Thursday, October 30, 2008

Personal Ghosts

Most of us carry personal ghosts in our hearts and in our memories. Those of us who have portrayed historical people sometimes carry ghosts from long ago.

Point of Dreams a novel by one of my favorite authors Melissa Scott, and her partner Lisa Barnett incorporates a very interesting premise, that of the ghost tide. In Point of Dreams, a historical based fantasy, ghosts are very real and astrology rules everyone’s lives. So when the stars are right everyone’s “personal ghosts” make themselves felt more strongly than any other time. In the story it is not necessarily a scary thing, in fact most of them are a comforting presence. An old woman who misses the companionship of her sister can talk to her again, the main character hears the patter at his heels of his favorite childhood pet. My favorite part of the ghost tide concept comes when it is revealed that one of the characters is haunted by a long dead king of his native land. He is of no relation to this king, but having studied the king and made contact, he will be greeted by the king every ghost tide.

Most of us carry personal ghosts inside us, in a much less manifest way of course. But we know people who have died, that we think about, care for, and all that. Some of us, especially those who have made history a part of our lives, may have ghosts from places and times well removed from our own but have quite a strong connection with.

The first specific person that I portrayed as a costumed roleplayer was Martha Wheelwright, poor widow of a sea captain, in the Wheelwright house at Strawbery Banke Museum. When her husband died and left her with a lot of debt the 26 year old Widow Wheelwright was granted permission to live in one third of her husband’s house after it was sold. On quiet mornings at the museum I sat in her kitchen and thought and thought about what it would have been like to be Martha. Was she angry, depressed, resigned to her fate? Was it as quiet in her kitchen as it was right now? I was never able to learn much more about her than my initial research revealed, but I thought a lot about her, and think about her still. Martha Wheelwright has become one of my personal ghosts.

Oh the things I would ask her if there really was a ghost tide. I’ll leave out a soul cake tomorrow just in case.

Photo of Alena (not in costume) and Nate Shumway at Wheelwright house, 1999, photo by Don Shumway.

1 comment:

  1. I love the image of you sitting in the Wheelwright kitchen wondering about Martha's feelings about her lot in life. That you still carry her in your heart and wonder about her shows how people from the past, even though long dead, can enrich our lives in a very personal way.

    Miriam Shumway