Wednesday, June 30, 2010

My personal Blair Witch Project

I promised photo evidence of my trek with Laura into the woods on the block where we grew up. It's a nice woodsy neighborhood, lots of hills, and a garden club so people take pride in their lawns.

And in the middle of the block, it's all thick, humid, poison-ivy-tangled, mosquito-breeding, honey-suckle-sucking, Deep South woods.

We tromped around for a long time without finding my graveyard. Dad had some memory of where it was, but it was deeper back than he thought, and we were pouring with sweat and about to give up when I noticed something catching light.

See, when Katie and I found the graveyard, we found a trash heap first. What I'd seen was a section of forest littered with broken glass and other treasures.

Who knows what "Trend" is. Searching for a product named "Trend" on the internet is a losing battle.

But here's where things get creepy. A few yards away from the junkyard, we started to see markers. There are maybe thirty scattered in the underbrush.

Most of them are just rough stones, but a few have simple markings.

Okay, so maybe it's a pet graveyard . . . for someone with a lot of pets? But no, because there are a few real headstones.

Lucinda Ambrose, Born Nov. 22, 1881, Died May 18, 1923, Ambrose Chamber-4849, Stiratt, W. VA.

Louis Ambrose, Died Dec. 29, 1920, Ambrose Chamber-48??, Stirrat, W. VA

And a baby . . . DMCA Dory, June 15, 1956-June 19, 1956

There's another carved stone so buried it can hardly be seen, and the ones that really get to me . . . in the sunken grave. Here's Laura standing beside it.

There are two stones, one granite (a large slab with a thinner slab for the marker) and one pinkish marble (upper right corner), both tilted downward so they can't be read and covered over with fallen branches.

Not creepy enough yet? Am I disappointing you? Well, how about this rusted shovel sticking up out of the ground beside the sunken grave, because to me that is simply creeptastic.

How many unmarked graves can you find in this picture?

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Ghosts ghosts ghosts

I have graveyard pictures. I'll post them.

But this weekend was all about ghosts. And weddings. They do go together. If I have to explain that, you're either very young or very lucky.

Some of the ghosts aren't mine -- they're loved ones who aren't here. That part makes me cry.

Some of the ghosts never lived, so they're jealous. They tease.

Some of them aren't sad. They lived, but a long time ago, and they stand by their new selves and trade jokes. They laugh, and it's fun to laugh with them.

Some hold up mirrors that cover their faces. They say, "Uh oh! You're a ghost too."

My memories and the things I remember are not the same thing.

Not all ghosts have names or faces or fingers. They're tricky like that. Some of these ghosts are shared. They come back to life in a circle of friends around a cooler and a candle. We make them dance.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Ghosts in the graveyard

I've been in Birmingham with my family for a week. Before I leave tomorrow I want to visit the "Indian graveyard" that's deep in the woods in the middle of the block. My childhood friend Katie and I found the abandoned graves while hunting for a better "hideout" -- one safe from her brother and the other sometimes attractive but always irritating boys on our block. When we were nice we played "Ghosts in the Graveyard" and "Kill the Man with the Ball" with those boys. When we were not nice, we set up booby traps for them with yard tools and sinkholes.

When Katie and I found the graveyard, we figured it was a secret or haunted or both, an eighties horror movie starring us. We made rubbings of the graves and took treasures (vintage soda bottles) from the decades-old junkheap nearby. We couldn't resist telling the boys, and Alan Picknose had the gall to lay down in a sunken grave so he could pop up and scare everyone.

My sister Laura calls it an "Indian graveyard" because that's how she remembers it. In my memory, the graves belonged to Victorians, or cowboys, somebody from the late 19th century . . .

Probably the graves aren't as old as all that, but I plan to find out tomorrow.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Nice and Mean!

At VCFA, I had the pleasure of rooming with the amazing Jessica Leader. We stayed up late rehashing busy residency days; we co-conspirited about Super Secret Society shenanigans and party decor. When the inevitable winter plague hit our dorm room, we got giddy and co-wrote a picture book about dying of consumption.

And sometimes, I left Jess in peace so she could work on revisions of her debut novel Nice and Mean.

It releases today, and I'm so excited for her . . . and excited to read the whole thing. Jess is an expert at capturing middle-grade girls in all their quirky, between-things interpersonal drama. It's my favorite age group to work with, and Jess gets what makes middle-grade so fun and fascinating.

Happy Release Day, Jess!