Charyl Says


Another Day. Another Storm.
November 28, 2013, 8:30 pm
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(Please be sure to watch the video at the bottom of this post.)

Since childhood I’ve had a fascination with thunderstorms–especially those involving tornadic activity.  Growing up in the Midwest–and living for several years on the Atlantic Coast of Florida and in Texas (among other places)–I’ve experienced my fair share of these storms.  I know that a large thunderstorm in late Fall isn’t exactly what a person should expect to happen in this area of the country–but happen it did–on Sunday, November 17 of 2013.

It swept through a handful of states; Illinois being the hardest hit with the towns of Washington and Gifford experiencing devastating damage (to help, please visit this site: http://donate.mccormickfoundation.org/ILtornado ).  Though a small tornado was confirmed (see the Weather Service’s picture below)–thankfully, other than a row of downed power lines and some outlying damage to cars and roofs–the small town I’m currently living in (Pana) received mostly minor cosmetic and tree-related damage.

TornadoTracks

Around noon the wind began to pick, kicking the Fall leaves upward into a frenzy.  The clouds raced by low overhead.  A scattering of rain fell from an ominously-dark sky.  There was word that a large tornado had flattened a town minutes before, just a couple of counties north.  Watches turned into warnings.  And then the eerie wail of the city’s tornado siren echoed off the houses and shot down the deserted streets.

TornadoSky

I sprinted across the backyard to the garage to retrieve my teenage son, grabbed my special needs daughter, my purse, and all the pets I could find and secured them safely in the basement.  But there is something about a storm… something that draws you in and dares you to stay and watch.  I decided to leave everyone underground and sneak back upstairs for a few moments.

I stood at the front door–video rolling–and waited.  I didn’t capture an actual tornado, but you can see from the drastic change in the wind and rain the moment a funnel either passed over or very close by.  It may not look like much–but according to the Weather Service these winds were around 110 mph–and were strong enough to snap and knock over a half-mile of power-lines poles a couple of blocks away:

DownedLines

The winds were blowing parallel for most of the video, but at the end they suddenly shifted, coming directly at me.  It was enough to knock me backward into the house and slam the outside door in my face (no laughing at my reaction!).   I immediately shut the inside door and ran to the basement (nearly tripping over and yelling at one of the cats that had happened to sneak back upstairs).  This is partly because being suddenly thrown backward startled me—and partly over concern about the safety of the kids in the basement–but really, it was more than that.  This may sound like I’m a subscriber to animism, but every time I’ve experienced a storm–particularly hurricanes and those containing tornadic activity–there is a sense of an intelligent force; as if nature gathers its energy into an ominous, thinking beast capable of guiding itself across the landscape.  It felt like I had been watching a monster for several minutes–and at the moment the wind shifted, it turned and noticed me, charging with an almost supernatural ferocity.

For 25 years (since childhood) I’ve had variations of lucid dreams wherein I’m standing outside the house watching a storm.  Without warning, a funnel dips down from the sky directly across the street, heading right for me (and anyone else I happened to be with–which changes from dream to dream).  In the dreams, I always just barely make it underground before the swirling mass hits, destroying the house above me. In the video when the wind turned, there was an overwhelming sense that something was about to drop from the sky in front of me; that the monster from my dreams had noticed me.

Looking back I wish I had stood my ground, pushed off my instinct, and faced it.  The house was fine after all was said and done, and if I had continued to film, I may have captured the huge limb that snapped off the tree out front and covered the front lawn seconds after I shut the door.  But it is what it is.  Another day, another storm.

***As a side note… I got a call from my mother right as the storm was hitting that day.  My father was having chest pains and she had taken him to the hospital.  Most of the E.R. staff was in the basement!  They checked him out, but could find no explanation for what caused the pains.  Talk about an odd day!

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Coal Creek Cemetery

Recently my small brood and I decided to have a local mini-adventure.  There aren’t many truly adventure-worthy (and free) spots in this area of the state–but if one looks hard enough, places can be found; for us that place was Coal Creek Cemetery (AKA Mount Cemetery) a few miles outside of Pana, Illinois.  Only a couple of miles away from my deceased grandfather’s farm in rural Central Illinois, it had been childhood since I had last visited this cemetery.

