Wednesday, October 26, 2011


(Jackson, New Hampshire)

It’s nearing Halloween, and ghosts are everywhere.

Last year, our canine companion Iona-the-Deaf, died on Halloween night. We were here, on vacation, at our family’s place in the mountains of New Hampshire just as we are now. As I came in the door from brunch on Sunday, talking and laughing with our friends, I had a fleeting moment of seeing her big, hairy self at the top of the stairs to greet us.

Iona Apparition

I used to live here, in the Mount Washington Valley. I worked for a now defunct bookstore in North Conway. I loved this place, but my heart was still attached to people in Maine, so I never fully made it my home. I lasted barely a year before I moved back, at this very time of year, in November.
As I was driving from Jackson to North Conway yesterday, a Dan Fogelberg song came on. During that time of my life when I was going back and forth on these roads from here to Maine and Maine to here, I was listening to a lot of Fogelberg. In an instant, all the joy of sharing this new place with my beloved J, who still lived in Maine, and all the sorrow of losing him, flooded over me. I had to pull over because I couldn’t see through the tears. Even the song, “The Sand and the Foam” is about looking back on a younger self and time – with sadness and regret.

Dawn, like an angel, lights on the step
Muting the morning she heralds
Dew on the grass like the tears the night wept
Gone long before the day wears old

Time stills the singing a child holds so dear
And I'm just beginning to hear
Gone are the pathways the child followed home
Gone like the sand and the foam

Pressed in the pages of some aging text
Lies an old lily a-crumbling
Marking a moment of childish respects
Long since betrayed and forgotten

Ghosty Grey's Inn
Grey's Inn was one of those old seasonal hotels that had its heyday in the early 1900s. It was in the center of Jackson Village, and was pulled down sometime in the late '80s, I think. When I lived in this area, it was a tumbling down wreck, but still magnificent! The first time I remember seeing it, J and I were exploring towns in the valley. We were young adults, newly seeing places we'd visited as children; everything was exciting and our discovery. We rounded the turn to go up the road to Black Mountain, saw that great pile of former grandeur and yelled, "Hotel New Hampshire!" It was a book we both loved and had read together. Sharing this vision of Grey's Inn tied J to the town of Jackson in my heart forever - because just a few months later he would be dead.

The past is very important to me. I've studied it, learned from it, painted it. It informs who I am and what I will become, but I don't want to live in it. I have a lovely life, all things considered, and am truly grateful for that. Years of living and loving have layered memories one over another till, like an archaeological site, some treasures of everyday life lie hidden. I hadn't planned to start an excavation of my past on this visit. Like a lot of important finds, though, you just stumble upon them by accident.

I believe all love stories are ultimately ghost stories. The trick is to embrace the ghost when it jumps out at you - and then let it go.

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