
Seeing, shall take heart again.

Let us, then, be up and doing,
With a heart for any fate ;
Still achieving, still pursuing,
Learn to labor and to wait.

THE HALLOWEEN BOUQUET – A PHOTO A WEEK CHALLENGE

A Photo a Week Challenge: Halloween

Nobody comes trick-or-treating on this street. No sidewalks. No street light. Tall, dark trees and houses are far apart. Kids look at the long, dark road … then they go into town where homes are close to the street and the lights are on.

I gave up decorating for the holiday years ago, but Garry likes to make sure we have a little something to remind us … the Halloween bouquet.

AN OCEAN OF PUMPKINS – GARRY ARMSTRONG

A Photo a Week Challenge: Halloween


A child. A field. Enough pumpkins to bring the Great Pumpkin down to earth at last. And a small child, lost in a great ocean of orange.