Archive for January, 2016

Favors From the Dead

old lady ghostA friend recently told me a story about a crying ghost in the house where she lives. This wasn’t her first brush with the supernatural. When she lived in a different house, she once woke up to see the spirit of an elderly woman sitting in the rocking chair in her bedroom. The ghost seemed to be benevolent, to her family at least. The spirit never did anything to frighten them.

When one of her daughters was seriously ill, my friend and her family had to make a temporary move so they could have better access to health care. The girl was on a list for a lung transplant. They ended up letting a friend and her partner stay there to house sit. The agreement was the couple could live at the house for free, so long as they paid the utility bill while they were there. The couple agreed, but soon after, my friend got a huge heating bill. She called the friend staying at the house, and the woman explained that she had cranked up the heat. She promised to pay the bill, but didn’t.

This was a huge problem for my friend. She was in the middle of a medical crisis with her daughter, and then she was burdened with a large, unexpected expense. She called her friend again, urging her to pay the bill.

Not long after that, the ghost intervened. The woman called my friend to tell her strange things had started happening in the house. Whenever the couple wanted to watch a show, the television would switch off on its own. They would turn the TV back on, and off it would go again. There wasn’t anything visibly wrong with the television set—it was plugged in and had worked fine before. There were also weird noises coming from the kitchen—like someone was walking around in there, rifling through drawers and banging cabinet doors.

Eventually the couple moved out of the house…and they paid their bill.

© Melissa Eskue Ousley 2016

Pipe Dreams and Synchronicity

When my twelve-year-old twins had a band concert, I was excited for them. One of them plays the clarinet, and the other plays the tuba. I’d heard them practice together, and they played well, harmonizing between the two instruments. I couldn’t wait to hear them play with the entire band. I think though, on a subconscious level, I must have been more nervous about the event than they were. It was their first big performance, and I hoped it would be a good experience for them.

The night before the concert, I dreamed I was the one set to perform. I realized I’d forgotten to practice any of the songs. I couldn’t read the sheet music. I couldn’t even figure out how to put my clarinet together. (In my defense, I haven’t played clarinet since middle school, and I’m a little rusty reading notes.) I woke up in a panic.

I’ve had different versions of this dream. Sometimes it’s a math final I forgot to study for; other times it’s a science class I forgot I was taking until the end of the term. I completed my doctoral degree over a decade ago, but in these dreams I’m back in high school. I guess I must have a fear of failing, or perhaps have some residual anxiety from high school. (Okay, honestly—who doesn’t?) Or there’s probably some other Freudian interpretation.

I think Freud might have trouble interpreting some of my other dreams though, the kind that seem prophetic because of the synchroncities that follow. Allow me to share an example.

When our boys were four, my husband and I hoped to get them into a wonderful pre-school. Second Street was a special place—the teachers were incredible, the kids ran around barefoot and fed the school chickens, and there was an amazing treehouse with a slide. The school seemed like a magical place. It was also difficult to get into because there was a long waiting list of kids hoping to be accepted.

We sent in our applications to the school, complete with an essay about why we wanted our boys to attend. I had heard it helped to call the school’s director over the summer to remind her of our interest and demonstrate that we were the kind of parents who would be involved in our kids’ education and volunteer for the school.

pipesI hadn’t called yet, but then I had a dream I was talking to the director. She was standing in the school yard. All around her were deep holes dug in the dirt. Black, snaking pipes protruded from the holes.

I didn’t know what the dream was about, but I decided to take this as a sign I should at least call the director, reminding her we were still interested. I made the call, and spoke with the director, exchanging pleasantries.

Then, out of nowhere, she mentioned she was having an issue with the school’s irrigation system. She asked if I knew someone who might be able to fix it. Unfortunately, I didn’t. Even so, about two weeks later, we got our acceptance letters to the school. I don’t know if the dream was mere coincidence or a true synchronicity, but I do think making that call helped us get into the school. And I know the experience of attending had a tremendous impact on my children’s lives, helping them get a great start on their education.

