August 18, 2010

A Haunting in Georgia


I was over at Tony's place reading his latest post. He was talking about walking through Graceland in Memphis, he took it all in and didn't say anything. The second I read that I understood exactly what he meant.

That emotional connection to a place that's so strong that you begin to treat it with reverence played through my head for the rest of the day. The images of the places I hold dear were examined and cataloged. When the history of one spot is so alive that you can almost feel it breathing with the past it can catch you off guard.

One of the most powerful places for me is the spot on the dirt road in the woods where the huge tree with the nails we drove into it stands in a bend in the road. I remember that we had decided to build a tree house and my Dad gave us some things to get started with. He drove the first few nails into the tree to show us how it was done and then left us to it. We just kept driving nails into the tree, creating a way to climb it, then once we were way too high, we just stopped. It's become some sort of sick symbol for life... Things started but not finished...

The memory of that day is still fresh in my mind. When I pass by that spot I never really look at the nails or think about them, I just avert my eyes because I can feel some sort of power emanating from the tree. Sometimes I feel like it's taunting me, daring me to come back and finish the tree house. I was going around the bend in the road there one night on the kawasaki mule and heard my Dad call me.. The call was so clear I stopped the mule and looked around for a few seconds before shaking my head and continuing on.

There are many areas like that around here. Places where I feel like I'm an intruder, or perhaps that someone else is there. Some times its comforting, at other times its a bit creepy. There have been times when the feeling of another presence was so strong that I would actually check my shirt to make sure it was straight or run my fingers through my hair... I never think about that until I've gone on by...

Some physicists believe that the past, present, and future exist all at once and occasionally one can punch through to the other. The theory has even been used as an explanation of ghosts. I was sitting at the school today waiting to pick up my son when I found myself looking around the parking lot and remembering it the way it used to be. I was parked in line, very near to the spot that was home plate when I went to school there. I thought about playing softball there, and soccer, and all of the humiliation suffered because of the annual physical fitness test we used to have to take. I looked around the place and there isn't a single spot that I wasn't on when I was a child. I looked over and thought about building a golfing green in Mr. Enns' PE class. Then I looked at the trees that are growing there that were planted when I was in the sixth grade. I thought about running during class and how we used to jump over those very trees, which now tower above the building.

Good and bad memories ran through my head as I sat in line. I have a tremendous fear of crowds and being in front of people. One of the most anxious moments for me was when I made it to the seventh grade and first went to PE. I was so afraid of being on the school basketball team and having to play in front of people that I had minor strokes on my way to class.. I decided to tackle the issue head on and asked Mr. Enns the question, "What if you don't want to play on the school basketball team? Can you just say no?" I was serious about it, and had to work up the nerve to ask the question. He looked me dead in the eye and said, "Well that's a problem I don't think you have to worry about..." That was my official introduction to sarcasm...

I was once greeted with laughter when I ran up to a group of guys standing on the sidelines watching a soccer game we were playing. They were the kids that didn't participate that day in class because they hadn't dressed out for PE for one reason or another.. Principal McMillan had been sitting with them and was walking away as I ran over.. I asked what the laughter was about and was bombarded by many voices all at once telling me that he had just referred to me as "jelly belly" before he walked off...

But many memories of a more pleasant nature were there too. I could plainly hear the voices of people long gone and see the kids I knew running around the place. That gave way to wondering what they are all up to these days...

I watched as children were playing in the same place I played when I was their age. There was this one little kid I was watching running in a circle with every bit of speed he could muster. Up the ladder and down the slide he went, over and over as fast as he could... Several times before he went down the slide, he would pause and look around, but all the other kids were busy elsewhere, he was alone at the slide. I began to wonder if he could sense my presence as I was doing the same thing there thirty plus years ago...

When the bell rang and all the kids ran inside to head home, and all the cars waiting for them started up, I thought to myself, I really need to quit haunting these old places...

1 comment:

Gary said...

Great writing Clay,I remember jumping over those trees as well & think about it every time I ride by the school...great memories