Monday, August 16, 2010

Tribute To A Kitchen Ghost

There is an intermittent odor in the kitchen at our summer cottage that smells like something, well, fishy I guess is the only way to describe it.

It was there again this morning briefly, as if swept in by a breeze. Only, there is never a breeze. It always manifests out of still air, like invisible fog, and then fades.

I'll never forget the first time I encountered it 13 years ago. How I scrunched up my face in awed disgust: “What is that?” I asked my husband.

It was the winter after we were married and the first time he introduced me to this place many miles north of our Naples, Florida, home. And to its other inhabitant.

“It's sometimes in the upstairs bathroom, too,” my husband said, his expression wavering between humor and bafflement. His father had also smelled it, he added.

“What is it?” I persisted.

“Don't know,” he said. “But it's been here for years."

Maybe it's because I'm female, but I decided I knew what it was: another female, in spirit form. I asked my husband if he agreed, but he still said, “I don't know.”

A week later we left the cottage and stayed the night at my mother-in-law's. When my husband flipped open his suitcase, that same peculiar stench assaulted us. We had both kept our clothes in the same closet at the cottage, but only his had acquired the odor. I was even more convinced we were dealing with a ghost, but my husband remained non-committal.

I'd never encountered a ghost before, but I'd known people who had. A Spanish teacher in high school had often regaled us with the ornery escapades of the apparition in her home, which she didn't see, only heard. It banged on pipes and turned on water faucets but never caused any harm. Years later, a friend often told me about the male ghost who came and sat on the porch of his Naples beach cottage and never spoke.

So I've always thought...hoped ghosts were mostly benign. I admit I've asked our cottage ghost, if she should decide to show herself to please do it slowly--and preferably not in the dark or when my husband is gone, so she doesn't scare the daylights out of me. Unfortunately or fortunately, she hasn't appeared.

With each passing year her frequency and malodor have lessened. And my husband has noticed she makes herself known anymore only when I'm at the cottage, either with him or alone. I'm not really sure what she thinks of me, but I've come to believe her intentions toward him are protective and motherly.

This morning, I began thinking about what to make him for dinner and, swish, she was there. Another time, we were teasing each other in the kitchen and immediately the entire room reeked. Each time she manifests, it's as if to say she approves of our union. At least, I hope that's what it means.

Because, for awhile a year ago something here wasn't approving of me.

One day out of nowhere it was as if a jumbo jet had landed in our living room, but only I could smell it. For a week the exhaust fumes would appear out of nowhere and follow me around the cottage. At times they were so intense I was sure my husband and I were being poisoned.

I begged it to leave us alone. When it didn't, I asked my husband to have the furnace checked--which he did, but the furnace man couldn't smell anything and found nothing wrong. In the end, it was only after I left the cottage that it left, too.

Still, I feel blessed. I've always believed there is more to this life than what my five senses can physically ascertain. Now I have proof of that—even if it is proof only I trust.

Maybe that's best. It keeps me reliant on my own innate sense of things; strengthens my own capacity to recognize truth in spite of what others believe—to know that my nose just knows.

QUESTION: Do you trust in your own innate sense of things and, if not, why?

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