Posts tagged ‘ghosts’

08/10/2018

Five Quotes

“And day to day, life’s a hard job, you get tired, you lose the pattern. You need distance, interval. The way to see how beautiful the earth is, is to see it as the moon. The way to see how beautiful life is, is from the vantage point of death.”

Ursula le Guin – The Dispossessed

“There is no end to the deceits of the past.”

Vernon Lee – Limbo and Other Essays

“Can the beautiful be sad? Is beauty inseparable from the ephemeral and hence from mourning? Or else is the beautiful object the one that tirelessly returns following destructions and wars in order to bear witness that there is survival after death, that immortality is possible?”

Julia Kristeva – Black  Sun

“The generation of atmosphere, the aura of the uncanny, is one of the most important secrets of magic. It contributes to the willing suspension of disbelief, the feeling that, within the circle, or in the presence of the magical shrine, anything may happen.”

Doreen Valiente – An ABC of Witchcraft, Past and Present

“Nothing ever goes away until it has taught us what we need to know.”

Pema Chodron –When Things Fall Apart

 

Five quotes to hold in mind when reading Ghosts and Other Tales (released on 26th October 2018).

Images by Gavin R Jones, with fragments from stories in Ghosts and Other Tales.

Advertisements
07/08/2018

Facing Your Ghosts

“…I can affirm only one thing, that they have haunted certain brains, and have haunted, among others, my own and my friends’… along the dim twilit tracks, among the high growing braken and spectral pines, of the southern country… while the moonlit sea moaned and rattled against the moldering walls of the house whence Shelley set sail for eternity”.

(Vernon Lee: Preface to “Hauntings”. 1889)

We are living in an age where society – and politics in particular – are at core haunted by suppressed death anxieties. Everywhere you look, fear of what certainly will come is to be found. People try to push away that fear with possessions, with cosmetics, with lifestyle choices. They offload that fear, creating false villains, loading blame on to others, creating scapegoats. They hide behind masks of fashion or ideology. They sanitise, refuse to look, and yet in the process create an all-consuming demon that simply will not go away. Worse, in not facing facts, they live permanently  in thrall to their future, and consequently cannot fully appreciate the life they have.

It may seem paradoxical, but ghost stories are needed now, more than ever. Not, however, the “hide behind your fingers at the bogeyman” ghost stories which fit so neatly into the categories of false fear and head in sand fiction as to be a parody. Such stories merely feed the demon. No: the ghost stories for our deeply sick society are those which face, head on, the fears from which people hide. They are stories which truly haunt – which stay with the reader. They are stories which provide questions, not merely shocks. They are stories which are rooted in a sense of place and a continuum of history, They engage which the obsessions and the trivialities of life. They are stories which, in the end, are redemptive precisely because they do not offer an easy way out. They give voice to existential necessities. They are human, in all that entails.

This is not a review post, but if you wish to find out more, I would certainly recommend stories by Vernon Lee, MR James, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, WW Jacobs, Willa Cather, Henry James, Daphne du Maurier and Sheridan Le Fanu (amongst many others). You could even try reading mine (he clumsily plugs).

(images, copyright Gavin R Jones, 2018)

[amazon text=Amazon][amazon asin=1976916011&template=iframe image2][amazon asin=1977049109&template=iframe image2][amazon asin=1980590966&template=iframe image2]

16/04/2018

Pinhaw: Center of This World

Pinhaw1

Pinhaw is the center of this world. Around it the hills, the valleys, the clouds and the skylarks wheel. To the North are the Yorkshire Dales, to the West the Irish Sea, South  are the fells of Lancashire, East the moors and towns of West Yorkshire. On one side is the village of Lothersdale, on the other Gargrave (the two villages in which my parents were raised). It is the center of all the Tales I write, whether explicitly or no.

Pinhaw2

Paradoxically, it is a marginal place. It sits on the border of Lancashire and Yorkshire. It is at the far end of a ridge of hills which raise near Preston in the west (including Pendle and Wheets). It overlooks both the Aire and the Ribble valleys – the former heading to the North Sea far to the East, the latter empties into the Irish Sea.

