“It’s said that All Hallows’ Eve is one of the nights when the veil between the worlds is thin . . . Even the air feels different on Halloween, autumn-crisp and bright.” ~ Erin Morgenstern

Halloween

“I think if human beings had genuine courage, they’d wear their costumes every day of the year, not just on Halloween. Wouldn’t life be more interesting that way? And now that I think about it, why the heck don’t they? Who made the rule that everybody has to dress like sheep 364 days of the year? Think of all the people you’d meet if they were in costume every day. People would be so much easier to talk to—like talking to dogs. ” ~ Douglas Coupland, from The Gum Thief

Some early Halloween silliness for you, including some monsters from Dr. Who, a clip from The Daily Show, and a nice bit of history:

Happy Halloween, Whovians

(reblogged from through the motions).

                   

For those who are interested in more of the history of Halloween, I came cross a really nice write-up on Intelliblog, which is hosted by Nicholas V. (reprinted here under a creative commons license):

Tomorrow is Halloween, which is the last night of the Celtic year and is the night associated with witchcraft, fairies, elves and wicked spirits.  In countries where the Celtic influence is strong, customs surrounding Halloween are still current and relate to pagan rituals celebrating the beginning of the Winter cycle.  Tales of witches and ghosts are told, bonfires are lit, fortune-telling and mumming are practiced.  Masquerading is the order of the night, making of jack-o-lanterns and the playing of games pass the hours pleasantly. Bobbing for apples in a tub of water is an age-old custom.  These pagan practices have been incorporated into the Christian tradition through association with All Saints’ Day on November the first.

The seasonal association of the apple with Halloween goes back even to Roman times.  November 1st was the time when the Romans celebrated Pomona’s festival.  She was the goddess of orchards and ripe maturity.  Her festival was the time to rejoice in the fruits of the season and also the time to open up the Summer stores for Winter use.  In Celtic tradition the apple was the fruit of the Silver Bough of the Otherworld and symbolised love, fertility, wisdom and divination. The hazel was a sacred Celtic tree and the hazelnut symbolised wisdom, peace and love. A hazel tree grew by the sacred pool of Avalon and was described as the Tree of Life.

As Halloween is the night when witches and evil spirits, the souls of the dead and wicked fairy folk roam the earth, numerous superstitions surround the night and have as a characteristic and apotropaic or protective function.  The fire on the household hearth should on no account be left to die on this night, else evil spirits will descend down the chimney.  Bonfires were lit on hilltops to drive off witches.  Purification by fire ordained that people jumped over the flames, in some parts even cattle driven through the embers.  In some parts many an unfortunate old woman was burnt in these fires because she was suspected to be a witch.  The fires of purification were called Samhnagan.  Often, food offerings were left out for the fairies on this night.  Travelling was to be avoided at all costs as one could be led astray by the spirits and fairies.  If one had to go out, pieces of iron or cold steel were carried on one’s person as a repellent against witchcraft.

Hey how for Hallow E’en
A’ the witches tae be seen
Some in black and some in green
Hey how for Hallow E’en.

Other traditions surrounding Samhain (i.e. November 1st and beginning of Winter), involved the reversal of order and normal values, the reign of chaos.  This involved deriding figures of authority, hurling abuse and cabbages at notable people, playing tricks and practical jokes on friends and relatives.  Parties of “guisers” went around from house to house collecting apples, nuts or money while riding a hobby horse or carrying a horse’s head.  The association of the horse with this festival may go back to the ancient Roman festival of the October Horse, the last of the harvest feasts.  Such customs are still very active in some countries, especially the USA, where Halloween has been revived with vigour, no doubt because of its appeal but also because of commercial potential.