© Melissa Eskue Ousley 2016

Crying Ghost

Girl shadowThis week a friend shared a story with me. She’s lived in a number of houses—some that are peaceful, where nothing supernatural happens, and others that will make the hair on the back of your neck stand on end. You can guess which type of house she lives in now.

Several nights ago, she woke to the sound of crying. It was kind of a sniffling cry, and sounded like a young girl. She opened her eyes to see a dark figure standing at the foot of her bed. Thinking it was her daughter, she sat up and asked, “Are you okay, sweetie?”

There was no answer.

She reached over to the nightstand to find her glasses. She put them on and looked at the foot of the bed. There was no one there.

Puzzled, she got out of bed and went to her daughter’s room. She opened the door and said, “What’s going on? Are you okay?”

Groggy, her daughter answered, “Nothing’s going on. I’m trying to sleep.”

“You weren’t just standing by my bed, crying?”

“No,” the daughter answered.

“What’s weird,” my friend told me later, “is earlier that evening, I could have sworn someone was standing in the doorway, but when I turned to look, there wasn’t anyone there.”

I asked her to keep me posted—I want to know if the crying ghost comes back.

© Melissa Eskue Ousley 2016

Hope and a Tiny Elephant

Synchronicity is the idea that there are meaningful patterns of coincidences that occur in life. Some people see coincidence as a purely psychological phenomenon with no deeper meaning. When your attention has been drawn to something, you start noticing it more often. Say you were interested in buying a yellow car. You might not ordinarily notice yellow cars, but once you were in the market for one, you’d begin seeing them everywhere.

You could say the same for signs and symbols—we encounter random stimuli and generate meaning from that. Except, sometimes what we encounter does not seem so random. Sometimes it seems like a message meant just for us from a higher power in the universe. When I’ve encountered synchronicities, there’s often a sense of déjà vu, like I’ve stepped into the Twilight Zone. Here are some examples to illustrate what I mean.

I recently wrote a young adult novel called Sunset Empire. There are a few themes in the book, among them elephants, Thailand, and a creature from Scandinavian folklore called the huldra. I don’t yet know what will happen with this book—when it will be published—but encountering related synchronicities has been magical.

Last October, I was headed to my local library for a meeting with my writing group. Later in the month I would be presenting at the library on some of the mythical creatures featured in Sunset Empire. As I pulled up to the curb to park, a car passed me. The vehicle had a vanity plate that read huldra. While I live in an area with a significant Scandinavian influence, the word is still fairly obscure to most people, so it was surprising to see the license plate. What’s more, the odds of me arriving at that spot and looking up at that exact moment to see the passing car were slim. Had I pulled up to the curb a moment earlier or a moment later, I would have missed seeing it entirely. The experience felt like a nudge from the universe, one that made me smile.

One of the gifts I received for Christmas was a beautiful bracelet with a dragonfly motif from Thailand. Elyse Pthan, the main character in my book, is Thai-American, a tribute to my sister-in-law and her family. I’m fairly certain the giver of the bracelet was unaware of my connection to Thailand, which makes the bracelet even more special to me. Dragonflies are symbolic of change, and I hope 2016 will be a big year for forward movement with this book and my writing career. We shall see.

Elephant 1Then there are the elephants. Elyse wears a necklace with a small gold elephant. It’s amazing how many elephants are out there once you start looking. I see them everywhere now—on clothing, on a throw pillow in a magazine, and even on the beach. The tides on the Oregon coast have been higher than usual over the past month because of winter storms, and this has washed up all manner of debris. While beach combing with my family this December, we found bits of plastic with Japanese writing and a wooden board from vessel with a home port in the Bahamas. We also found a toy elephant with its trunk raised high, a symbol of good fortune. It’s a tiny plastic toy, less than two inches long. What are the odds we would find this on a beach that stretches for miles? What are the chances this little grey elephant, which would easily blend in among mounds of driftwood and kelp, would catch our eye? Perhaps this find was a coincidence. Maybe it means nothing. Or maybe it’s another one of those nudges from the universe, a sign I shouldn’t give up, that I should keep searching for a publishing home for this story. I hope so. I want to believe something good is headed my way.

© Melissa Eskue Ousley 2015