Pinhaw3

For all of these reasons, Pinhaw is at the center of things. The curlew know this. They nest in the sedge by the peat pools, and call to the sun as it rises on spring mornings. They know the people who built the stone walls all those years ago. They know them and they know their spirits. They watch them, as they gather to beat the boundaries away from this – the center of their world.

pinhaw5

16/04/2018

Pinhaw: Center of This World

Pinhaw1

Pinhaw is the center of this world. Around it the hills, the valleys, the clouds and the skylarks wheel. To the North are the Yorkshire Dales, to the West the Irish Sea, South  are the fells of Lancashire, East the moors and towns of West Yorkshire. On one side is the village of Lothersdale, on the other Gargrave (the two villages in which my parents were raised). It is the center of all the Tales I write, whether explicitly or no.

Pinhaw2

Paradoxically, it is a marginal place. It sits on the border of Lancashire and Yorkshire. It is at the far end of a ridge of hills which raise near Preston in the west (including Pendle and Wheets). It overlooks both the Aire and the Ribble valleys – the former heading to the North Sea far to the East, the latter empties into the Irish Sea.

Pinhaw3

For all of these reasons, Pinhaw is at the center of things. The curlew know this. They nest in the sedge by the peat pools, and call to the sun as it rises on spring mornings. They know the people who built the stone walls all those years ago. They know them and they know their spirits. They watch them, as they gather to beat the boundaries away from this – the center of their world.

pinhaw5

10/04/2018

Ghosts of the River Wharfe

The River Wharfe between Appletreewick and the Strid is one of the most beautiful and iconic stretches of water in the British Isles. It features in a number of my tales, especially “Summer Dusk” in Abandon Hope and “Descending, or Falling” in the final pamphlet, The Wedding Invitation.

river wharfe

The river valleys of the Yorkshire Dales function as a kind of destination in these tales. For the central characters in “Summer Dusk” it is a place of final freedom, of oneness with nature. In “Descending, or Falling” it becomes a resting place of a different nature.

A river is rarely seen as an image of destination. It passes through the country, it is a conduit, something to travel. It is the metaphor of a continuing journey or of learning. The unique nature of the Yorkshire Dales makes this conventional reading less persuasive.

wharfe roots

The rivers are at the heart of the Dales. They are crossed, they are a focus, they are at the center of villages, they feed the fields and are fed by the moors. They define the valleys which they follow, but which were not made by them (being glacial). Few people actually travel down them.

Barden, at the center of this stretch of the Wharfe, has as a timeless quality about it. It has castle ruins, an 18th Century bridge, a Late Victorian Gothic aquaduct. On the river mandarin ducks, dipper and kingfishers can be seen. The woods around the river hold roe deer and woodcock. In the skies above red kite, osprey and sparrowhawk wheel. In spring the flowers are incredible. In the autumn, the mists melt the trees and the moors into one.

barden aquaduct

It is not surprising that this idyllic and yet atmospheric river is full of ghosts. They gather, they rise, free and eternally in peace. This is their resting place.

04/04/2018

Loneliness

Loneliness is a companion as tangible as a veil. It shrouds the world of interaction, of closeness and of companionship, leaving nothing but truth for the lonely to face.

On the moors, with the wind blowing in strong from the west, rain showers gusting through you, it is possible to feel vulnerable, isolated with your frailties laid bare. But loneliness… loneliness is something you carry within. The towns and villages, teeming with summer tourists, are as lonely a place as the wildest peak.

Many of the characters in my tales, both living and passed, are lonely. They live their lives alone, and understand that we all die our own death, and face it alone. The circumstances that bring each character to their loneliness may differ, but it is how they face that realization that, to a lesser or greater extent, defines them.

In “Annabel” (the opening story of The Wedding Invitation: Vol. 3 of Ghosts and Other Tales), loneliness is the central theme. For the narrator, the fact that Alice – the main protagonist – lives on her own, without (obvious) friends or family, in a remote cottage is the very definition of loneliness. The narrator sees it as a common problem for many older people in such a rural community, as indeed it is. For Alice, though, loneliness is not defined by isolation. Loneliness for her is being separated from that which she loves. It is the division of the soul.

You are alone, in a forest on the darkest night of the year. All around you are the sounds of creatures in amongst the branches. You cannot see the path in front of you clearly. You slip on the tree roots. You are alone.

You wake, and the sounds you thought were creatures in the night, were the beeping of the life support machines all around you, and the sounds of the nurses and doctors, trying their best for you. They are out there.

You are alone.