It was customary at this time of dying vegetation and the fall of the year to decorate houses with evergreens such as holly, fir or mistletoe.  This harks back to druidic tradition, which ritualised Autumn’s passage into Winter, the evergreen being a reminder that all was not lost, and life went on, ever vigilant of the return of Spring.  Pliny records a Druidic ritual where the mistletoe was cut with a golden sickle, to fall onto a white cloak and not allowed to touch the ground.  Two white bulls were sacrificed and a feast held.  The ritual sacrifice and slaughter of animals at this time was also seen in Gaul and Teutonic lands.  It was as much a Winter feast and laying in of Winter stores as it was also a killing of animals to conserve the meagre fodder during the harsh Winter months.

In even older times, human sacrifice was practised and this was to appease the Winter gods and to ensure the return of Spring and bring fertility.  The Welsh festival of the Black Sow held at this time is a vestige of the human sacrifice rituals.  The whole village ran down a hillside as fast as each could, shouting all the while: “Black Sow take the hindermost!”. The last person down the hill was the victim to be claimed by the Black Sow, the spirit of evil, cold and death.

Samhain was also a time of peace and all forms of violence, warring and fighting being suspended.  No divorces were allowed, making it therefore a time for celebrating marriages.  This also made it a time of the year when all sorts of love oracles were performed. A form of love divination was practised in Scotland and Northern England with hazelnuts on this night.  A group of young unmarried women gathered around the fire and each took a hazelnut and threw it into the flames, saying:

If you love me, pop and fly,
If you don’t lie and die.

She then started to recite the names of possible suitors, her husband being indicated by the popping of the nut in the flames.  A variation on this practised in Wales was the throwing into the flames of apple pips by two lovers.  The same rhyme as above was recited and if the two pips popped simultaneously the lovers would marry happily.  If the two pips exploded at different times, the two lovers would part.

Another divination involved a young woman taking a candle and going alone into a dark room with an apple.  The candle was placed in front of the mirror and the apple was consumed while the woman combed her hair, looking into the mirror all the while.  The face of the woman’s future lover (or of the Devil!) would then appear over her shoulder.

                   

Music by Saul, “Little Prince”

“These hands — the hands that care, the hands that mold; the hands that touch the lips, the lips that speak the words — the words that tell us we are whole.” ~ Douglas Coupland, Life After God

Lord Howe Island Photos
View from Mount Gower, Lord Howe Island, NSW, Australia
Source: tripadvisor.com

                   

“You remember too much,
my mother said to me recently

Why hold onto all that? And I said,
Where can I put it down?” ~ Anne Carson, from “The Glass Essay

Saturday afternoon. Cloudy, low 80’s, showers expected.

Yesterday I had to buy a new lawn mower. Ours finally died, and with Corey gone it was up to me to purchase a new one. I went to Sears and picked up a Craftsman with a Briggs and Stratton engine. I applied my little knowledge about mowers and mower engines, and rolled it around the floor to get a feel for it, and then dropped $231 plus tax (sale price). That means that within the last week I have spent $600 on unexpected, emergency purchases.

Lord Howe Island Photos
Ned’s Beach, Lord Howe Island
Source: tripadvisor.com

Do I even need to say how painful this was and is? That’s money that could have gone to catch up my health insurance payments. Money that could have gone towards ordering my much-needed glasses. Money that could have gone towards anything but plumbing and a mower.

Corey is really hard on mowers, and he goes through one every three years or so. This is kind of a foreign concept to me as the mower that I had before Corey )that’s how I categorize everything: before Corey and since Corey) was about 10 years old. I also had a lawn tractor that my dad bought me after my ex left. When I mowed the yard, and yes, I did indeed, I cleaned the mower after each use and put it back in the shed. I would really like for this mower to be stored in the shed, but that means that I need to go out there and make room in the shed, which resembles our garage: massive piles of who-knows-what seemingly placed by a tornado-force wind. I know this to be true because I just took a peek in there.

Disheartening, but hey, I have a new job, right? Right…………………..

