“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”

“We are increasingly fluent in images with no handhold, images freighted with all the orphanhood in the world, fragments, fragments.” ~ Bolaño

Orange by learydotmark (FCC)

“We build this place with the sand of memories; these castles are our memories and inventiveness made tangible.” ~ Ann Lamott, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life

Saturday, late afternoon. Rainy and cool, 61°F. Fall is impending.

Autumn Leaves, by muffett (FCC)

So here I am again. I thought that I might have something to say today, but I’m not certain that’s the case. The house is quiet, the kind of quiet that can only happen on a rainy Saturday in fall, when the mood is lazy and the energy is low.

Officially fall in one week, but there is no mistaking the scent in the air: fallen leaves and something else, unnameable.  If I were in the mountains, perhaps it would be the scent of apples, but around here, it’s more the whispers of summer grass changing into winter Fescue. Each day, more flocks of Canada Geese fly overhead, creating commas in the sky.

Last night I dreamt of swimming nude in cool water, first in a lake, and then in a pool. The water enveloped me, embraced me, and it felt like home. I walked up a hill, and I saw a rust-colored owl. In the background, someone said, “This is the seat of where America was founded.” Water. Owl. History. Non-linear, unconnected.

“Sometimes life just seems like chapters of goodbyes.” From a country song. Doesn’t it sound like a country song? It is. Rascal Flatts. I love them, but Corey doesn’t much care for them, not since he found out that the lead singer is a man who has a high voice. He swore that the lead singer was a woman. Nope.

Funny how preconceptions/misconceptions can sway our attitudes.

“Everyone must come out of his Exile in his own way.” ~ Martin Buber

Autumn in Kyoto, by Daily Picture (FCC)

Time for boots and sweaters. Time for yoga pants and socks. Fall is like coming home, and I don’t really know why that is except that it is and always has been. I have memories of walking the trail to the Humpback Rocks, the boys with us, Eamonn bitching the whole way. Earlier memories, climbing the trail as a young woman. Smelling the crisp mountain air, the loam, the soil. Stopping along the way to look at interesting rock formations, fungi.

We’re (Corey and I) going to try to make a trip to the mountains at the end of October. We haven’t bee in years, and I would really like to go. Of course, the trip depends on so many things, not the least of which is getting new brakes on the Rodeo. Money. Always a factor. Money controls everything. Hate that.

I think that both Corey and I are a bit depressed, and a key reason is money, or the lack of it. He’s still waiting to hear on two jobs for which he applied. He’s very qualified for either one, but that doesn’t mean anything. So are hundreds of other people, all of whom are competing against him.

I have this image of President Obama standing up there with his jobs bill, an orange-skinned Boehner sitting smugly behind him, a look on his face that says, “not in my lifetime.” Obama has regained some of the fire in his speeches, but it’s because he’s campaigning again. I don’t want to talk about it, don’t want to talk about politics in this country and just how far out of touch the entire system is. I can be depressed about other things.

“Things are as they are. Looking out into the universe at night, we make no comparisons between right and wrong stars, nor between well and badly arranged constellations.” ~ Alan Watts

Autumn Sunset, by Superior National Forest (FCC)

I just lost my train of thought. Big surprise there. I haven’t been focused since I began this post. It’s hard to concentrate in here because Eamonn came home and started bitching. What I wouldn’t give to have my computer working again so that I could have my workspace back to myself. Had to turn off my playlist so that he could listen to his Rolling Stones album. He’s decided that he wants a turntable so that he can listen to albums. He’s borrowing Alexis’s turntable for now, one that I got her for Christmas ages ago. It’s here at the house instead of with her for space reasons, because we have so much freaking extra space in this 1100 square foot house.

Right.

I’m going to have to stop writing for now as it’s impossible to think.

Sunday later afternoon. Cloudy, high 67°F.

Obviously, I was not able to get back to this post yesterday. Eamonn hass gone this evening to a Blink 182 concert, so I have the room to myself again. My Blues playlist is going in the background. Corey is going to do errands before he has to work third shift tonight, and Brett and Em are doing homework, which means the house is once again blessedly quiet.

I woke up today with a headache, mostly sinus, I think, not a migraine. I’ve put a call into the neurologist’s office to set up an appointment for Botox shots for my migraines now that my health insurance has been straightened out. I need to call tomorrow to see if they’ve gotten the pre-approval necessary. I don’t know what to expect with the Botox. A woman I used to work with at GW got Botox when it was still experimental; she had doctors in her family. It did wonders for her, so I’m hoping that it helps me. The injections go directly into my scalp . . .

“The more I see of the world, the more am I dissatisfied with it; and every day confirms my belief of the inconsistency of all human characters, and of the dependence that can be placed on the appearance of either merit or sense.” ~ Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice

Höstsonaten: Autumn Sonata, by guldfisken (FCC)

So where was I . . .

Money? Politics? Fall? Let’s move on to something else, shall we?

I gave passing thought to submitting an application to become a Notary Public, since members of this family are constantly needing to have things notarized. However, I cannot notarize anything that contains my name or anything for my spouse, so I’m not entirely certain that it would be worth it. It costs $45 to apply, $10 to be sworn in, and then the cost of the seal, which is unknown. We get things notarized at our credit union for no charge, so I would have to weigh the pros and cons. We’ll see, I suppose.

