In all the years that we have lived here, none of us has ever felt threatened or harassed by evil spirits, though a few inhabitants have probably died here.
There may still be ghosts about, but they are quiet, fleeting, humble, and don't feel the need to scare us silly.
We know who built our house, and we know who originally lived in it, and we know that 3 years after it was built, James Hoffer, its builder, died of "a protracted illness" at the age of 42. We have his family tree, and pages of history, depicting the births and deaths of his children and their names, his wife's history, and the fact that after his death, she sold the house and moved around the corner.
James Hoffer knew he was dying, and had time to put his affairs in order. 5 days before his death, his will was signed and put into probate, thus assuring that his wife was well cared for. By the standards of 1862, they were a relatively wealthy family, and Mr. Hoffer was good a saving. He had a carpentry shop in the back of the property and was also a partner, along with his brother-in-law, in a lumber business.
It has always seemed a little spooky to me that my husband, a master craftsman and builder of reproduction furniture, has his shop in back of the house, perhaps exactly where James Hoffer's shop stood....
Yesterday late afternoon, my husband hunted in the basement for an original piece of the house and found a length of old moulding, still sporting the traces of original graining along with layers of paint. It was just long enough to double as a walking stick, so I got my staff from Osho Ordination, grabbed some incense and matches, put the dog on his leash and we headed down to the Molly Pitcher Cemetery to find the Hoffer plot.
It was a gorgeous Fall day, the sort of weather we refer to as "Collie weather", since the dog is so animated during these days, and seems to channel the heroic instincts of his ancestors standing like a sentient beside the herd on the Scottish moors, wind blowing through his deep coat, a taste of salt in the air....he oftentimes poses exactly like this in the Fall, but I digress.....
If you are ever in Carlisle, visit the Molly Pitcher Cemetery, it's historical and awesome, home to many bunnies and mockingbirds and old, old graves. It is surrounded by high limestone walls, with access through several ancient iron gates, and on one wall, where the limestone has been repaired, faces were carved and sculpted into the concrete. You'll have to look for that too.
We finally found James Hoffer's family plot beneath a big old spruce tree. I lit incense and placed it at the Hoffer headstone for all.
My husband told them how much we love our house, that it is a good house. Then he said the garden looked nice too. We laughed a little, but it seemed like the right thing to do, just mention a few things.
I invited them back to the house, just to check it out, but also asked that they not scare the bejinkies out of us.
We roamed around a bit and looked at many other graves and stones. Some are very beautiful. We made our way home at dusk, made dinner and watched The Revenge of Frankenstein. It felt like a good way to celebrate Halloween, and to acknowledge the gratitude we feel for living in this house, which is so solid and incredible.
Crawling into bed, I thought about those who had slept under this roof, who had given birth and raised children, celebrated birthdays and holidays, who had marked difficulties and deaths and all the transitions that life opens for us, even when we think they are not openings, but closings.
I thought about the Hungry Ghosts to whom I had offered sustenance at Segaki Saturday evening, and how some things we consider ghosts can be transformed into protectors, as we integrate all those shadow places that once chased after us, howling for attention--it is in the feeding, in the acceptance, in the final turning to face the ghosts that we discover compassion for what once appeared so terrifying. We discover a place of making accord, and we find a new sense of strength within our vulnerability. This is a strength that doesn't waiver because it is authentic and not dependent on external factors.
It is Buddha.
James Hoffer and his family haven't made their presence known yet, maybe they got that out of their system a long time ago.
But they are always welcome.