Sunday, October 31, 2010

Day of the Dead

This last year has been in many ways preoccupied by death. Death in its most tangible form, with the loss of several loved ones, and death in a metaphorical sense in the transformation of areas of our lives beyond recognition.

So traditionally tonight the veil between the worlds is supposed to be very thin, and communication between them can occur with relative ease. I am having a hard time deciding whether or not I would really want to have a conversation with my newly dead. There really isn't much to say to any of them, including the 16 year old cat we lost. Though it would be very nice to snuggle with him again for a while. But then it would be that much harder to say goodbye again. So that's not a great idea. My Grandmother left mentally so long ago that the final goodbye was merely a formality in a sense. I said what I needed to say to her a few weeks before she died, and have no real sense of unfinished business there.

My father-in-law had a more troubling death. I think it would be nice to say goodbye to him properly. I know that my husband would love to have one last conversation with him, as there wasn't any chance at all for them to talk. By the time that he had arrived to the hospital, his dad was in a coma. And they never had the chance to talk. It was fast, horrible, and as ugly a reminder that life is finite as you get. I would dearly love for them to have the chance for one last discussion. But there again, saying goodbye would likely be harder afterward. So it's a mixed blessing of sorts, I suppose.

I rather like the Mexican tradition of going to the grave, setting up a picnic and celebrating the dead where they lie. I think it has a lovely mixture of reverence, irreverence, good food, and pagan sensibilities thrown in. It makes me smile. Unfortunately I come from a place without the temperate weather. Having a picnic at the cemetery where my dead lie would be chilly, likely windy, and not horribly private, as the highway is next to the cemetery. Oh, and the rest of the family might think it was a little strange. Not that me being strange is really such a stretch of their imaginations, but seriously, why give them the ammunition?

So tonight, I think we will toast our lost family members, think happy thoughts about them, and hope that the ghosts of the newly dead don't linger. They belong someplace else, and I wouldn't keep them from more important things.

Friday, October 01, 2010

Memory is a funny thing. I've been thinking lately about an evening from long ago. I was likely about 10. I might've been younger. Hard to say, really- memory isn't quite that precise.

We lived at the small house on the dirt road, that was later paved with delicious, bike-loving blacktop. It was summer. It was very late, because it was totally dark. That doesn't happen in the summer in Montana until around 11:00 or later. The temperature drops incredibly quickly at night there, most nights. Then you see the stars, smell the damp from the grass, and feel the chill starting. It's quite delicious, really.

That particular night, I was on the front steps. The concrete was still warm from the day, and I was in my pajamas. The light was on, the front door was open, and I could hear the TV through the screen door.

More than anything, I didn't want to come inside. I wanted this night to stretch on forever, only I lacked the language to know this. I saw the stars. I felt the heat of the day beneath me. I saw the water from the sprinkler sparkling in the light of the porch. I also saw the green of the grass, almost black in the darkness all around. It was likely one of the most magical nights of my life.

I keep finding myself on that porch in my mind. I'm much smaller in the memories. I'm much more impressed by the magic of the moment. I'm much more transfixed by the colors of the night and the smells of darkness.

I've been thinking about this night a lot lately for some reason. I suspect that I would love to resurrect that sense of magic and mystery in the night. But with the tethers of safety behind my back, linked to me by the sounds of the TV through the screen door and my parents inside the house.

But then, there really isn't any going back now, is there. I'll just have to soldier on, using this memory as a foundation for new dreams of magic and mystery.