“Hear how the mouth,
so full
of longing for the world,
changes its shape?”  ~ Mark Doty, from “Difference

So while mower shopping, I took Brett to purchase some new clothes for school (with his money). He managed to spend $100 and got some new pants, a vest, and several t-shirts. I tried to explain to him that he got a lot for his money, but Brett is, well, thrifty. I understand why, and I suppose it’s good that someone in this family is so inclined as I’m always out there spending money on frivolous things like, say, a lawn mower, and food, and utility bills.

Lord Howe Island Photos
Balls Pyramid, Lord Howe Island
Source: tripadvisor.com

Sorry, a bit on the testy side today.

We stopped by Alexis’s apartment on the way home. She was having one of those days: Olivia is not taking to her new swing. I could not have survived without a baby swing. All of my kids loved it, especially Alexis, who would become calm as soon as the swing began to move, but with those old swings, you had to wind them to make them work, and just as she’d fall asleep, the swing would stop. I would wind it, which would wake her, and the whole process began again. Now, they plug in or use batteries and are so quiet. I really hope Olivia adjusts to hers as the swing is the one item that allowed me to actually begin to eat meals again like an adult, you know, sitting down with utensils, instead of standing and on the run.

While I was there I did her dishes, made formula, and gave Olivia a bath. Just these little things really help Lex, and it doesn’t take me any time at all. Of course, by the time I got home after the stress of shopping and spending money, I was beyond tired.

“If I expect as little as possible, I won’t be hurt.” ~ Susan Sontag in As Consciousness Is Harnessed to Flesh: Journals and Notebooks, 1964-1980

Later that same day . . .

I took an extended break to do a few things: clean Capt. Jack’s fish bowl, clean Eamonn’s fish bowl, play ball with Tillie and Shakes, and bathe the dogs (well, Alfie was a half bath as he had one of his psychotic episodes, and I really didn’t feel like dealing with it). I’m really, really hoping that someone puts the lawn mower together today or tomorrow morning. Just as I’m hoping a different someone will clean out some space in the shed.

Lord Howe Island Photos
Sunset on Lord Howe Island
Source: tripadvisor.com

And I’m really, really hoping that neither of those someone’s are me, but I’m not holding my breath.

Wow. That was really passive/aggressive, wasn’t it? Oh well.

I love my sons, but they don’t take initiative, at least not at home. It reminds me of their father, which is unfortunate. He was great at helping his friends at a minute’s notice, but not so much around here, which is why I took it upon myself to learn some basics about doing things around the house. Not only did I mow the yard, but I used to edge and trim, wash my car, change my oil, and trim the bushes. I know how to change a fixture, do some basic plumbing, and clean gutters.

My mantra? It doesn’t take a penis to use a power tool.

Knowing is only half of it, unfortunately. Being able to do it is the other half, and that’s where I’m stymied. Corey, however, is super handy around the house, which is why things break when he’s away. Which principle is that? Finagle’s Law of Dynamic Negatives (a corollary to Murphy’s Law): Anything that can go wrong will—at the worst possible moment. Yep, that’s how I live my life.

Oh, and by the way, resistentialism also applies (spiteful behavior manifested by inanimate objects): On the way to pick up Eamonn, the Rodeo’s “Check Engine Light” came on again. Is it not enough that I just spent $1200 on everything from brakes, to tires, to shocks, to oxygen sensors on that damned vehicle? Apparently not.

“there’s no chance
at all:
we are all trapped
by a singular
fate.” ~ Charles Bukowski, from “Alone with Everybody

Just a bit of a continuation on the last section: I went into the garage to check the laundry, and the washer is leaking. This is probably a direct result of my prior bragging about my plumbing skills; ergo, Sod’s Law, second law, actually: Sooner or later, the worst possible set of circumstances is bound to occur. (For a complete list of all eponymous laws and adages, click here.

Anyway, today’s pictures relate to one of my obsessions: Lord Howe Island, in New South Wales, Australia. Apparently, this little bit of paradise is relatively untouched by the very things that tend to ruin island paradises: too much development, too much commercialism, and too may tourists. I want to go there some day, preferably sooner rather than later. I used to want to go to Hawaii, but time seems to have ruined the last state in the union: overdeveloped, overpriced, overcrowded.

