Saturday, July 20, 2013

Paranormal and Supernatural

Many years ago I read a graphic description of the meaning of the words "paranormal" and "supernatural".

In the middle of a piece of blank paper, draw a dot. This dot represents all of mankind. Now draw a circle around the dot. (The size doesn't matter.) Everything within that circle is what mankind knows and understands. We are familiar with this world within the circle. That's the 'normal' and 'natural'. But outside the circle is all the stuff we don't understand. That's the paranormal and supernatural.

The thing is—the circle keeps growing as mankind figures out how things work. From biblical times to the middle ages, the circle expanded slowly. Gathering momentum, it grew more rapidly. Draw another, larger circle around mankind and the smaller circle. Mankind observed the stars and how the earth moves around the sun. Others studied gravity, while still other men worked out geometry and other higher math that supports today's inventions. Most of those people were vilified for their opinions.  Today we can hardly keep up with the expanding circle. Maybe it's bigger than the piece of paper. What was once 'supernatural' is now commonplace.

Even if you haven't read any commentary from the 1800s about the possibility of inventions we take for granted, you can imagine the skepticism and ridicule heaped on those who might have dared suggest vehicles that carried people from America to Europe in less than a day's time, immediate communication with people all around the earth, instant photography, and all the other things we take for granted. Man would walk on the moon and come back to tell about it? Foolish dreams and foolish people to believe these things might come true. But they did begin to understand eclipses, electricity, and photography. These things were no longer paranormal events.

For a humorous look at what medieval mankind might have thought about what we consider completely understandable events and inventions, read Mark Twain's A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court. You'll get a good laugh.

But as quickly as we see the circle growing, we still keep many subjects firmly outside our circle—out there in the realm of the supernatural/paranormal. Coincidences that have purpose and meaning. Ghosts. UFOs. Miracles. Auras. Telepathy. Out of body experiences. Precognition.   People who believe these happen are often made fun of, or worse.

I once had a friend who was a retired Air Force navigator. He told me it was not uncommon for Air Force pilots and navigators to experience being followed or circled by UFOs, particularly on the Alaska to Japan flights. They no longer reported the experience. Why? Because anyone reporting a UFO was going to end up labeled a mental case and banned from flying. So they just forget it—pretend to anyone not in the plane at the time that they never saw a thing.

The whole world operates on cycles, patterns, sequences, spirals. Scientists can explain why petals grow in sets of three or five, spring follows winter, chemicals in our bodies can affect us in profound ways, sound waves we can't hear can do damage.

Remember the old TV program Beverly Hillbillies? Whenever they heard a chiming bell, someone appeared at their front door. Doorbells were outside their particular circle. It was magic to them.

Will we ever know why coincidences happen in threes? Not in my lifetime, I'll bet. Will someone figure out why some places are haunted? Maybe—maybe not. Will we discover where the UFOs come from? Yes. Someday.

The circle is getting bigger.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Signs and Omens of death

Supposedly, there are many signs or portends that announce a death is imminent. When I was writing my novel, Broussard Court, I researched a few and put them in the book. When a picture of the person falls for no reason, for example, or when a candle flickers and goes out without a cause, death is close by. I used both of those to foretell the death of one of my characters.

But I really didn't have to go any further than my family to know about death signs. My mother's mother's family knew all about them. I had heard about them all my life.

My mother's mother died when Mama was a baby, and since her father was an oilfield worker and couldn't tend to his three children, Mama was raised by her grandmother, Nancy Knight Wood, for whom I am named. When she was a little older, her mother's sisters took over the job. My great-aunt Ethel knew someone was going to die when she saw a big "ball of fire" hovering in the air. It wouldn't do to scoff at this idea; she could name the times and people whose demise was foretold in that way—including that of Uncle Jack, her sister Emma's husband. I used Aunt Ethel's 'gift'  in my story "Birth and Death in Shadow Cove" which was published recently in Elements of Life.
My mother had a sign for death, also. She dreamed about mice. I don't know what in the world mice had to do with death, but it's so. I remember the time it was brought home, so to speak.

It was a hot summer day, and as was our habit after supper each evening, my parents and I and the next door neighbors were sitting in lawn chairs between the two houses, in the shade of the house, visiting. My mother was worrying aloud, because she had dreamed about mice the night before and was worried about who was going to die. The neighbors were interested and amused by her tale of dreams of mice meaning death. My father was outright scoffing at the idea, while my mother was telling of instances it had happened.

Then the phone rang. My mother went in the house to answer it. It was her family calling.

Her cousin Bud was closest to her in age. Her Aunt Emma had nursed both Bud and Mama when they were infants.  That hot summer day he had been fishing with a friend. The boat overturned and Bud had a heart attack and drowned while trying to swim to shore.

No one made fun of Mama's dreams any more.

Fortunately, I didn't inherit any 'gift' of foretelling death. I'm glad. It's something I don't want. But I like writing about such things. They are such a puzzle. There are so many 'why's, all unanswered.

