Holy Hauntings+ Apology to a Sad Reader

This last month, I hunted down old houses. Cabins, really, no—shacks. What’s left of places people carved out of wilderness near our island. 

One was tiny—but it had a loft. We dared to lift our heads into the darkness, hoping to find a relic of the past. But no, just spider webs and acrid piles of guano . . . 

 Down the beach, Russian Dick’s cabin perches on a bank that will soon slide it into the ocean.  I have watched the bank erode year by year. It will not last much longer.

Russian Dick escaped from Russia during the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917, an officer in the White Army. He fled to Alaska, making his way out to a remote beach, to a bank over a rocky beach, an inhospitable beach, where he mined for gold (unsuccessfully), raised cattle and chickens, rowing the milk and eggs 9 ocean miles to the nearby village to sell.

It is said that he killed his Alutiiq wife, pushing her off an icy cliff in winter. It is known that his son shot two people to death near our island. He went to prison. Russian Dick is said to have taken his own life.

The stories of other men and women who fled towns and cities and countries to make a home out here in the Alaskan bush-----we have lost most of them. But the ones we know are grim. Alcohol almost always plays a part; and wives running for their lives, fire, and for some, a slow slide toward madness. Henry Landberg, who owned the cabin my parents-in-law bought some 50+ years ago, lived alone. He fished now and then, drank a lot, tended a few cattle and wrote letters.  We found some of his letters, complaining that someone was rowing to his island and sawing steaks off his cows.

This same week of exploration, I received some emails that broke my heart.  The letters, from some I knew and some I didn’t, took me through  empty houses---divorce, a husband abandoning his family, a mother in the hospital with cancer.  And one in particular, full of sadness and---almost anger. At me.  “This life you are living, I cannot live. There is so much sorrow here and so much happiness there. Sometimes I cannot read your words.”

She told me the story of her present life. I am cut, dashed. I want to sit with her in the ashes . . .   We write back and forth. I am grateful to have heard her, to be given the honor of entering her own lonely house.

And what have I to offer back? When I bring only myself, this one small self, I bring little. I can only ghost through her rooms (and yours) as I haunt mine----a destructive wraith of a spirit, who can bring no substance or flesh or change or joy or hope.   

I have no hope of my own to give her---or you.

But  I can give you what has been given to me. The hope that has mended windows, fixed hinges, shooed the bats from my attic.  The hope that comes in the body of a man who came and lived among us, who opened the crooked door and settled at our kitchen table, to bring food, wine, a merry heart and the promise that such company will never end.

Hope that promises “In my father’s house are many rooms. I am going there to prepare a place for you.”

It is place where there are no more fires or fleeing wives or graves of whiskey bottles under the house.

And in that place God will dwell with us,  and He will be our God and we will be His sons and daughters …  and we will eat and laugh and sing and keep the doors open for all who would join us.

This is what I want: to invite you here into my own house where the Holy haunts and fills my rooms, my table. The table is set for you.

And if you come, and you cannot see or find Him, 
when you see just a wraith at an wrecked, empty table, and there is no place set for you-----have mercy. Write me. Invite me to your own God-haunted house, that I may be fed the Hope that dwells with you.  

I am as needy as you. 

And so, this way, dearest friends, let us serve one another.

Let us forgive one another. 

Let us Holy-Spirit haunt one another .