Goodness knows, when I started writing Dusty Waters, A Ghost Story I had no idea where it was going, yet in spite of the self-doubts, it flowed together like it was always there—it is the ghost story that I always wanted to write.
The ghost story is the story that is not going to be told in the official biography of the folksinger, Dusty Waters, being written by Katharine Tierney. While the two friends touch on all the milestones and reminisce about their childhood days, Dusty remains unwilling to confide to Katharine that she has the gift to see ghosts. Dusty Waters is a ghost story, and I’m compelled to challenge any misunderstanding about my intentions. It is more than a ghost story, it’s not all about the ‘boo-factor’ of being scared of ghosts; it is a ghost story that is about life as much as it is about death and the afterlife. There are scarier things than ghosts, and most of the time, it’s the living who are scary—the dead are beyond the living, some are poor souls caught in their final moments, and some have chosen to remain where they are in the existence in between here and moving on to wait, to watch, to witness.
Dusty Water’s has the gift to see them (or is it a curse?) She empathizes with these spirits of her ancestors haunting Tanglewood, but she has the right to be annoyed that they exist in the periphery of her daily life—it’s something she can’t talk about without everyone thinking she’s lost her mind; however, at times she is in danger of losing her mind because of their constant presence. That is very scary when you think about it—the mental wear n’ tear is undeniably problematic. Part of Dusty’s ‘growing up’ is making peace with this ability, trying to understand them—their ‘why’, their ‘how come’. Her eventual intervention to help them move on by resolving the things that have haunted them beyond their physical existence is a gift that only someone with a brave heart can step in with an extended hand. Eventually, the stress drives her away from home—only putting distance between her and Tanglewood allows her to live “ghost free”.
This is a ghost story that is as much about a haunted house as it is about the ghosts of the past. History haunts us in subtle ways; the war in Vietnam has haunted our country in recent years in Afghanistan and Iraq. The echoes of political mistakes are metaphorical spirits, poltergeists shaking their fingers, clanking chains of memory, only some of us are willing to take notice, see the parallels and try to make a difference. While there are the naysayers who declare, there are no such things as ghosts. We all have ghosts in some form—some as small as a guilty conscience for a white lie.
With all said here, I’ll never apologize for misleading anyone into their own expectations when they pick up a copy of Dusty Waters, a Ghost Story—we all are guilty of having them. John Steinbeck said it best of all when he was writing East of Eden: “It will not be what anyone expects and so the expecters will not like it. And until it gets to people who don’t expect anything and are just willing to go along with the story, no one is likely to like this book.”