Talking to Ghosts

Downtown Occidental

The river ran thin, the water barely reaching the waists of the people wading in it. Where did the water go? Is it the droughts that haunt us every winter before the winds blow balls of fire from mountains and hillsides surrounding the valley? Or is the rushing river water held back by the dam?

Whatever the reason, Johnson Beach, the Russian River of my childhood, my twenties, my thirties, fading into my forties and fifties is drying up from the burning sun, a pile of rubble for beach resembles a graveyard of white bones. Towels and chairs blanket the coarse hot sand in the middle of Spring while music blares on radios and children cool their feet in ankle deep cold green waters.

My sister and I left, disappointed in not being able to resurrect our past youth and carefree years.

We turned the car around and headed to Occidental stopping at Joe’s Bar at Negri’s, the Italian Restaurant my parents took us to when we were little, sitting three in a row in the back seat of the station wagon, starving on the way there. An hour ride from the city felt like it took all day. By the time we reached the restaurant, it was dark and felt like we were eating at midnight.

At Joe’s my sister and I ordered Truffle fries and fancy drinks, the bar is upscale now ready to serve a more refined, not easily impressed fickle crowd.

Sitting in the bar at a table in the back with a view of the sun slowly moving down for the evening, I remembered the time I was a naive nineteen years old, on a date with an older man, a thirty-six year old man, to my surprise finding out later, a married man.

He picked me up after work, driving me to San Francisco over the Golden Gate with the top down on his sports car. It was exciting and thrilling. I felt sophisticated. I could feel my skin come alive as tiny rushes of pleasure moved through me.

Until we got to the bar.

My date paraded me through a crowd of adults, picking two bar stools right up to the bar where everyone who walked in or walked out could see us.

I remember the bartender’s disapproving looks. The shiny bottles lined up against the large glass mirror filled with mysterious elixirs in otherworldly colors of green, reds, and blues.

It was too late for me to turn back. Everything inside of me wanted to run. I pushed down the anxiety, the shame silenced me turning me mute. I sat, feeling like a child while the older man, my boyfriend for the night ordered a shrimp cocktail and a “real” drink. In a whisper, I shyly answered him, requesting a soda and sat there, feeling like a wild animal caged on display.

I don’t remember the rest of that evening. I just remember feeling out of place, not comfortable in my body, realizing I had no idea who I really was.

Tonight, at Joe’s Bar, with my sister, thirty-five years later, my life is still a mystery to me. I still don’t feel completely comfortable in my body.

The difference is, it’s rare for me to feel out of place. I am grounded in who I am. The anxiety is gone. I could care less about disapproving looks.

I feel like I am moving through this world following the monks wearing orange robes that I wrote about a couple of days ago, the monks in my dreams.

I am reminded of the often quoted bible saying “You are in the world, but not of this world”.

After Scott crossed over, I feel like I am traveling through the world. Before, my sister and I left for a drive out to the river, I fell into a vision. I was talking to Scott. We found ourselves in a commercial kitchen, I kept glancing at the dumb waiter near the stainless steel counter tops. I was waiting for something to appear, a plated dinner or meal ready to be served. The dumb waiter’s mechanical cord didn’t move, there was nothing for me to do. The contraption was empty. In the quiet kitchen, both of us dressed in chefs whites, I faced Scott and asked him, “What am I supposed to be doing now? I don’t understand why I’m still here. What is my job.”

Scott looked at me and said “Janet, your job is to give people hope.”


On the way back from Joe’s Bar and the River, I described my vision with Scott to my sister. At the stoplight, we watched a male pigeon swirl about in a provocative dance trying to impress a female sitting next to him on top of the lamp post. He was giving everything he had to win her over.

While the pigeon danced, waiting for the light to change, I explained to my sister, the message from Scott about Hope. How it is true, I try to give people hope, I bare my soul, my authentic life on this blog to give people hope that they are not alone.

Hope that their loved ones are not truly lost. They are still right here loving them, pouring their affections through the thin veil the same as they did when they were here.

Hope that they are not alone in their thoughts and feelings. Their fears and anxiety.

Hope that there are amazing dreams awaiting them as the ones they were promised fall through their hands, sandcastles disappearing in a moment, waiting to be reborn into the next.

Published by As the Road Wanders

Travel Blogger and Traveler

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