A short, country drive toward the Rhodes-France Scout Reservation/Camp brought us to this cemetery.  (Click Here for a map.)  Once we arrived at the sign denoting the cemetery’s presence, we parked and began walking.  It was about a mile walk (one-way) on a grassy path between fields on a cool, but clear Fall afternoon.  The path gave way to woods which brought us to the cemetery, neatly tucked into a hidden treeline.  Even though the cemetery was overgrown with dried prairie grass, it was a beautiful place.  Old, discolored stones peeked up from the tufts of grass.  The late afternoon sun filtered through trees that were ablaze with orange and red leaves.  It wasn’t a huge cemetery–but fairly large as old rural cemeteries go.  Situated on a wooded bluff and hidden from the world, it gave off a magical feel.   I’m unsure if there are any paranormal stories associated with this graveyard (other than ones proliferated by nearby Boy Scouts sitting around campfires and teenagers out trying to find a secluded night-time spot)–but I sensed nothing untoward here.  In fact, it felt quite peaceful.   The last burial seems to have taken place in 1914, but most of the stones contain dates from throughout the 1800’s (including some war veterans).

While those buried here all seem to be ordinary folk and the stones are modest, a visit to this cemetery is a good way to get out and do something interesting, connect with the local past, get some exercise, and see some beautiful natural scenery.  Remember to be respectful of those buried here.  For more information about the burials and location visit:

http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=cr&CRid=2160511&CScnty=776&

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If the World Would Pause for Just a Moment…
November 11, 2013, 3:09 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , ,

OldPoem

So my mother was cleaning out some of her drawers today and found this small notebook with just one written page.  Judging from my signature on the outside, the patent date on the notebook, and my writing–I wrote this rough draft sometime in the mid-90’s; probably 1994 or 1995 (around 16 years old).  I have notebooks full of my writing and poems in high school (and before) and this poem isn’t exactly prize-worthy (it’s actually kind of embarrassingly bad!)–but this particular poem and finding it after being stored away for so long… it just seem special.  It reads:

If the world would pause for just a moment,
and time would cease to be.
If I could see your face if you had one
I wonder how would your eyes make me feel?
Maybe someday I will see your face
though just through chance we would meet.
But is there such a thing as chance,
or is it all a scheme?
I wonder if I might awake
and realize this all is just a dream?
The world is a sea of heartache
that frankly never bothers me.
What that is, poses a good question.
Yet another earthly mystery.
 

Seems like even back then I knew there was someone special I needed to meet.

 
 
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Nothing But Light

Note: I began writing this piece a few weeks ago. When I got several lines into the story, I started to realize that the subject matter seemed a bit cliche and the dialogue somewhat juvenile.  Normally, at that point I would abandon the project altogether–but something kept me working on it to the point that I finished it, typed and edited it, and arranged it in a public format.  I decided not to pursue normal publication, but felt (for whatever reason) that it still needed to be read… even though it isn’t up to the standards I set for myself and honestly just doesn’t feel “good enough.”  There’s a reason I was pushed to finish it and put it out there; so hopefully whoever needs to see this… will.

P.S.-The photograph at the end of the story was taken by yours truly earlier this year in the woods surrounding Serpent Mound in Ohio.

 
Nothing But Light
by Charyl Miller
 
I drove in a haze, inside and out.  Over the hills, around each bend—methodically.  The car hugged the road as if it were an extension of my body—difficult to discern where flesh ended and the metal and plastic of the car’s mechanics began; melded together in a fusion of steel and numb indifference. I let the road take me where it wanted me to be.
 
Somewhere along the journey I was overtaken by a forest.  Surrounded by trees, even the branches seemed to join together above—blocking out what little light existed that day.  Quite suddenly, something unusual gripped me, erupting from my chest and stealing my breath.  A wall of panic hit me, enveloping me in the wholly unpleasant sensations of suffocation and urgency.  I pulled my car off to the side, grinding to a halt in the weed-strewn gravel that lined the road. 
 
