Monday, October 27, 2014

Thursday, October 23, 2014

halloween symbols, just me thinking on {cyber}paper

Skeletons dancing, black cats lurking, jack-o-lanterns grinning, witches flying, bats swooping the full moon, just some of the images we might think of when we think of Halloween.   Halloween, distantly descended from the Celtic holiday Samhain,  a holiday that is a  mish mash of many traditions, some going back as far as the Roman harvest Festival of Pomona.  Strong influences from the Church couldn't stamp out the old traditions so everything got blended, and in recent times popular culture  and marketing have also greatly influence it.  The Romans and the Celts would have a hard time recognizing their holidays.

Halloween as we celebrate it now, with trick or treating and movie marathons, costumes and decorated house is pretty much an American holiday. Known before the Civil War, but not really celebrated until later, and then not  celebrated  as a children's holiday  at first, but as  one for adults. Me thinks it's really for the kid in all of us. 

 From what I have read, and been told the horrific number of deaths,  the great numbers of soldiers who were missing and presumed dead,  their fate remained unknown, had a lot to do with the rise of ghost stories, the interest in ghosts.  I cannot help but think that   that the hopes that some day the son who went into battle would return, contributed to the rising interest in séances and other forms of spiritualism. And perhaps on the night when the veil between worlds was believed the thinnest, those who were lost would return.

As any paranormal buff will tell you, true ghosts do not wear sheets.  the trick or treater with a sheet over their head much more closely resembles a corpse in its shoud, or as the shoud is also know "winding sheet".   

Skeletons, cannot walk, talk, dance much less play the violin.  the denizens of childhood nightmares. brought to life on the silver screen.  what could be more frightening in a time before movie monsters.  The faceless, unknown, remains that
dwell in each of us, the only thing we are sure that will be left of us. 

And that brings us to cemeteries, the last resting place of our mortal remains.   Cemeteries are creepy places,  so it is hard for me to understand why anyone would haunt one. Our Victorian forbears had picnics in cemeteries, they also contributed some cool abandoned houses to our Halloween symbols. Given the choice I would prefer a large rambling Victorian mansion to a damp cemetery as a venue to haunt. 

All Souls Day and all Saints days are set aside to honor the dead, to pray for the dead.  The reason I think cemeteries and skeletons are appropriate symbols.

Perhaps Tricks and Treats does go back to souling, or may-be not.  If you are unfamiliar with "Souling"  it was/is the  practice of giving small cakes to the poor who go begging door to door in exchange for prayers for the poor souls in Purgatory.  A practice also connected with Christmas.  In medieval and Rennaisance art , the dead are often represented as animated skeletons.


I wonder just how much of dressing up was so that one felt safe playing tricks and how much was related to the custom trading a song or the recitation of a poem or even an acrobatic feat for a treat.

The story goes that  Jack the Lad made a deal with the devil, and then somehow got out of it only to find hew was cursed to roam the countryside at night with only a glowing ember in a hollowed out turnip for a lantern.  A good story, and being as hard as rocks raw, turnips would make good containers for a glowing coal.   When the colonists came to the Americas they found the pumpkin.  And a pumpkin is ever so much easier to carve than a turnip or a rutabaga, I've tried.  Children must have been much more adept with cutlery in those days'

Have you ever noticed how much a carved pumpkin resembles a skull?  Of course not all of them, but the large round eyes, triangular nose and picket fence teeth, surely it could be.   Though we think of jack-o-lanterns as a canvas for our creative expression, they were once used as lanterns, and they were also intended to be frightening.

Myself I have trouble finding a good reason to connect the image of a witch  with Halloween.   Owls, because of their mysterious  and scary calls, the full moon because it certainly was a good thing to have the light of the moon while one was walking around collecting treat and playing tricks.  But witches??? were they the first addition from popular culture? I think so.
And with them came their hearthside tools, the cauldron,  broom,  ladle and candles, Common and necessary items found in the home of any Goodwife, the same Goodwife who could be termed a witch.  Be tortured and until she would confess to anything.  Even their cats or dogs could be  tortured, and killed, because they could be familiars.  I can only guess that merely being black, made a cat more sinister. Doesn't that seem far fetched, that anyone could believe that.   

For some reason, the Church fathers believed that the cat was a useless and lazy creature, and sanctioned the killing of all cats not just the black ones.  The rat was revered for its industrious nature, one wonders what they would have done it they knew plague was carried by rats.  But then in those days  germs and viruses were unknown, but if the local woman who knew her herbs heal, it might have been reasoned she could also harm.   And so could her cat. I leave you good readers to sort that out...

Tuesday, October 21, 2014


The sun rises a bit later and sets a bit later each day and the suns angle is changing,
The lowering suns rays passing through the prisms  hung at each window  casts rainbows on my walls.   They are a delight to see. even though I know they signal the approaching cold and dark months.
Autumnal  light is clear, and tinged with warm golds , reds and burgundys.   Almost glowing especially at sunrise  and sunset

The shadows are soft , details are clearly visible.

