... frightened, scared
I do not spook easily. I try to stay in safe places. But every once in a while…
In 1974 we were camping on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. Most people visit the South Rim, but we found a little, empty campground where we could spend the night. After setting up our pop-up camper, our sons, thirteen and fourteen, went exploring. They returned with a souvenir – a very large bone. It was probably the remains of a cow or a deer. But being a storytelling group, we began to create stories about the huge man who once owned the bone. He was an Indian whose tribe had turned on him and left him for dead. The story continued to his family who later interred his body in the tribal burial ground. That meant that our sons had disturbed ancient sacred land. There must be a punishment for such an invasion and we would have to wait to see exactly what that punishment was. As the night grew darker and the campsite grew still, Indian spirits seemed to surround us. The falling of each twig and each breath of wind signaled warnings to us. We had intruded where we were not welcome.
Not one person in our family got a wink of sleep all night. We were spooked.
After our sons left home, my husband and I used to spend February school vacation in a motel beside the sea in Wells, Maine. In the winter we just needed reassurance that the ocean was still in its place. The year of my retirement we decided to make our annual trip after vacation when the crowds would be gone. We loved this motel with its panoramic view of the sea. It was about to be renovated to contain all the amenities that summer tourists want, but we were content with the huge picture window and a television set for the weather report.
As the sun set over the marshes, the wind started to blow and a storm slowly began. We had always had beautiful weather in the past, but we welcomed a coastal snowstorm as a new adventure. The wind blew harder and the snow began to fall, whipping around our little patio. The sliding glass doors began to rattle and the motel itself began to creak. We tried to read, but the storm was too noisy. We tried to play cards but could not concentrate. The surf was trying to enter our room. We realized we were the only people in the motel. The office was in another building. Our room had no telephone.
We piled on the blankets and just listened. We were spooked.
My retirement job brought me to many schools around New England facilitating local presentations for teachers. Two such programs were planned for western Massachusetts in the fall of 1993, two days apart. Rather than coming home we decided to hitch our trailer to the car and make it a mini-vacation. We found a campground on the side of a mountain with a few dilapidated trailers here and there. The office was in a farm house far down the road. We set up camp and cooked dinner, but no one came to the other trailers. Perhaps they were just being stored for the winter.
As the evening turned to nighttime, no lights were visible. This was Dark with a capital “d”. We could smell smoke but saw no campfires. Our imaginations began to work overtime. The trailers belonged to drug smugglers bringing the goods from New York to Massachusetts. They were merely storage facilities. The farm house was a front for the kingpin of the operation and inside was actually a lavish manor house, the scene of wild parties. Smugglers were lurking in the woods spying on us whom they suspected of spying on them. The barking of a dog convinced us they were quite near. On a deserted mountain, everyone possessed a rifle except us. We were defenseless against the criminal element, the New York syndicate, the Mob.
We locked our doors and windows. We were spooked.
In a speech, I once heard Robert Coles say that man is the only storytelling animal. In some ways that is a wonderful thing. But when you are alone, in the dark, with your imagination working full speed ahead, perhaps it is not such a good trait.
November 6, 2009