Like shedding my skin, I stepped out of the car onto the buckled pavement.  It was silent… incredibly so; the kind that drowns itself out with the overwhelmingly loud hum of blood rushing in your ears.  No birds, no insects.  I couldn’t remember when I had last witnessed another car passing by mine.  Where was I?  I’d driven on the rural roads outside of my hometown many times before—yet I couldn’t recall ever experiencing this dark passageway before.  The forest seemed endless and strangely cold, though it was the height of summer in the Midwest.
 
For a moment I stood outside of my car—watching and listening—nearly forgetting about the twin feelings of sadness and loneliness that had propelled me to drive vacantly for hours each day.  The creeping feeling that nothing existed Beyond—not God, not an afterlife, not even a soul—began to crush down on my life like an elephant that could no longer be ignored.  The trauma, the ongoing pain, seemed to prove as much.  Nothing in life (or after) was worth it anymore.  I couldn’t explain why I was still alive; why I had allowed myself to live to that point.  Maybe I felt that the more I took to the roads, the more likely statistics would prevail, and do the one thing for me that I somehow was unable to do for myself. 
 
The abrupt call of a single cardinal standing on the roadside within feet of my car startled me into the present.   We stared at one another.  I began to walk slowly toward him, expecting him to take flight and disappear into the treetops.  He did not.  Instead he nonchalantly turned and hopped on his delicate bird feet off the road and toward the woods; stopping only when I stopped and glancing back at me with his black-masked face as if to say, “You coming?”  Intrigued, and with nothing to lose, I pocketed my keys and cell phone and followed him into the woods.
 
I was taken aback to discover a partially-groomed path hidden just beyond the tree-line, barely visible in the all-encompassing darkness of the forest.  Upon turning to look for my new friend, I caught his bright red tail-end out of the corner of my eye as he seemed to silently dissolve into the murkiness.  The promise of what might be at the end of this mysterious path far exceeded my curiosity about the bird, so I stepped onto the walkway, leaving my red companion to his own devices in the woods. 
 
The path consisted of alternating grassy patches, bare spots of forest floor, and moss.  I carefully maneuvered my way over the uneven terrain, fearing the pain of exposure to the elements or eventual starvation if I happened to fall and injure myself.  It would likely be days before anyone noticed my absence—and even longer to actually locate my whereabouts here in this forgotten woodland.  Even with a death-wish, it wasn’t a chance I was willing to take.
 
I walked for about a quarter of a mile when the path abruptly opened up onto a hillside bathed in bright sunlight.  Funny, it had been quite overcast before I had driven into the woods several minutes earlier—but now it was beautiful… and warm.  When my eyes adjusted, I realized I was standing in an old graveyard.  Toppled and broken stones littered the open (but overgrown) field.  I hesitated to walk any farther into the weeds, fearful of what critters may be lurking underneath the tangled mess—but as I scanned the tranquil disarray before me, I noticed my little red friend perched on a leaning tombstone tucked away in the corner across the yard.  I gingerly took some steps forward, pressing into the tall grass.  My fears were realized within moments as a black, sinewy form jolted beneath my feet and quickly wound its way deeper into the tangle.  It seemed every other step I took a snake was laying in wait, just under the grass.  But the cardinal still sat atop the stone—staring at me expectedly—so I cautiously pushed forward. 
 
I got within arm’s length of the bird, my full attention on him.  As I slowly reached out my hand to touch him, he spread his wings and went aloft—a blaze of red disappearing into the deep, blue sky.  For a moment, I stared up in dismay, but as my attention returned to the ground below, I noticed a depression in the grass behind the crumbling tombstone.  Inching my way closer, I could see a mass of black shrouded in weeds.  I balanced with one hand on the stone, and with the other I pushed away as much of the unruly mess as possible. At first I wasn’t sure at what I was looking.  The realization hit me, creating a sickening pit in my stomach; five skeletal fingers covered in patches of leathery, black and weathered skin, rags of ripped and discolored clothing, tufts of golden hair poking up from a broken skull.  It was a body; lifeless and decomposing, that likely had been laying there for days—if not weeks.  Facedown, cradled by the grassy overgrowth, it was impossible to identify who this was at first inspection.  Gender, age, injuries—all concealed by the twin agonies of death and time. 
 
