Friday, October 30, 2015

The Wisdom Of Halloween

More than most people, I am attuned to changes in the seasons.  This might be partly because I grew up in central Nebraska, a place where the weather changes are violently breathtaking.  Summer there brings thunderstorms barreling down the Plains and winter blinding blizzards that come just as suddenly.  Living in a rural area, the changes in the seasons also marked obvious changes in the cycle of work and the cycle of life.  Spring's planting, summer's verdant bounty, fall's harvest and winter's dormancy all surrounded me.

Our oldest and best holidays come from ancient times and a world where the rhythms of agriculture dominated.  The holidays marked the season's changes, even if Christianity had been grafted onto them.  Christmas is the warm light in the midst of the winter solstice, Easter the celebration of nature's resurrection turned into Christ's.  The Church tried to turn Halloween into All Saints Day, but Halloween has come out victorious.  It comes at the end of October when the harvest has come in, the leaves mostly fallen, and grass has started to go brown.  Life is dying or going into hibernation, and thus the feeling that the line between the world of the living and dead is blurry.  Halloween is thus the wisdom of the ancients still available for us to draw from.

I must say, as I hear the leaves rustle on my street and the dark of night gets spookily dense, I can feel the cold hand of the world of the dead on my shoulder.  But its not all scary.  I have sadly lost many very close to me over the last few years.  My wife's grandfather, my grandmother, my cat, and one of my best friends have all lately passed into the realm of the dead.  Over the last week they have felt eerily closer to me, their presence almost palpable.  It's as if I can almost see their faces, and feel their touch again.  Sometimes that feeling is almost unbearable, but I am glad that this unsettling time also brings me closer to their spirits.

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