(Photographs copyright Gavin Jones)

31/03/2018

Beyond A Gothic Love Story

The gothic is not an epithet that fits neatly on the Yorkshire Dales. There are places that encapsulate the sublime, but for every Barden Tower, Penygent and Gordale Scar there are gentle villages, pastoral scenes and idyllic river valleys. Even the moors in the limestone areas have less of the bleakness of the sour moss expanses of the West Yorkshire and Lancashire fells. It elicits a different form of emersion. not one of a monochrome bleakness, and not one of unremitting gloom.

The Dales are a balance between the wild and the gentle. As such, they lend themselves to a more complex reading. There is no overarching narrative into which they fit. It is in this context that I write my short tales. There is no single story. They move from moor top to valley floor, from waterfall to village hall, to the unknown places beyond.

The tales are also – with a few exceptions – written at the human level. These are not stories of a distant otherness. The ghosts inhabit the same many layered universe as the people, the creatures and the settings. The feelings they evoke and their purpose both in the narrative and in the ‘world’ – are equally difficult to pin down. Some of the hauntings are a release, some a revelation, some an invocation, only on occasions do horror and fear surface: not, you could say, typically “gothic”. At root, in a way, they are – together – a love story.

The third and final sampler pamphlet from the Ghosts and Other Tales introduction series, “The Wedding Invitation” is released on April 13th. It will be available in hard copy and Kindle Editions, along with Parts 1 and 2 (“Abandon Hope” and “Ghosts”).

Images of Leeds Liverpool Canal, Gargrave and two images from St Andrews Church Gargrave.

Copyright Gavin Jones

28/03/2018

Moors, People and Ghosts

The moors and fells of the Yorkshire Dales and surrounding areas have long inspired tales of horror, fear and the supernatural. The trope on which such tales rely is that of lost souls, wandering the bleak and Romantic misty moors: a sublime and gothic fantasy.

Certainly, when one walks the huge, primarily acidic plateaus of Boulsworth and Haworth moors, the Pendle to Pinhaw ridge, Rylstone and Simon’s Seat over to Nidderdale, it isn’t difficult to figure out where such wilderness literature finds its source. The sense of emptiness, of the inhuman, is palpable. However, even these “wastes” are intrinsically human – managed even – landscapes.

In my short tales (in Abandon Hope, Ghosts and The Wedding Invitation) I have tried to find other locations for my hauntings. These places formed me. I’ve lived in them, and them in me, throughout my life. The moors themselves haunt me, but not in a gothic or macabre sense. Melancholic, definitely, but sublime, no. They are deeply human.

Some of the seeming bleakest moors are in fact post-industrial landscapes, being the sites of lead and coal mines, going back centuries, even millennia. Almost all are farmed, for sheep or grouse shooting (the latter increasingly controversial, as it moves towards something akin to a factory model). These industries – in addition to the wool trade, water management, craft production and, of course, tourism/leisure – have  brought people, and with human beings come stories, tales, myths. And hauntings.

From the rock carvings and stone circles dating back to Mesolithic era, through the subsequent “invaders” who made these areas home and brought their own structures (Roman roads, Celtic field systems, Germanic and Norse villages etc.) to the tarmacked roads, mega-quarries, festivals and visitor centers of today, people have been leaving their physical marks on the moors. They also bring with them their energy, their vitality and their traces.

I find, therefore, the ghosts are to be found in this vital humanity. It is in the very busy-ness of these places, not in their bleakness, that stories emerge. Let the skylarks have their freedom. The spirits seek redemption amongst their fellow humans.

(photographs copyright: Gavin Jones and Garner and Jones)

27/03/2018

Ghosts at the Edge of Blindness

Out of the corner of my eye I see them. Perhaps, for me, that’s not surprising. I am, after all, blind in my right eye. My peripheral vision consequently extends over fifty percent of my eyesight. This blindness, though, provides other sight.

That doesn’t explain what “they” are. I see “things”, fair enough – but what? Tricks of the light? Images conjured by the mind? Genuine phenomena, out there, in the “real” world (but unseen by most folk)? Who knows – but see them I do. They are my ghosts. They inhabit my world as I do (they also provide insights for many of my stories in the “Ghosts and Other Tales” series).

Such vision has  – since the early 1500s – been called “askance” in English. It has an obscure derivation in Middle English, probably from the Old French  word “quanses” meaning “as if”, or “how if”, with links to meanings such as “insincere” or “deceptive”.