Despite the warm sun, a chill overcame me as I pulled my cell phone from my pocket.   Surprised that I had any cell reception at all, my hands shook as I attempted to dial 911 and describe to the dispatcher what I had found.  I couldn’t explain exactly where I was—only where I thought I might be and the appearance of the terrain around me.  She explained that they might be able to get a general idea where I was based on the pings off nearby cell towers, that it might take awhile to find the location, and requested that I stay put.  I took another look at my surroundings and reluctantly agreed.  After all, it wasn’t as if I had anywhere to be or anyone special to be with.  Placing the still-connected phone on top of the nearest tombstone, I found an old stump within feet of it—short enough to take a seat, tall enough to keep me up over the snake-infested grass.  I sat down and prepared for a long wait, thankful that the body had decomposed enough that it didn’t seem to be giving off much of an odor.
“Hello?” I heard a small voice say from behind me, beyond the tree-line.  Startled at first, I turned to find a young girl emerging from the darkness.  Maybe fifteen, she was quite lanky and had long, blonde hair and striking blue eyes.  She smiled and began to make her way over to me.

“Careful!  Snakes all over in here!”  I cautioned her.  Brushing me off, she continued into the old cemetery

“There’s also a dead body,” I added, almost as an afterthought.  I pointed to the grass next to me.

“This is a cemetery,” she stated.  “There are lots of dead bodies!”

“No,” I said, a bit exasperated.  “A body that isn’t buried; that’s been dumped.”

“Oh,” she responded, looking at the blackened pieces sticking out of the grass in front of her.  I was a bit surprised at her unusually composed reaction, considering the circumstances.

“I called 911 awhile ago.  They’re trying to locate us,” I explained.

“Good,” she replied, climbing up onto one of the more stable gravestones.

“You look a little young to be hanging out in the middle of nowhere by yourself,” I ventured.  “Is there a reason you’re here?  Do you live nearby?”

“Someone dropped me off and left,” she replied.  “I was waiting for you to come by.”

“Well, I can give you a ride home once the police arrive,” I offered.

“Sure,” she replied.

There was silence for a moment as I searched my brain for the appropriate small talk.  She spoke before I could.

“That’s really a shame,” she said, staring at the remains below us.  I nodded my head in reply.

“Where do you think that person is right now?” she asked.

“What do you mean?” I said, hoping she wasn’t about to go down a pointless metaphysical or religious road.

“Her soul… her spirit,” the girl insisted.  I almost rolled my eyes, but thought better of it.  If God was just a comfort for the masses, now was the time—if any—for Him to do His job.

“Where do you think she is?” I asked, wondering why we had both silently agreed that this unidentifiable mass of decaying flesh was female.  Playing with the metal cross pendant that hung from her neck, she thought for a moment, and then smiled.

“I think she’s in another dimension… right here, one on top of this one,” she mused.

“If that’s true, why can’t we see her?” I challenged.

“Each dimension vibrates at a different frequency and is on a different wavelength… like a radio,” she explained.

“Hmm,” I replied, unsure if what she had said had any real scientific validity or was just an attempt to rationalize what couldn’t be rationalized.  “So you don’t think she’s in Heaven?”

“Maybe Heaven isn’t some far off place in the cosmos,” she speculated.  “Maybe it’s right here… it just can’t be seen through the physical eyes of a soul in a body that isn’t vibrating at the right frequency.  I mean, scientists have observed that different kinds of matter vibrate at different rates depending on how solid they are… so it shouldn’t be that hard to believe.”

I stared at her, trying to judge if she was as educated as she seemed; or if she was just spouting off nonsense she’d heard from some pseudo-scientist.

“Heaven or Hell is what you make it… what you create it to be based on your own personality and beliefs,” she added.

“So is there room for a Higher Power in all this?” I ventured.

“How do you think it all got here in the first place?” she asked.

“Yeah… but how do you know He… She… It is still around, caring individually for each of the billions—if not trillions—of us in this universe?”

She thought for a moment.

“Perhaps God isn’t one separate entity, like everyone imagines,” she replied.  “It might be more like an intelligent energy field that permeates us all… everything.”

“And the age-old question… why do bad things happen to good people?” I prodded.

“How would you know what good is without bad?  How would you grow if everything that happened to everyone was good?” she replied.

