It was 1972. My family was visiting my grandparents who lived in the tiny lumber town of Coos Bay, OR. We were sitting in the second most forward pew of St. Monica’s Catholic Church. Inside the small stone building, the seating was half full, mostly young families like ours. We’d come to the “Folk Mass”, or as my Dad called it, “Hippie Mass.” Though similar in function of the typical Catholic Mass format, these services often had live performers who sang during the service.
Energized from the evening sun, the stained glass windows glinted in multitudes of color. The one nearest us radiated deep purples and blues into the sanctuary. Into this surreal setting stepped a young man, an acoustic guitar slung across his chest. Taking his place just right of the altar, he waited until the priest at the lectern nodded his approval. Anticipating something religious in nature, my ears perked up when he began to play. A revered silence filled the air, a knowing that this moment was special. His crystalline voice rendered The Moody Blues song, Nights in White Satin, as unique as it was beautiful. With only his voice and the guitar, he captivated the entire congregation.
I’ve been haunted by that beautiful tune ever since. Those four minutes created a lasting scene of texture and passion that transcended time and place. I wasn’t “at church” during his performance, but rather somewhere inside of myself, which then took me beyond my immediate surroundings. Its periodic play on my IPOD triggers memories of not only sight and sound, but also of the collective mystic energy the performer created. It’s the longing for that surreal feeling which haunted my childhood.
Recently I’ve been called back to a manuscript I’d set aside five months ago. Characters passionate for resolution of action and scene reached across the void, slipping into my creative conscious. No longer intent on remaining silent, they beckon me to continue their unsettled lives, vowing not to quit until their story is complete. The voices from those pages speak of a mother and daughter taken from the physical world too soon. Their non-physical forms have transcended to a place I know, a place I visited as a young boy sitting in that small church on the Oregon Coast. They are there, waiting. I know their story, but don’t know how it ends. Only they do, and their unspoken words haunt my unfinished manuscript. I sit… and listen, ready to hear what they have to say.
(Note: This post first appeared at “The Writing Bug” in December 2011 and refers to my current work in progress “Ghost Guide.”)