By Suzanne Stormon
I’ve been thinking about the stories I tell myself. So many things are mysteries. Why do I stop and look around at one point and not at others? Why do I always find myself starting over from the beginning? Why does the smell of sagebrush mean so much to me? Why do I always seem to write about ghosts, when I don’t even think I believe in them?
Writing is one way of tracing down the source of these mysteries, of ferreting out the clues to myself.
One of the usual suspects is the force of my mother’s words. How she shaped my rebellion, my self-doubt, my absolute resolve to live my own way. She, who seemed to be so influenced by what others may be thinking. My flight to new ways of doing things emerges from my rebellion against being labeled by that prickly, strong woman.
Her ghost, now standing over my shoulder, is begging me not to write about her that way. I want to stroke her arm and tell her that I know she did her best. I want to thank her for helping me to become myself. I want her to tell me I’m good enough as I am. She keeps shifting, changing. Family ghosts have a way of softening, their imperfections washed away by time.
The love of sagebrush and the outdoors comes from long drives our father would force upon us when we were kids. Him, singing the praises of every mountain or pasture we would pass on those Sundays. When he got his dream of moving to Nevada, it gave me a chance to live out my dream of ranch life in Fernley. I stayed there with the family for several months, the high desert smells seeping deep into my heart.
My father’s ghost, farther in the distance, all his seething anger burned away by his long dying, is a comfort to me now. I see him up on the mountainside, near the mine tunnel, at the failed silver mine he worked before he first got sick. He’s watching the wild horses and wishing he had someone nearby, so he could again sing praises of all that he sees.
I remember too, the smell of sagebrush as my lover, Stan Halemano, and I would clear the summit on Kingsbury Grade, coming from our little rented house in South Lake Tahoe. We would head our old Ford truck into the Carson Valley, bound for Sunday dinner in Fernley. Our mischievous puppy, Max, bouncing around in the back of the truck. Sometimes, we’d take the real long way, traveling the washboard dirt roads out near Lake Lahonton, before heading north to Fernley.
The sudden smell of sagebrush always brings back the ghosts of Stan and Max. I think even of that old truck as a ghost.
I started writing about ghosts even before anyone close to me had died. No ghost had yet tapped me on the shoulder. Could I have known so young that all passes away? That is a mystery I’ve yet to unwind.
What ghosts ramble around in your mind? Leave a comment. If your ghosts reside in Nevada, consider writing about it for Nevada Narratives. See the home page for submission instructions.