MARTHA SEZ: ‘Nobody knows how the ghost system works’

Long ago, in a distant land (Lansing, Michigan), I used to gather with other Michigan State University students in the communal Brody Complex television-viewing area to watch “Star Trek,” starring William Shatner as Captain James T. Kirk of the USS Starship Enterprise.

After transferring to MSU’s rival school, the University of Michigan, and ever since, I have remained an enthusiastic fan of the original “Star Trek” series.

Now, at the age of 90 years, Shatner is scheduled to take a suborbital rocket flight as a guest of Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin Company. He will briefly leave Earth’s boundary and experience weightlessness. But what is a suborbital flight?

According to “The Conversation,” an on-line newsletter, “Anything that launches to space but does not have sufficient horizontal velocity to stay in space — like these rockets — comes back to Earth and therefore flies a suborbital trajectory.”

The rocket that will carry Shatner and a small crew to the edge of space will take off from a launching pad in Texas, where high winds are predicted for the original launch date, Oct. 12, postponing the blast-off until the following day.

By the time this issue of the Lake Placid News comes out, Shatner will have returned safely to Earth, or so I sincerely hope.

“The Guardian,” a British news publication, quoted Shatner as stating, “I’m terrified. I know! I’m Captain bloody Kirk and I’m terrified!”

Meanwhile, here on Earth, Columbus Day is over. It’s still leaf season, and apple picking time again. At the farm stands the pumpkins are all lined up, hoping to be chosen for jack-o-lanterns.

This is a beautiful time of year, and there is absolutely no sense in looking gloomily ahead, like Eeyore, to the very worst aspects of winter, days so dark that you have to drive with your headlights on at noon, and buy snow tires. And what about Thanksgiving?

Never mind all that. All we need to do right now is find a pumpkin for Halloween and apples to make pie. Cider would be good, too.

Scrumpy is a word for cider, derived from the very British-sounding scrump, which can be either a verb, meaning to steal apples, or a noun, used for dried fruit, or, rather unkindly, for elderly folk.

They say cold nights sweeten the apples.

Some people tell you that the leaf color is more saturated, more intense, when the skies are veiled in mist or scumbled with clouds.

Scumble is another good British-sounding word. Artists scumble in order to soften sharp lines, to blend and dim bright colors. To scumble is to take the edge off.

As usual, I am clinging to the forlorn hope that my tomatoes will yet ripen. I may soon be flinging white sheets over my tomato plants, making it look as if I’m getting into the Halloween spirit early by disguising the plants as crouching ghosts while actually merely attempting to protect them from the frost.

Do you believe in ghosts? It is my theory that everyone believes in ghosts in the middle of the night or in the wee hours of the morning, reason notwithstanding. Nobody knows how the ghost system works, though. For example, it seems obvious that there should be more ghosts every year since human beings evolved, and yet cavemen are glaringly absent from the paranormal record.

Even in fiction, Neanderthals never materialize at a seance. You certainly don’t hear about hominid ghost sightings. Apparitions are mentioned in the “Iliad,” but most spirits hail from the last few centuries. Maybe they get tired.

On the other hand, people do report visitations from departed dogs.

This is a subject to reflect upon as Halloween approaches.

As I stood obstructing traffic on a curve by a drop-off above the Boquet River on Route 73, discussing foliage color with some other old scrumps from Canada and New Jersey, I was filled with the joy of the season, not regretting the past, complaining about the present or fretting over the future.

It was only for a moment. Euphoria is transitory. It can’t last. It’s like wanting to prolong the sensation of wellbeing you get after swallowing a few sips of wine. Of course you try, but your efforts result only in scumbling your feelings and obscuring your reason. Not that I was drinking on this occasion.

I got back into my car and drove off before I caused an accident.

Beam me up! And have a good week.


(Martha Allen lives in Keene Valley. She has been writing for the News for more than 20 years.)