Spooky ghost writer!
What do you see sitting in the chair? It’s a ghost writer.
Halloween means it’s time for apparitions to swirl outside or join us in our living rooms. This Victorian ghost writer is hanging out where all the action happens. (In the library of course.)
The author apparition is actually a novelist and biographer from the U.K. Her name is Mrs. Gaskall and she wrote The Old Nurse’s Story, a frightening tale about phantoms and a little girl. Mrs. Gaskall, or Elizabeth, also wrote a biography about Charlotte Brontë. Elizabeth and Charlotte were friends and when Charlotte died, her father asked Elizabeth to write his daughter’s story. The Life of Charlotte Brontë was the first biography of Charlotte and published in 1857.
Elizabeth had other literary friends like Charles Dickens and Thomas Carlyle. Dickens admired Elizabeth’s novels and had her write stories for his magazine Household Words. Elizabeth championed women in her books and shocked many a Brit with her unconventional ideas about the social mores of the period. She was a humanitarian and saw the rich only getting richer and the poor spiraling further in poverty. Now that’s a real scary story.
By the way, I believe in ghost writers…because I am one. If you have an idea for a book and don’t have time to write it, get in touch with me. I’ll make sure your vision becomes something real.
For an hour a week I write with a man who has Alzheimer’s disease. We write about the yellow leaves that fall on his front lawn. We write about eating Thanksgiving turkey and Brussels sprouts. We write about going for walks with a dog name Bo. We don’t write stories about the man as a young boy or raising his family or his career days. Those memories are locked away in a place where only Alzheimer’s has the key.
From the time we’re born, we start building memories and telling stories from them. When our memories are gone, what happens to us? Are we our memories?
Who am I without my recollection of a life lived? What’s my personality without the anecdotes of where I was born or when I went fishing with my dad and he fell asleep and pushed me into the creek? What would I be like if I didn’t have stories to share with family and friends and strangers? Who would I be?
In the end, I don’t think memory loss diminishes the person. A person is still him or herself despite a lack of reminiscing about the past. They still create moments of joy every day.
Reading in the main lodge at Skoki.
I’m sitting in Skoki Lodge reading a book. The lodge itself must hold many, many stories as the log building is over 80 years old. The story I’m reading I found on the Skoki bookshelf and it’s called Every trail has a story: Heritage Travel in Canada by Bob Henderson. One chapter is about women who bucked their traditional roles in the early 1900s and took to the trails. Mary T. S. Schäffer is one of them and she explored the Skoki area as well as other remote Alberta regions.
Mary, a Philadelphia Quaker woman, took on the Rockies on horseback. She photographed and painted the people she met in what remains today, isolated and hard places to get. Some of the art she produced and treasures she bought along the trail are found at the Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies in Banff.
Another hard-core adventurer was Lillian Ailling. Lillian was a Russian woman who came to North America. She didn’t like it here and started walking home to Russia. She hiked from New York to the Yukon in 1927 trying to get home. Once in Dawson, Lillian worked as a server until the spring. That’s when she took a boat she repaired and headed down the Yukon River and out to the Bering Sea. Did she land in Russia? Maybe. One story says she arrived in the fall of 1930. Another says something different.
Australian author Cassandra Pybus tried to trace Lillian’s story to Russia but hit a wall. She later got
help through a man who had once met Lillian. He got in touch with Cassandra and told her Lillian got married and settled in Dawson.
Which ending do you like best?
It thanks to authors like Henderson and Pybus that I even know there was a story, and thus have an ending to choose. Just think of all the people who have done amazing things and we’ll never know about them.