After three months, this was our final Friday at Koreshan State Historic Site. Today we leave (Saturday) and it is day two of the settlement’s annual Ghost Walk when the stories of the people who lived here come to life. For Ghost Walk, volunteers dress in period costumes and re-enact memorable events from the history of the settlement in the stories of the people who lived here. In a series of skits, staged around the historic buildings, visitors get to eavesdrop on a conversation. There is the interaction between some new members of the settlement who are learning about “The Master’s “ teachings. Then there is an exchange between the founder, Dr. Cyrus Teed, (a.k.a. Koresh or Master), and the original homesteader of the land the settlement sits on.
One skit tells the story of the time the settlement ship sank when overloaded with an abundance of the clams. These are snapshots of the regular life of these pioneers who settled here in this religious utopian community at the close of the nineteenth century. Ghosts.
Being here for three months I have had my own experiences with the broadest definition of the word ghosts. Was there a ghost of a chance that the day the door opened at the Art Hall, and the door creaked closed, that some disembodied spirit was in the room? During one of the tours I led for a class from Florida Gulf Coast University, one of the students asked if there were any ghosts in any of the oldest buildings (I have heard of stories about ghosts in the “new store” though I did not get to visit that building this year). But when I told the story of the cement crypt and headstone of the Master being washed out to sea in the 1921 hurricane, many of the students were visibly ghosted by the tale.
We leave here with sweet memories of our stay, and like all memories, they will shift over time and with the telling of the tales. Some tales, like the Spanish moss that drips from the live oak at our campsite, will grow long in the tooth. Some memories are delicate and have quickly faded into ghosts of their former selves, like my time with the Brazilian woman who brought her family who spoke so little English and I spoke no Portuguese but we both understood the grace of the visit, expressed by my saying obrigada (thank you) as they left the building.
From here, we head first north through Florida, sadly leaving the geographic backyard of my son and my Florida granddaughters. We then head west through Louisiana to Texas, New Mexico, and then Arizona. When we arrive there in mid-February, our time here will feel like a ghostly trace or a vestige of the actual time here, and yet it is as it needs to be. No matter how intense the present, it always becomes the past with time, and it always sits at the threshold of the yet-to-be-revealed future. It just is this way.
While we were here, we lived in it fully, met wonderful people, and had some deeply moving experiences, for which we are so grateful. Here is a stanza from a poem by Edgar Allan Poe, which I love and which resonates with today’s leave-taking of the Koreshan Unity Settlement:
The breeze—the breath of God—is still. And the mist upon the hill, shadowy—shadowy—yet unbroken, is a symbol and a token. How it hangs upon the trees, a mystery of mysteries!
Peter and Liz take to the open road once again, leaving Florida for Arizona and California in their Airstream, as their pilgrimage to here continues.