We have only been here in our winter home for a few weeks, but managed to avoid an early winter snow in Upstate New York. My neighbors sent me a picture of our cottage covered in the white stuff, and that got me thinking about our resident ghost in the cottage, Fred. I thought I would post this as an homage to Fred. It was a guest post on another blog, but I find it never hurts to placate Fred whenever possible because of his odd sense of humor.
My Two Muses
I have jokingly said I have two literary muses. One is the ghost that inhabits our 1874 cottage. His name is Fred. I’ve heard little from him this summer because I’m convinced he left the cottage for a quieter place. We redid our bedroom, and our assumedly one month renovation project stretched into three months. It was a noisy, dirty project not simply because of all the sawing and hammering, but because the sawer and hammerer (my husband) accompanied his work with verbalizations that could be called both noisy and dirty. Our cats suffered extreme anxiety as did I. Fred likes to make his presence known by playing some trick on us like starting the truck or turning on the electric fireplace. Maybe he tried this trickery and we were too distracted or deaf from all the construction to notice. I assumed he went to visit relatives at the cemetery across the creek. I struggled on without his guidance and managed to complete a novella and accomplish edits on two books I’m reissuing, so I began to think I could do without Fred.
I began to feel Fred’s absence when I tried to put together an outline for my upcoming book for which the deadline loomed. I outlined and outlined and simply went around in circles. By this time it was early fall and the room was completed, the house was once more quiet, the cats settled back into their routines and my husband became once again the kind, gentle man with the extensive vocabulary. Fred signaled his presence by making the door knob to the front door fall off as my husband tried to close it. Hubby was on the outside of the house holding the knob in his hand and I was inside holding the other half of the knob. Luckily the back door was intact.
So Fred was back, and I welcomed any trick he might play. He returned to his role as literary muse by helping me generate an outline that made sense. I was thinking of firing him because of his desertion in the summer, but everyone deserves time off even a ghost. Fred is back on the job. Except I am now in rural Florida in my winter home. Since we winterize the house up north by turning off the water and heat, I have no idea where Fred spends his winters. But I’m certain by the operable nature of our doorknobs down here that he has chosen some other location in which to winter. I’m assuming that ghosts find cold houses unpleasant and so must Fred since the person checking up on our house has indicated that she’s had no trouble with the door knobs and the electric fireplaces are off.
So here’s my problem: in the past, I said that my muse here was the alligator living in our canal out back, but that was a joke, actually, a lie. I can’t tell one alligator from another, so I’m not certain that the one gliding past today is the same one that was here last year. For all I know, my original muse alligator has long ago evolved into a pair of boots or a wallet or a piece of luggage. Fred is allusive, a bit of a trickster, but he’s got a single identity. He doesn’t go off and get captured or get into a fight with another ghost and die on me (of course, he wouldn’t die, would he because he’s already dead.)
I love writing in rural Florida. I’ve produced two series set here. My protagonists like me are transplants from the north, Yankee women who found a second home in the swamps and fields of rural Florida, gals who like cowboys and cows and palm trees. Maybe I just don’t need a muse for my writing when I’m writing down here. I’ve been getting along just fine pretending that some nameless alligator was my muse. Or I could invite Fred to accompany us to our home here and damn the doorknob consequences. No, I cannot have Fred here. There’s just no room. I know ghosts aren’t material, but I have a feeling Fred, hubby, cats male and female and I would just get in one another’s way. And soon Fred would be all out of sorts and into finding ways to set our house on fire or he’d be over at the pool dying it with purple food coloring. How does one explain that to the home owners’ association? I guess I’ll have to soldier on without a muse here. Unless you have an idea?