This provides an interesting gloss on the phenomenon. It is vision which questions vision. If such slippery sight occurs at the margins, why is the world “out there” that we see full on, any more reliable? Which, indeed, is the real: the seemingly concrete, or the apparitions which flicker at the edges?

The world we, by common convention, inhabit, has many ways of manifesting itself. Colours shift, change, and are never the same from second to second, or from person to person. Focus and perspective are similarly mobile. It doesn’t take a huge change in perception for all the old certainties to crumble. “Out of the corner of the eye” is but one way this veneer is stripped. When one is drifting off to sleep, or waking up; when intoxicated; when in a highly charged state emotionally; when ill; when meditating; on the brink of death: all of these mind states provide alternative “realities”. And who is to say they are not insights into the world as it truly is?

Certainly for me, my blindness has revealed more at its edges than my so called “good eye”.

26/03/2018

Grief (or the Haunting Process)

Several of my stories – “Dawn Chorus” in Abandon Hope, “The Award” in Ghosts and “Annabel” in the forthcoming pamphlet “The Wedding Invitation” – take grief as a core theme. In doing so, they are following a tradition as old as humanity itself – possibly even older.

Grief is at its heart, a haunting. The living (and some would say the dead too) undergo a process of letting go. Part of this involves a reaction against letting go: a grasping after what once was. The contacts that one had with a person turn abstract. No less real, but different. The person becomes the story of their life, and the remnants of the energy they have left. The grieving process and the haunting process are twins.

Throughout history religions, philosophies and belief systems (humans, in fact) have codified, mythologized and ritualized the process of letting go. Every culture has its ways, superficially unique, but with underlying truths: The Tibetan and Egyptian books of the dead; the many and varied Shamanic systems for calling on Spirit Guides; The Five Steps of Grief; church funeral rites and the following wake etc. etc.. These are, in part, to provide understanding, to give a context, to help.

In the main, they do so. For anyone who has grieved, however, these systems only ever lend a partial (albeit, essential) hand. There is always a profound mystery left. There are always so many unanswered questions. There is always a void left behind.

Objects – often mundane – left by the departed, become stories of their living. Places or activities associated with the dead, still seem to keep them. Birthdays, anniversaries, the date on which they passed, all turn from mere days into remembrances. Letting go involves letting go of a part of oneself: as if the dead were taking a part of the living. Ghosts are not a surprise.

The death of loved ones is heartbreaking. There is no way of escaping that one. It is a universal fact of life. But  in the letting go, and in the void that is left behind, new stories can be told. Life can be given a new meaning.

One common theme in the tradition is the ghosts who seeks to right wrongs, to set things as they should be, to tell the truth. That truth can bring about a harmony, the harmony of peace and rest. To be haunted is to be searching for that rest. The letting go and the clutching close are reconciled by love. Love and stories.

25/03/2018

The Breath of Ghosts

Across cultures, the equating of ghosts and breath is a constant, apparent in language, in ritual and in belief systems. In a number of the stories which make up “Ghosts and Other Tales”, breath plays an important role.  But why breath, when a ghost is – surely – beyond breathing?

Breath in normal circumstances is invisible. It takes cold and damp conditions to render it visible. And yet this barely extant phenomenon is the vital force of a living being. In that breath are the memories, the fears, the loves and – literally – aspirations of a human being.

In meditation one focusses on the breathing. It is the force which signifies living in its most visceral sense. The meditator concentrates on the mechanics of breathing, to center their being, to become aware (in a higher sense) of their life and living. As an act, it encapsulates what it means to be alive. It focusses and calms the mind. Such a powerful, and yet simple, force keeps every one of us alive. It is not too surprising therefore that of all elements of the living being, breath should be viewed as an essential component in so many understandings of spirit.

Nonetheless, it is curious that something so obvious, so real and so human as breath could find itself paired with an aspect of life considered “esoteric”, “mysterious” and “unknown”. This may be down to how people have difficulty comprehending blurred and hazy boundaries. Liminal states – for example, marshes, the shoreline, evening/dawn, ruined buildings, mist and fog – don’t sit neatly into one category or another. They elicit feelings of confusion, rejection and fear. They remind us of our own dissolution. And so it is with breath. It is neither of us, nor “out there”. It is our intermediate self. It inhabits us, and we project it. It both belongs to us and to the world. Breath is therefore the perfect locus for our spirit selves, both real and metaphorical.

