Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Halloween and old gravestones

Halloween has come and gone... my daughter was a hula girl this year (the only cold Halloween in 8 years here, of course) and my son was a firefighter, both swept up in the magic of the night. While my husband takes the kids door to door, I set up a cauldron with dry ice and water, with the candy bowl at the top, and don a black cloak and battered witch's hat (too many years in the dress-up box) -- the kids have to stick their hands into the smoke to get their treats! Our front walk is ideal for Halloween; a creaky wrought-iron gate that's perfect covered with cobwebs, a plastic skeleton hanging from the tree, and my hubby added the extra innovation of a fog machine to scare the tweens a few years ago. We've been telling stories about Babushka the witch this past week... although the kids slept too hard to notice when she came to give them a ride on her magic broomstick, she did leave each of them a magic charm... (Of course my daughter had to take hers to school to show her class. Although I wrote an explanatory note to her teacher, I'm hoping it's a FLEXIBLE Episcopal school!)

Halloween is such a magic time of the year, and those fairy tales we heard as children touched something deep inside all of us. I, for one, would love to believe that just beyond the veil of what I can see lies a magic world of witches, leprechauns, and fairy dust. In medieval Europe, Halloween and Easter (the autumnal and vernal equinoxes) were the two times of the year when the veil between the worlds was supposedly thin... In Germany, Walpurgis night (which is right near Easter) is considered the spookiest night of the year! (That's when the witches meet on the famous Brocken, in the Harz mountains.)

Speaking of spookiness, there's a bit of a ghost story in the book I'm working on now (Dead and Berried). While I was writing this morning, Natalie wandered through an old churchyard on Cranberry Island, and my mind was brought back to a cemetery I used to walk through when I lived in Bethel, Connecticut, and a particular stone that always brought me to tears. The stone in question marked the graves of at least 6 siblings, all of whom died in childhood... although I didn't have children at the time, I remember how horrible that must have been for the poor parents. None of their children survived to adulthood.

Although bird flu and God knows what else is lurking out there, we need to remember to stop and remind ourselves of how fortunate we are to live in a time with antibiotics, good nutrition and access (hopefully someday for everyone) to medical care... and hug our children, if we have any!


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