“Good question,” I said, contemplatively.  I was nowhere near believing in anything supernatural, but the girl’s ideas had given me cause for thought.  I wanted to inquire of her belief in a variety of concepts such as angels, ghosts, demons, Jesus, prophets, religion, soulmates, and on and on—but I could hear sirens approaching.

“They’re here,” I said, jumping off my stump, my mind instantly clearing of any abstract thought.

Soon officers (uniformed and otherwise) began to filter into the open field, slowed only by the tall grass and hidden serpents.

“Over here!” I yelled, waving an arm emphatically.  For a moment there was a sense of confusion until one of the men appeared to catch on, leading the others to us and the remains.  I began to rattle off what had led to my discovery, but the investigators seemed more concerned with the task at hand.

“Maybe we better step back and let them do their job,” my metaphysically-minded young friend suggested.  I reluctantly followed her lead, watching as the group meticulously documented and photographed the body as it lay.

It wasn’t until they began to carefully turn and lift the decaying remains that something seemed not quite right (other than the fact we were in the presence of a body that had possibly been murdered and dumped).  A hint of light from the corpse’s chest caught my eye for a fraction of a second.  There was a glint of something shiny and metal in the sun.  I leaned over and peeked in closer at the remains as they were being zipped into the thick, dark body bag.  It was a necklace.  A cross.  The realization hit me slowly.  I looked up at the girl standing across from me.  She stared back at me expectedly.  My attention focused to the pendant hanging just under her exposed collarbone.  Except for the tangle of rotting flesh and dirt… it was the same cross.  I began to speak, but didn’t know what to say.  She spoke for me.

“It’s me.”

“What?”  I replied, unable to truly process the scene before me.

“The body—it’s me,” she restated.

“Oh, ha ha,” I answered, sarcastically.  “You’re standing here in front of me, solid as anything.”

“So are you.”

“So, what?”  Are you claiming you’re a ghost?”  I responded, a mix of confusion and irritation in my voice.  “Sweetheart, you’re nuts and your joke is in incredibly poor taste.  I’m leaving.  You can grab a ride with the cops.”

With that, I picked up my cell phone, put it in my pocket, and defiantly made my way back across the overgrown graveyard.  The temperature difference between the warm, sunny field and the cool forest gave me pause, but I trudged on until I was halfway down the path; my car coming into sight through the darkened woods.

I had every intention of getting into my car, speeding off, and somehow finding my way out of this godforsaken forest.  I just wanted to go home and shake off this odd and nightmarish day; but then behind me I heard one of the investigators yell out, “We’ve got another one here!”

I stopped in my tracks.  Something made me turn and retrace my steps.  I reached the blinding sunlight of the cemetery and watched at the tree-line for a moment.  Indeed, they were clearing the weeds away from what appeared to be a second body.  I inched back into the open field, cautious of the hissing chorus.  The young woman was nowhere to be found.

My heart sank as I watched the crew circle the second corpse, documenting it as meticulously as they had the first.  Others began fanning out into the grass, searching for more victims.  A call for a lawn mower was placed via police radio.

As they manipulated the second, half-skeletal body into the bag just feet away from me, I heard a slight jingling noise and a barely-perceptible thud, as if something had hit the ground.  I watched as an officer carefully picked it up off the ground with gloved fingertips.  It was a small, thin black object.  Even with the weathering it had endured, I could identify it immediately.  It was a cell phone.  He reached over one more time and picked up a second object—a dirty set of keys.  This might not have been an unusual find on a dumped corpse, except dangling from that set of keys was a very peculiar keychain… a string of colorful wooden beads.  It had been made and given to me by a co-worker’s child a couple of years ago.  She claimed it was a one-of-kind creation.  My fingers had rubbed along those vibrant beads a thousand times over the months during moments of anxiety and contemplation.  I knew it well.

I patted my side.  My keys and phone were right there in my pocket; yet somehow also in the officer’s hands just feet in front of me.  I didn’t know what to say.  This had to have been some odd cosmic coincidence.

“It’s you.  You know that, don’t you?” came a voice from behind me.  I turned.  There she was—the girl wearing the cross.

“This has got to be a joke,” I said, exasperated.

“Well, if so, it’s an awfully extensive one… not to mention morbid; and for what reason?” she asked.