There was at least one person in my lineage whose gift foretold good things, not bad. This happened just after the Civil War, the story goes, so it must have been Nancy Knight's mother, Rebecca Little Knight, who had the vision of her son standing in the doorway, leaning against the side. "It must mean he has been killed," the people around her said. "No," she replied. "It means he is safe and coming home to me." And he was. And he did. And leaned in the doorway just as the vision had foretold.

Happy visions and dreams!


Saturday, July 6, 2013



Are coincidences signs? Are they leading you along a path—the path you are supposed to travel? What happens if you ignore them and go a different direction? Some people say nothing bad will happen. Others can point to a time when a coincidence kept them from being in an accident, or led them to something good.

There is an old story I've heard told from the pulpit of a church more than once.

There was a terrible flood. The river was rising and the people were told to evacuate their homes and go to higher ground. One old man wouldn't leave. The police went door-to-door telling people to move out. The old man said, "I'm not going. God will save me."

The water got up to the second floor. The rescue unit sent a boat to save the old man, but he wouldn't get in it. "God will save me," he said.

When the water got even higher and the old man had moved up onto the roof, they sent a helicopter. "Grab the ladder," they called down to him. "No, thank you," the old man answered. "God will save me."

The old man drowned.

When he got to heaven and met God, he asked, "God, I put all my faith in you. Why didn't you save me?"

God answered. "Well, I sent you a boat and a helicopter. What else did you expect?"

In other words, we shouldn't ignore signs.

I used to sell real estate. One day when I was on duty a woman came in. I'll call her Sue. Here is her story.

Her husband was a chemist at the paper mill near our town. They were a young couple. He was right out of college and this was his first job. He hated the job. He hated where he worked. He hated the type chemistry he was doing. They hated the town. They hated the school system their children would have attended had they not gone to church school. The only thing they liked was the fundamentalist church they attended.

They had been praying fervently about the situation, asking God to provide a different life for them. Now, the husband's favorite college professor was a supervisor at a plant in another state, and had offered the husband a job doing the kind of chemistry he loved—at a substantial raise.


Her dilemma that day was that she didn't know whether to list their house for sale or not. God hadn't told her.

It just so happened I had another couple I had been showing houses for over a year. The husband had been driving well over a hundred miles a day commuting to his work in our town. To say she was picky about a house was an understatement. I had been showing her homes for so long we had become good friends. We knew all about each other's kids and hobbies and such. I'll call her Rita.

I knew Sue's home was just what Rita was looking for. Perfect size. Perfect neighborhood. Perfect price. So I asked Sue if she would permit a 'one time showing'. That is a listing to show to one customer only. No sign. No ad. Just the one couple looking at it.

Rita and husband loved it. Made a full price offer.

Sue and husband turned it down.

God hadn't told them whether to sell or not.

Coincidences or signs?  God sends a boat. God sends a helicopter. He sends a job. He sends a raise. He sends a buyer for your house.

Can you recognize signs? Do you ignore coincidences?


Tuesday, July 2, 2013

More death

Coincidences, big and little. Do they mean something? Or are they just that—coincidences? It's up to you to decide. All I'm trying to do is make you more aware of them—encourage you to start watching for them.

Here's a sad set of 'death comes in threes'.

A few months ago my daughter told me she had reconnected with an old college friend. I'll call her 'Mary'. They hadn't been close friends, but they were more than just acquaintances. They hadn't been in touch since college—many years. Facebook had done what Facebook is really good for, reconnecting people, and they had gone through the "what are you doing now" routine. Weeks later, my daughter got the news that Mary had committed suicide.

Not long after that there was news of another death.

My daughter is a teacher. About ten years ago she had "Ellis" in her fourth-grade classroom, and a couple of years later she taught his sister, "Alice". She became acquainted with Ellis and Alice's grandmother and great-grandmother, as did I, and we kept the friendship through the years. Ellis was a real handful back then and continued to be at odds with the establishment as he grew up. Then came the sad news. Ellis had committed suicide. He was only twenty-one years old.

My daughter said, "That's two suicides. Who'll be the third, I wonder?"

Within the month a close mutual friend of ours got the news. Her son had taken his life.

As sad as these deaths are, I can't help think that the saddest part is that they didn't realize they didn't get out of anything by ending their lives prematurely.

You see, life is like a classroom. You (and I) are here to learn something. What we have to learn—what we struggle with—is different for each of us. But whatever it is, we have to learn it. If we don't, we'll face the same challenge in our next lifetime. If you end your current life early, you'll have to start all over again from the beginning. Might as well buckle down and learn the lesson this time.

There's really no such thing as death, you see. We move from this plane of existence to another, back and forth, as we experience and learn. Whatever you struggle with is your lesson. Once you master it, it won't be hard again.

I wonder if our coincidences are clues to our lessons. Hmm…. I'll have to think about that.