Corey is pondering the pros and cons of going back to sea. He would need to renew his licenses, get a physical and drug test, all of which is not inexpensive, but the reality is that he’s making so little money with his maritime security job. He’s already lost at least on shift this week. He’s not even making half of what I make on disability, and it’s really hurting us. In fact, we’re in trouble with our mortgage again, something we never thought would happen again.

It’s not because we’re being negligent; it’s because we simply don’t have enough money to make ends meet. We’re one of those families on the edge that the politicians are talking about, living paycheck to paycheck.

We don’t charge our sons rent, although I know that many people charge their kids rent after they turn 18. It’s just not done in Filipino households. My dad would be highly affronted at the thought of doing something like that to family, and I concur completely. Family is family, no matter what. The kids are in school, and that’s the most important thing.

Sure, we could use help with the bills, but I just can’t see imposing that kind of pressure on the boys. We didn’t do it with Alexis. I used to think about winning the lottery, having a windfall of cash. Now, I just hope that we can hold it together until 2012.

“You are no longer quite certain which side of the fence is the dream.” ~ Erin Morgenstern, from The Night Circus

Fall Foliage in Central Park, NYC, by Alaskan Dude (FCC)

I suppose that I feel acutely the need to be the kind of parent to my children that my parents were to me. My mom and dad paid for my college and my graduate school (for my first master’s degree). They didn’t have to do that, but they wanted to do that. I wasn’t saddled with student loans, and I did not have to pay to live with my parents. I did work full time from the time I was 17, but that was by my choice. I used my money to buy a car, to pay my car insurance, to buy my clothes and to pay for my expenses.

I did move out of the house for a year when I was a sophomore, but when I wanted to move back home, it was never an issue. I lived at home, and I helped out by cleaning the house and doing anything else that was asked of me, but my parents never asked me for money. Granted, my dad made a very good living as a merchant marine, plus he had his Navy retirement. But I was brought up in a household that instilled in me a deep respect of learning, that placed a value on a college education, probably because neither of my parents had one.

I want that for my kids. I want them to know that we support them unconditionally, that we want to help them to gain a foothold in society. We cannot bestow them with trust funds; we cannot buy them expensive cars or send them to Europe, but we can love them and support them. It’s what my dad would have wanted, so it’s what I want.

Maybe I’m naive, or maybe I am old fashioned when it comes to certain things. Who knows, but I want my children not to have to worry about their education. They are already being assaulted with so many of the other realities of growing up.

“You like it under the trees in autumn,
Because everything is half dead.
The wind moves like a cripple among the leaves
And repeats words without meaning.” ~ Wallace Stevens, from “The Motive for Metaphor”

Fall in Seneca Creek State Park, by Anosmia (FCC)

Anyway, my musings about fall . . .

I know that I have said this many times before, but autumn appeals to me in a way that I cannot quite define. I think that’s part of the reason why I think that I would love to live in Ireland. I know that it’s rainy there and that it doesn’t get hot in the way that it gets hot here. Something about cloudy days, drizzle, how comforting it is to be inside with a book or a movie.

Something about sitting down at this computer to write while the wind whistles through the increasingly bare limbs of the trees. Something about the lushness of the berries that abound. Something about the song birds that flit from bush to bush. Something about wrapping the body in comforting clothes, sipping tea, eating soups and stews.

Perhaps this longing for fall comes from another life, one in which I lived a harder life but more immediate life, faced the elements directly. Perhaps I’m just being whimsical. But is anything more beautiful than the pageant of leaves that are deep crimson, gold and orange, even brown? The way nature seems to collude to create beauty out of a season that harbors death—it appeals to me.

And if I am to be honest, autumn also brings to the forefront those I’ve lost, those in my past. They are very much with me, and even though there is sadness, there is also comfort. Memories of Alan, my father, my daughter, and now my mother-in-law. All gone, all tied to the fall. It is the juxtaposition of death and rebirth, the idea that without the death that autumn brings, we could not have the renewal of spring.

That we ourselves imbue this season with so much promise is a very contradiction, but an understandable one. In the fall, we begin to walk a bit more slowly, no longer needing to move through the heat of summer as quickly as possible. We pause more, see more. We inhale the smoke from wood fires that no longer burn. We cocoon ourselves in warm blankets and give ourselves over to Lethe, and in the forgetting, we remember.

As Fitzgerald said, “Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall.”

Music by Rascal Flatts, “Here Comes Goodbye”

                   

The Farmer

Each day I go into the fields
to see what is growing
and what remains to be done.
It is always the same thing: nothing
is growing, everything needs to be done.
Plow, harrow, disc, water, pray
till my bones ache and hands rub
blood-raw with honest labor—
all that grows is the slow
intransigent intensity of need.
I have sown my seed on soil
guaranteed by poverty to fail.
But I don’t complain—except
to passersby who ask me why
I work such barren earth.
They would not understand me
if I stooped to lift a rock
and hold it like a child, or laughed,
or told them it is their poverty
I labor to relieve. For them,
I complain. A farmer of dreams
knows how to pretend. A farmer of dreams
knows what it means to be patient.
Each day I go into the fields.