Lord Howe Island Photos
Sea Turtle, Lord Howe Island
Source: tripadvisor.com

Speaking of places, I was reading an article on The Daily Beast about the smartest cities in the country, and quell surprise?! Norfolk, VA ranks as #35 out of 55 listed. Norfolk’s 2009 ranking was 41st. Out of a metropolitan population of 1,675,792, 17 percent have bachelor’s degrees, and 10 percent have graduate degrees, as compared to #1, which is . . . Boston, MA with 24 and 18 percent, respectively.

According to the article, scores were compiled based on adults with degrees, as well as data collected from Lumos Labs, which was used to analyze cities in five cognitive areas: “memory, processing speed, flexibility, attention, and problem solving. The median Lumos Labs score, presented as an estimated IQ score, was worth 50 percent of our final, weighted ranking.” Norfolk’s IQ score was 88.33, as compared to Boston’s score of 176.68.

Who would have ever thought it? I’m just full of irrelevant trivia today.

“I remember the first time I realized the world we are born into is not the one we leave.” ~ Mary Ruefle, from “I Remember, I Remember, On the handsome roofers, attentive cows, and sudden tears of youth

And finally . . .

I want to send my love to Corey’s family in Ohio. Recent events have hit everyone hard, and I’m thinking of all of you. Corey’s Uncle Tom passed away this past week, and I know that my f-in-law John has been hit hard. Big hugs to Alana. Also, my m-in-law Joyce is having back surgery at the end of the month, so I’m wishing her well and hoping that she has good results.

Lord Howe Island Photos
Blinky Beach, Lord Howe Island
Source: tripadvisor.com

I think that I’ll stop here for now with a few more glorious shots of Lord Howe Island, and the really intriguing Balls Pyramid, which was discovered in 1788. The former Pacific shield volcano juts out 1,843 feet, making it the world’s tallest sea stack. The first successful climb to the summit was made in 1965. Climbing has since been banned without permission from the minister of state.

                   

Lord Howe Island Photos
Side View of Balls Pyramid, Lord Howe Island
Source: tripadvisor.com
Lord Howe Island Photos
Aerial View of Lord Howe Island
Source: tripadvisor.com

Music by David J. Roch, “Skin and Bones”


                   

Why We Must Struggle

If we have not struggled
as hard as we can
at our strongest
how will we sense
the shape of our losses
or know what sustains
us longest or name
what change costs us,
saying how strange
it is that one sector
of the self can step in
for another in trouble,
how loss activates
a latent double, how
we can feed
as upon nectar
upon need?

~ Kay Ryan

“I am no longer coded and deciphered. I am all emptiness and futility. I am an empty stranger, a carbon copy of my form. I can no longer find what I’m looking for outside of myself. It doesn’t exist out there. Maybe it’s only in here, inside my head.” ~ David Wojnarowicz

Mysterious Walk by ~jjjohn~ (FCC)

                   

“Whatever it is you’re seeking won’t come in the form you’re expecting.” ~ Haruki Murakami

Tuesday afternoon. Cloudy and very warm, 80° F.

The house is quiet, just the dogs and me. The laundry is going, and the dishes are soaking. My country and folk playlist is running in the background.

Finally, I get to use the computer for my own writing. Yesterday was spent helping Brett with a paper for his technical writing course. It’s very hard for me to accept how his instructor has structured the class—haphazardly at best, formulaic at worst—after I was instrumental in shaping this particular course while I was in the English department at ODU.

Foggy View from Oberfallenberg, Dornbirn District, Germany (WC 2007 Picture of the Year)

But she’s there teaching, and I am not. Such is life.

It’s quite warm today, too warm. It should only be this warm in November in the southern hemisphere. But that’s how the weather is in this area. I remember one Thanksgiving we ate on my m-in-law’s deck because it was so nice outside.

