Tuesday, October 31, 2006

all hallow's eve


Happy Halloween, folks.

Living in the Bible Belt is just plain ol’ strange sometimes. There are trunk-o-treats at local churches (which is nice if your neighborhood isn’t the best one for trick or treating,) harvest fairs all over the place (for those who aren’t comfortable with devilish holidays such as Halloween,) and at least one school around here is doing “character day,” avoiding the whole concept of Halloween entirely. This has a silver lining – kids have to come dressed as a character from a book. They have to bring the book with them and explain the meaning of the costume – so there’s some educational value added while taking away the holiday celebration completely.

Being a pagan kind of chick, I find this dismaying and sad. And annoying. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard about this imaginary “War on Christmas” and “War on Christians” and “War on Family Values” etc etc ad nauseam. I just don’t get how someone can say on the one hand that Christianity in this country is threatened, when it seems to me that the evangelical Christian movement is the one throwing its weight around and making all the threats.

The older meaning of Halloween, the root of it, really isn’t anti-Christian at all. (Although I suppose if you paint anything non-Christian as Bad the whole question of meaning becomes, well, meaningless.) This holiday is, among other things, about honoring the dead, and remembering those who have passed on. C'mon, really, how pagan is that? We celebrate birthdays once a year for individuals, so what’s the big deal about honoring our friends and family who have passed on? You’re damned straight I’m gonna put some extra plates on the table tomorrow night. It’s the least I can do.

It’s strange, because this time of year always has me introspective, meditative, lost, sometimes, in memories. My half-brother George died in a motorcycle accident eight years ago around this time. I remember the trip up to Ohio for the funeral – the changing leaves were outrageously colorful, almost disrespectfully so. On the day of the service, the weather turned perfect – windy, chilly, rainy, all the conditions I really love. The leaves flew everywhere, like Hitchcock’s birds.

He was unbelievably tall. You wouldn’t guess it from looking at my Dad and me – we tend towards the smaller statures. But one Thanksgiving, when I was living in Roxboro with Dad and Judy, we got George to come visit. No one had seen him in years – I hadn’t seen him since he was fourteen and I was nine or ten. He seemed to unfold out of the car (I think it was a Mustang convertible) wearing an unbelievably cool black leather jacket and kick-ass motorcycle boots, striding up the gravel driveway to greet my father.

I went all shy and ran back into the kitchen to “help” with the dinner. I got to hang out with him a little that day, and some the next. Not nearly as much as I would have liked. I wish… well, anyway, maybe in another life.

My paternal grandmother died several years ago around this time of year, too.

Then there’s Mom. She died in August (on a good friend’s birthday, nonetheless) thirteen or fourteen years ago, but it’s impossible to remember my dead without having her in a place of honor. I think I’ll put her plate in between mine and Duckie’s. Is that morbid? Well, fuck, if it is, it’s sure the right time of year for it.

And I can’t forget That Night almost two years ago. Maybe that Voice, the one that so reasonably suggested that life was a little too much to handle, that my daughter would be better off without me anyway – maybe that voice was a kind of ghost, a whisper of a previous life – my own? Someone else’s? Delusion, psychosis, or whatever, that voice certainly had an individual personality, the damned smooth-talking, comforting, mothering, evil bitch. Yeah, I know, it’s not exactly a Buddhist, nonjudgmental way of looking at it, but then again I’m not a perfect Buddhist and wouldn’t ever pretend to be.

This time of year seems powerful, sacred, and, yes indeed, scary as hell sometimes. It saddens me to see it reduced to a dress-up contest and candy-grab, robbed of its original meaning due to the general ignorance of a large percentage of the American population. And it’s too bad dress-up for adults is mostly restricted to Halloween, you know? (Renaissance Faires, Dragon Con, SCA and re-enactments notwithstanding.) My daughter gets such a kick out of it. I may have to start playing it with her.

It further irritates me that such a vocal contingency of Americans have fought so hard against the celebration of it, when the celebration itself has been diluted to the point of meaninglessness. Like kicking somebody when they’re down.

