Ask someone this simple question and you’ll likely receive a complicated answer: Do you believe in ghosts?
You might hear “well I don’t know but I had this friend…” or “you certainly have to keep an open mind” or “we humans really understand so little about the universe” or “I grew up watching Ghostbusters so…”
At least you’d hear that from me. I think if there were spirits and echoes and djin floating through time and between realms and amongst us all the time, they wouldn’t much care whether or not I believed in them. Although maybe spooks and spirits are just like Peter Pan or Santa Clause or Polar Bears in that our very belief in them keeps them flying. Pugs and Bulldogs are kinda like that too – just a decade of human indifference (i.e. no more caesarean born puppies) and they’d pretty well just disappear. Still, I gain nothing by declaring that I think it’s all pathetic simple-minded hogwash, which is how I would declare it if I ever had an experience that led me to reject the possibility of the impossible. I don’t know what such an experience could be, and I’m not sure I want to. Besides, it’s more fun to talk about the opposite kind of experience. An “encounter” if you will.
Oak Park is an old town with a lot of history. I walk dogs around a couple of big cemeteries that are full of almost two centuries worth of the former forms that carried lives, loves, passions, dreams, and even whole worlds. I walk with Sally by a castle of a house, complete with gargoyles and turrets, which has a plaque out front stating, “On This Site in 1887–Nothing Happened”. Oh, but what about in 1886, when a runaway horse cart killed a child and set off generations of feuding and tore the town in two? Or 1973, when at a celebration for the end of Prohibition, a young couple snuck off for a kiss (not noticing the plaque or anything else) , a kiss that would lead to a home full of children who will themselves travel the world and pull with them a cosmic spider’s silk forever connected to that spot? Or in 1354 BC, when a man with a spear killed a really big bear all by himself and was just so happy that his dancing created a metaphysical sinkhole on precisely that spot? I dunno. The point is, Oak Park is as psychically-charged as anywhere, except maybe that hotel in ‘The Shining’.
People might tell you all of that. But if you ask the dogs I walk if they believe in ghosts, they’d say “arf”, meaning, “heck yeah man I seen ’em”. It’s widely reported that dogs can predict earthquakes, detect cancers, find their way to loved ones across thousands of miles, and look cute all the while. Cats get all the credit for being ethereal (or just plain spooky–look up Oscar the Grim Reaper), but dogs have mystical goods too, and in my opinion, are way less up-tight about it. Do all animals have these gifts? Do we humans have them too? Lost and forgotten in the clutter of our own modern minds? Has intelligence replaced intuition? Are dogs in possession of or possessed by their preternatural abilities? Is this a cause, or an effect, of their sleeping 18 hours a day?
Now I’ll grant that Josey is a little unique to begin with. I won’t go into the details, but one of her more singular idiosyncrasies is the urge to constantly look over her shoulder as we walk, as if we’re being followed. Sometimes, exasperated after towing her for several blocks without her even looking where we’re going (look a fire hydrant! hey some mud! for goodness sake your missing everything and it’s for your sake we’re doing this, come on!) I’ll indulge her in a little break so that she can sit and have a good long look behind us and finally satisfy herself that there is nothing back there. She’ll stare, then look at me, then back again, then be ready to go, only to peer back again after a few steps. Now maybe there’s a speck in her cornea which makes her see spots. Maybe the bright light dazzles her after hours in a dark house. Maybe Josey is just being weird, true to her m.o. Or maybe, all the while, she is staring dead into the dead black eyes of a mailman who is floating behind us; eyes that shimmer with eternal malice for all dogs, ever since he died of a rabid bite over 80 years ago. He cannot avenge himself physically, which is why he follows us and makes me haul poor Josey around. I’m sorry already.
But it gets weirder. To be continued………