I made the mistake of eating my Hardee’s leftovers just before I began this post, and I must admit that I’m feeling particularly icky at the moment. Leftover grease is worse than original grease, I think. What a bizarre statement. Knowing my body, this will not end well, so I suppose that it’s good that I’ve had to postpone my lunch with my friend Rebecca tomorrow. She has a conflict, so we’re shooting for two weeks from now. We used to have lunch together all of the time when we worked at the realty company. It was one of the bright spots in my day.

“For what can one know even of the people one lives with every day? she asked. Are we not all prisoners? She had read a wonderful play about a man who scratched at the wall of his cell, and she had felt that was true of life—one scratched on the wall.” ~ Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway

I’ve happened upon a new (old) band, Nickel Creek. They are a bit folksy—mandolin and violin along with acoustic guitar. I like their sound. They have a song called “Sweet Afton,” which is bittersweet for me as Afton Mountain has been such a big part of my life. I’ve driven that mountain more times than I can count going back and forth to Blacksburg and other places. Love the name Afton.

Fog by Dr Gray (FCC)

Finding a new group that I really like is a kind of gift for me. It means discovering new songs to add to my playlists. I’ve never really wanted or needed an MP3 player, but if I ever get a newer car with an MP3 adapter, it would be nice to have one so that I can download the hundreds and hundreds of songs that I have amassed over the years. Alexis has that function in her new Honda Civic, and it’s very nice.

But the reality is that I will be happy to have a working, safe vehicle. Along those lines, I think that we are really (really, this time) nearing the end with the truck. Corey took that part to have something shaped, now it’s just a matter of Vic putting it on and finishing. After which, we have to pay the back taxes to the city (hate Virginia’s personal property tax laws), get new tags, and (shudder) new tires and possibly brakes.

Not so little when it’s all spelled out, unfortunately.

“And then I felt sad because I realized that once people are broken in certain ways, they can’t ever be fixed, and this is something nobody ever tells you when you are young and it never fails to surprise you as you grow older as you see the people in your life break one by one. You wonder when your turn is going to be, or if it’s already happened.” ~ Douglas Coupland

The last few days have been trying for me. Every once in a while something happens to bring me up short. I mean, I encounter a truth of which I was unaware, or perhaps it’s a truth that I’ve been hiding from myself. We all do that I think—hide things from ourselves, whether because it’s easier or because it’s harder. Who knows . . .

Morning Mist, Stockholm, Sweden, by ashraful kadir (FCC)

But when reality shifts that tiny bit, when the world tilts at a slightly different angle, the reality with which you have become comfortable is permanently erased and replaced with a new reality that you must encompass. There is no choice to be made as the decision has been made for you.

I hate sliding down that slope because each time the bottom is in a different place. And what awaits me there never has the same essence. It could be well and truly devastating, or merely saddening. And although I am an old hand at these slides, although the encounter with the precipice is far from new, it’s painful nonetheless.

I have wished more than once that I could be the kind of person who rolls with things easily, that I could be the kind of person who does not question, the kind of person who can live with a lie, the kind of person who can embrace illusion as truth. But I am not, and I cannot. And more’s the pity. I mean, do you think that I like pain? Better question: Do I think that I like pain?

Now there’s a question.

“There is a twilight zone in our hearts that we ourselves cannot see. Even when we know quite a lot about ourselves—our gifts and weaknesses, our ambitions and aspirations, our motives and our drives—large parts of ourselves remain in the shadow of consciousness . . . We will always remain partially hidden to ourselves.” ~ Henri Nouwen

Perhaps I do. Perhaps I relish the pain because it reminds me that I am alive. Perhaps I embrace the pain because it lets me know that I can still feel. Perhaps this is all just a load of crap.

Regret is Cold, Unfocused, and Lonely by russell.tomlin

I have always gone through life so certain of some things and so uncertain about others.  And the things of which I am most uncertain relate directly to me: my perception of myself, my dislike of certain aspects of myself, my deep-seated insecurities. How is it that a woman who is so confident, so self-assured in some ways can be so damned uncertain in others? How can I be simultaneously haughty and insecure? How do I reconcile being arrogant and audacious with also being self-conscious and unsure?