It’s not my job to dictate to anyone how to celebrate a holiday – or even to celebrate it at all. But I do wish that folks would make an effort to get the hell out of their own ignorance. Or, if they don’t want to do that, I wish they’d just shut up and stop talking shit about what they don’t understand.


I did indeed run yesterday. It didn’t feel bad at all until I stopped – that is, when I regained real feeling in my legs instead of the endorphin-induced illusion that I enjoy so much. Right Knee is highly displeased.

On top of the run, I had a long practice this morning. That’s probably what really pissed off the knee. Odd, ‘cause it’s usually the left one whining. The practice itself was yummy. Was able to do a couple of things I couldn't last week. It's fascinating what happens when I'm able to turn off the "I can't" drama. I surprise myself sometimes.

There’s construction in the lab yesterday and today, and probably through the rest of the week. Blech. The dust was the worst of it. By the end of the day, my eyes felt like they used to before the glasses.

Today I’m in the other part of the lab because my desk is directly underneath the work zone. (They’re installing a new hood and ventilation system so we can replace one toxic testing chemical with another one that is, happily, less damaging to the environment. Quelle joie.) So I’m sharing workspace with my chatty coworker, using safety earplugs to block out the noise, wearing a sweatshirt and a scarf to keep from freezing due to the constant blowing of – can you believe it – the air conditioner they use to maintain a more or less ambient temperature in the testing room. In late October. In the mountains. Unreal.

I should mention that earplugs used for listening to music or media, instead of just blocking out sound, are now Prohibited On Company Grounds. I figured it was only a matter of time, as They can’t control the volume of the music and don’t want to risk us damaging our hearing on company time.

But I don’t understand how they can ban music and still allow a smoke room in the building.


Have a great night, y'all. Be safe. If you hear odd disembodied voices, it's ok to listen - but I'd recommend telling them to come back later, after you've plowed through the caramels :)



James said...

I really dig this time of year and Halloween is my favorite holiday. I remember reading something about Halloween being a harvest holiday as well. People would walk around in costumes to trick the demons and go door to do to hand out food from their plentiful crop.

It's interesting how some people want to abolish anything that they don't understand or that is different from their views. Just about every country in the world has a day of the dead kind of holiday and I bet we are the only country that tries to shut down any kind of openness and acceptance of death.

I wonder if your area of the country is where that lady who wants to ban the Harry Potter books from school and public libraries resides?? Seems like I remember that there have been several of these "book burners" fighting against poor Harry.

I too dislike the "War on Christmas" b.s. Christmas is not in any danger of disappearing. Here is another holiday that has a massive doese of paganism in it. I really don't have a problem with Christmas per se. Just keep nativity scenes off of government land and I'm peachy keen.

However, the problem that I have is that there are other spiritual holidays around this time of year that deserve honoring as well. Kwanzaa, Chanukah and Bodhi day on the 8th of December when Buddhists celebrate the Enlightenment of Lord Buddha and his gift of the Dharma to the world. As well of other holidays that don't come to mind. THAT is why I prefer the term "Holiday season" and "Happy Holidays."

andi said...

James -

Yeah, she's in Georgia. And what drives me nuts about it is that she freely admits that she's never read the books. Blows me away.

glad to see you!


Kiki said...

Best. Holiday. Ever! Happy Halloween, everyone! Personally I have the day off (contract work rocks) and I'm dressed up as a Chicago White Sox baseball player. If, you know, ballplayers were chicks, and wore their jerseys with black leggings and platform flipflops. Hee!

Anyway great column as usual, Andi; very thought-provoking. Hope you and yours have a great holiday. Oh, and if I missed it earlier, what's Duckie this year? Hoping for a costumed photo of her at some point...

andi said...

Kiki -

Platform flipflops? WOW. I didn't know such an animal even existed, but damn, you're certainly the chick to rock them.

Duckie's a mermaid this year. Or, today, anyway. I've just been invited to a halloween party this weekend and I might suggest that she wear the little flapper-type dancer dress with tights, etc. Oh she just looks SO cute...

Taking pictures is usually not a problem - it's developing them. I really need to get a good digital.

Yogamum said...

Halloween rocks!

Great post...I'm too strung out on candy to be any more coherent than that!