We are breathing creatures in life. Is it so outlandish to imagine we might continue so afterwards?

25/07/2013

For the Crossing (video)

 

 

a micro-film of my poem “for the crossing”

25/05/2013

The Shadow Figures of the Vrsic Pass

 

I took the high road through the pass.

The rain and mist whisped round the pine,

Above the trees the clouds touched earth:

I saw the shadow figures there.

 

I moved towards them, they withdrew.

The shadow figures knew the tracks:

They knew them like the hazel grouse.

They padded lightly with the lynx.

 

I saw their faces briefly there:

Beyond the rock face, glaring down.

I saw their questions, wild and raw,

With human eyes and shadow souls.

 

The mists soon closed the Vrsic Pass:

The shadow figures melted back.

 

 

10/04/2013

Revenge of the Spirit Fish

 

They come at night, the spirit fish,

With lanterns through the channel darks,

And ask the shore to give them back

The hooks, disgorgers, floats and line.

 

They make their dolls from wasted casts,

And form the hollow human shapes.

Beneath the overhanging trees

They cough their empty, gaping chants.

 

And somewhere sleeping, dreaming dry,

An angler turns and gasps and chokes.

A mouth drops open, feels the tug

Of barbless bronze and foaming blood.

 

The spirit fish will take their share:

They catch their quota, make things fair.

 

05/04/2013

Slender Billed Curlew

 

1.  They Never Do

 

In times of plenty birds would fill

The steppe-lands with their songs of spring.

Their wild and wondrous calls and cries:

Beyond the earth, they kissed the skies.

 

In times of plenty forest swamps

Would swell migration paths with wings

Across the plains and over seas,

And no one saw them as they passed.

 

In times of plenty people gorged,

Their noses closer to their floors.

They fought their wars and built their roads.

Their eyes were shut, their ears were closed.

 

And bit by bit the calling stopped:

The spring would come, the songs would not.

 

 

2.  Just One More Shot, The Final Breath

 

Retreating further through the swamps

And pine and permafrosts, alone

The hunter carves his name in bark.

A curlew calls its final dawn.

 

This stand of stumps and frozen breath

Was chosen by the spring and stars.

This place, this time, this pointless task:

Unknowing breath of man, of bird.

 

It probes its beak through frozen crust,

Its left foot quivers, head pulls back.

These movements formed in ancient times:

The last this world will ever know.

 

The hunter picks his kill and leaves

A precious feather to the breeze.

 

 

3.    Spirit Birds of Amvrakikos Gulf

 

Along the shore where the egrets pick

A flock of shadow waders roost.

The echoes of their silent calls

Are heard as ghosts amongst the stars.

 

But if you look you’ll never see

Again the birds, or hear their calls –

And no-one ever really did.

Their phantoms hug the water’s edge.

 

Your eyes have seen the taiga’s ice.

Your eyes have seen the dismal swamp.

Your eyes have seen extinction’s wing.

The curlew’s calls are deep within.

 

Their souls migrate across the gulf:

The shadow birds have lost their way.

 

 

 

26/01/2013

North Norfolk Coast (Walk No. 5)

 

Along the beach by Holkham pines

The ghosts stand watch on buried signs.

You feel them in the northern gales,

You hear them in the needles’ shake.

 

They choke the midnight bark of deer,

They still the hunting tawny owl,

And out before the rising tide

They pull the moon and drag it down.

 

The coast is endless, planet wide,

The sands are drifting, silence swirled.

But there amongst the broken pines

The Holkham ghosts are waiting still.

 

They hang and harm, they smooth and calm,

They break believers and possess.

 

 

14/01/2013

Oh Whistle and I’ll Come, My Lad

 

A space between the sky and death

Where tides leave tracings of belief,

And words can summon or dissolve

The science of our solid world.

 

That space, in which the phantoms play

With fragile games and fickle minds,

Conventions, platitudes and thoughts

Are shaken from its nightmare’s breath.

 

And last when shards of safety shred,

We’re left an awful truth to face:

The nameless horror on the beach

Which twists and turns and tightens on.

 

The space in which we all are thrown:

We walk, we sleep, we die alone.

 

 

(based on the story by M.R. James)