I know that we are all made up of contradictions, but is everyone else just as torn as I am? I don’t think so. I mean, I know people who embody the very idea of conceit. If they have chinks, they don’t seem to worry about them.

Look. I don’t know why I am the way I am. I have some ideas, but not really. And I also know that I’m lucky in that my spouse, my life partner is supportive, doesn’t denigrate me, lies to me when I say that I’m fat. I know that I drive Corey crazy with my insecurities, and if I could like myself more I would. But I also know that the very nature of our relationship, the age difference, puts me at a disadvantage, at least in my mind. At first, the age difference didn’t bother me so much, but with each birthday, I feel the years more.

I cannot compete with women in their 20’s; they do not have thicker waists or wisps of grey hair. They have not yet begun to obsess over their arms. However, they also do not have my life experience, which allows me to roll with the turbulence of life a little better. Where they have drama on a daily basis, I have the somber reality of having seen the worst that life can deal.

“There’s nothing more personal, I think, than the shape that emptiness takes inside you; nor more particular than the means by which you fill it” ~ Clive Barker

When I say that I would not go back to my 20’s for anything, I really mean it. I’m not even certain that I would care to repeat my 30’s. There was so much angst, always right at the surface. Being my age gives me perspective, but it also gives me pause.

The Mist by bruce... (FCC)

I will never again look the way I did when Corey first laid eyes on me. But then, neither will he. This is the kind of thing that I must remind myself. Corey has a self-assurance that he has worked hard to attain, and he hides his insecurities well. He says that he loves being married and that he loves being married to me.

I believe him.

I just wish that I could believe in myself more. I really dislike needy women, so when did I become one? Exactly at what point did I turn the corner and run into a reflection that I no longer know? Truthfully, years and years ago. The mirror has never been my friend, from the time I was in grade school and wanted to see blue eyes and blond hair staring back at me, to the time my ex described a woman with whom he worked as voluptuous and I looked down at my own small chest to the time I first noticed that my back was no longer sexy.

In other words, always, for as long as I can remember. The person I have seen in the mirror has never quite been the person that I expected. And so it goes.

My keen intellect? My incisive mind? My ability to hold my own in a political debate? My power with the written word? My empathetic heart and devotion to family and friends? All fall away the moment I look in the mirror. And I hate, really and truly hate that.

More later. Peace.

Music by Nickel Creek, “Sweet Afton”

                   

Ruin and Beauty

It’s so quiet now the children have decided to stop
being born. We raise our cups in an empty room.
In this light, the curtains are transparent as gauze.
Through the open window we hear nothing—
no airplane, lawn mower, no siren
speeding its white pain through the city’s traffic.
There is no traffic. What remains is all that remains.

The brick school at the five points crosswalk
is drenched in morning glory.
Its white flowers are trumpets
festooning this coastal town.
Will the eventual forest rise up
and remember our footsteps? Already
seedlings erupt through cement,
crabgrass heaves through cracked marble,
already wolves come down from the hills
to forage among us. We are like them now,
just another species looking to the stars
and howling extinction.

They say the body accepts any kind of sorrow,
that our ancestors lay down on their stomachs
in school hallways, as children they lay down
like matches waiting for a nuclear fire.

It wasn’t supposed to end like this:
all ruin and beauty, vines waterfalling down
a century’s architecture; it wasn’t supposed to end
so quietly, without fanfare or fuss,

a man and woman collecting rain
in old coffee tins. Darling,
the wars have been forgotten.
These days our quarrels are only with ourselves.
Tonight you sit on the edge of the bed loosening your shoes.
The act is soundless, without future
weight. Should we name this failure?
Should we wake to the regret at the end of time
doing what people have always done
and say it was not enough?

~ Patricia Young