I drew a blank.

The investigators continued to work as the others started the clumsy job of heading across the field with the two body bags.  Brushing her off, I turned and followed them.  It occurred to me that none of them had acknowledged my presence—or that of the young woman’s; though it was obvious (at least to anyone who could see us) we were the ones who had discovered the remains and thereby essential to the investigation.

“Hey!” I shouted out to them.  No response.  “Hey!”  Not so much as a glance as they continued trying to maneuver the body bags around the old gravestones and through the tall grass, occasionally tripping over a startled snake.  I watched them disappear past the tree-line and into the dark wood.  The girl walked up behind me.

“Do you believe me now?” she asked, quietly.

“No.  No, I don’t believe it.  I can’t.  There has to be some other explanation.  Maybe I’m dreaming,” I insisted.

“In a manner of speaking, you are,” she said. “Only it’s taking place outside your head… not inside.”

“But how?  How could I have driven here in my car, used my cell phone, have my keys in my pocket—or for that matter have clothes on at all?” I demanded.  “How is it that you have a necklace on that’s actually with your dead body?  I just saw my car still parked on the side of the road a few minutes ago.  How could it be there?  How can I touch this?  Speak?  Hear?” I asked, putting my hand on a nearby gravestone, feeling its cool, rough exterior.  I looked her directly in the eyes.

“How can I see you… or you see me… if neither of us have a body with eyes?  How is any of this possible if we’re nothing but blobs of energy floating around in the physical world now?” I ranted, tears of confusion and trepidation welling up in my eyes as my companion stood in place—watching and listening.

“Even in life we make up our world as we go along.  We see what we want to see and create what we need to—unconsciously—never questioning why.  More so in death—especially in the in-between dimensions, where you’re not quite here and you’re not quite there.  It’s almost as if you exist in a dream world—malleable and indistinct.    The challenge is either walking up and learning to control it, or moving on to the next.  You felt you should have been alive in the physical world—and you were—or so it seemed.  You created the illusion of having a physical body and all its accoutrements and abilities.  But in this world—except under certain circumstances or with certain individuals—no one would have been able to see you, your car, your clothes, or anything else you created.  Perhaps they would have been able to sense your energy field and emotional state—but that would have been the extent.”

“In reality you were murdered and then dumped here in this graveyard several weeks ago—as was I.  You’ve been drifting in and out of time and space, driving endlessly.  Your beliefs kept you from acknowledging the truth.  I, on the other hand, have been waiting here for you; waiting for a disruption in the cycle to draw you to me so we could both move on together,” she calmly explained.

“But if this true, how was I able to call 911, talk to the dispatcher, and report the bodies?” I questioned, my head over-flowing with thought.

“It’s fairly easy for those in-between to alter electrical and other fields invisible to those existing on the physical plane.  You unwittingly manipulated those fields in order to place a call and speak to the person on the other end,” she replied.  A mischievous smile crossed her face as she continued, “I’m sure that department is going to have a story to tell for years to come about how they received a 911 call from a dead person that led them to the body… and from that person’s own phone no less!”

“So… what do we do now?” I asked, ignoring her attempt to humor me.  “How do we move on?  Should we move on?  There’s a murderer out there.  He took our lives.  Shouldn’t we stay and try to help find him—to protect others and get justice for what was taken from us?”

“No,” she replied, emphatically.  “You called the investigators here.  That’s enough.  We’ve done all we can do in a place we no longer belong.  Let the living take care of the living, and the dead take care of the dead.”

At that moment a red flash streaked by me, landing in front of us on the path at the tree-line.  As before, the bird looked at us expectedly.

“Maybe we should follow him,” she suggested.  And so we did.

The cardinal took flight the moment we passed into the forest.  We watched him soar down the path, just a few feet above the ground—before disappearing into the shadows.  The second we lost sight of him, a point of light appeared in the distance—like a single, lonely star shining in the cold darkness of the space.  Suddenly it exploded, showering the entire forest in a blanket of bright, white light.  The trees disappeared—as did the road, my car, and the emergency vehicles.  There was nothing but a vast, bright field before us.

And then, we were nothing but Light.

SerpentMoundTrees
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