resting in peace

Our chandelier is swinging again. No, there’s no draft, and nobody pushed it.

The outdoor perimeter alarm often goes off around 4 a.m. There are weeks when it alarms every night. Our security cameras once detected large raccoons so we had them captured and removed, but that didn’t stop the alarms. Nothing else shows up on the video.

In two years, we have used up four printers. My laptop has been repaired twice. Our CD player works only in some of the rooms.

Friends often hear a dog bark into the phone during our conversations. I don’t hear the dog on my end of the conversation. We don’t own a dog.

Even as I write this, I hear the door down the hall opening and closing. But I’m the only one at home.

Yes, this house is “haunted.”

Most people scoff at the idea, but I accept this as a fact of life, so to speak. There is a presence here that assures me that we are not alone. It isn’t malevolent or evil—in fact, it seems to be quite content.

Why does this chandelier move?
Why does this chandelier move?

The swinging chandelier is just one of many reminders that we are never alone. Other “signs” we’ve encountered are foul, sewage-like smells in the entry, fresh strong coffee smells (we don’t own a coffee maker) and sounds of people moving around in the next room when no one is there.

The University House at UC San Diego was built on the site of a prehistoric Native American village and burial ground, so other people have been at home on this cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean much longer than we have lived here.

The house was built in 1952 by William and Ruth Black, for whom Black’s Beach, one of the great surfing beaches (as well as infamous nude beach), was named. In 1967 The Regents of the University of California bought the house as a residence for its Chancellors. But the last Chancellor to live here before us had to condemn the house because it was structurally unsound. A decade later, a $10 million renovation turned it into the house in which we now live and in which we host university events, although around here we talk more about where the bodies are buried in a literal sense, not just as a metaphor for the daily wheeling and dealing.

In fact, thanks to a combination of high tech detection tools and archeological remains sniffing dogs, we know that there are several bodies buried deep in the ground here, one right outside our front door, in fact.

But none of that bothers me, nor has it bothered previous Chancellors’ families, many of whom have retired nearby and agree that there has always been another presence in this house. There is no unrest here; in fact, just the opposite is true and there is a sense of calmness and serenity throughout the property, appropriately reflecting the name “Pacific,” which means ‘peaceful’ or ‘tranquil.’ No one has ever felt threatened or spooked here.

No, what bothers us is that our wi-fi signal sporadically disappears, or the cable tv blanks out in one room but works just fine in another. Small appliances suddenly stop working, so we don’t own a toaster oven any more and our toaster only toasts at ‘medium.’

And then there is that chandelier … in our family room there are two identical huge chandeliers made of heavy wrought iron. Occasionally the one closest to the picture window will start swinging, often late in the day when the afternoon sun starts heading west. There is no draft, the window doesn’t open, and no one touches the chandelier. It just swings gently for a few minutes.

My family and I just live here, and I figure others do, too … figuratively, that is. We conduct our lives like we would anywhere else, although we have to make a few accommodations like closing the laptop and walking away for a while when the cursor freezes for no reason.

But then, the more I think about it, if I were going to hang around this piece of land for eternity, I think that I would choose to spend my time swinging gently on that chandelier in the late afternoon sun.

Daily sunset from the back patio
Daily sunset from the back patio

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