The morning fogs, so common at this time of year are warm and golden from be backlit by the rising sun.   When I see them I am reminded of how the veil between worlds becomes ever thinner at this time of year.  And of the shapes that change as the fog lifts and rolls across the landscape.

 Diffused and warm, it softens hard edges, but lets us see the details clearly, creating a dreamlike landscape.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

last of the tomatos

What a beautiful day, fresh breeze, sparkling sunshine, bright blue sky.   After my morning chores, I sat on the deck for awhile, just listening to the leaves rustling, and
enjoying the sun.  The leaves still on the trees fairly sparkled in the sun.   Delicate clouds sailed overhead and everything was peaceful, the woods were quite, no birdsong, not even a barking dog.  there was a chill in the breeze, but I was enjoying it.

This year there were very few apples, last year they weight of apples bent and even broke limbs.  This year the apples are small and few and far between.  Summer was cold and rainy mostly , with a few bursts of extreme heat.  Much better for growing mold and fungi than, vegetable gardens. 

The snap beans loved the weather, but the tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers didn't.
Still there were some, and the taste of fresh cucumber sandwiches was all the better, for that..I thought that the first tomato would never ripen.  But they did, and they were so very good.  For the last two months, sliced tomatoes have been on the supper table almost every night. Tonight, I sliced up the last of them.   I saved some of the seed, and hopefully next spring I will start those seeds.  Canned and frozen,  we will enjoy the bounty of extras in the coming months, but the taste of  a fresh homegrown tomato, is a very long way away.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

haiku warm welcome

Locked door, hidden key

leaves have done my work for me  

welcoming, warm and bright.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

When you waited all year


The time is here!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  I have waited all !!!year!!!  THE MOST wonderful time of year!!! Because Halloween is near!!!

Halloween!  even the name sounds like fun, like being a kid again, or in my case still.
Scuffing through the leaves in my homemade costume, with a big paper shopping bag, often something we made in school, going to the Halloween parade.

The matinee at the old and slightly creepy theater, 25 Casper cartoons and a few Looney Tunes cartoons.   After the show  we all got some sort of prize, I can remember getting, a trick or treat bags with a owl  and the moon on it one year.  Another year  it was a plastic full face mask of either a leopard or a witch.  Still another a noisemaker that broke before we had walked more than a block of the nearly mile long walk home. I can't remember any of the cartoons we watched.

After getting our prize, we wandered out  into the brilliant sunshine, stumbling along  for a few moments until our eyes adjusted to the  brightness.   Giggling and generally acting silly or trying to be scary;  the crowd broke into smaller groups and began walking home, or if they had some money descended on  GC Murphys to buy candy, or a bottle of pop. 
By now the excitement was really building, especially for the older kids, who could travel from one end of town filling the sturdy sack  the Sinclair Gas station gave out.   The guy that ran it always had a huge stack, enough for all the kids on Valley Street and then some, and we each stopped in for one, and if he knew you by name you got some hard candy.   Hard candy, was good, apples and popcorn balls, were not, the houses that gave out apples from the trees in the lawn were just asking to get Tricked, homemade treats we OK, every kid knew who's Mom was a good baker.
Valley St. was a well lit street. but the side streets were not, in fact some of them were more like walking in the woods, many kids didn't feel brave enough to travel those side streets at night.  As seasoned Trick or Treaters we knew that because there were few kids coming to the door the treats handed out  by those folks were often much bigger and better.
Our parents knew we were pretty safe and seldom went along, the older kids would  walk with us telling stories about dancing skeletons and witches  and even vampires swooping down out of the trees, so we all grew up with a rich store of good stories to scare the bejeezus out of the younger kids we were expected to shepherd around in the coming years.    Those were just about the best three nights of the year and we all  hoped for good weather, no rain, parents would insist that we carried umbrellas, I don't think they realized that an umbrella was a dangerous object in the hands of candy crazed kids, who were also convinced that there was at least a walking, talking skeleton behind every tree. 
But still we bolted our suppers, donned whatever we could find and a mask and off we went.  Homemade costumes were the rule, often kid made, but the 29 cent wigs, also from GC Murphy. were a big bonus.  My Mother noted for her frugality, would drape all sorts of things on us and tell us that we were, something or other, and we always felt super.   Pretty much the same as all of the kids in our part of town.   On the night of All Hallows Eve there was usually a Halloween parade, if it was raining, it was held in the High School Gym.  Typically we only went when it was raining.   There were the kids in their store bought costumes, all glittery and perfect and  then there were the kids from Valley Street, wearing our fathers coats or our mothers dress, amazingly to us we were the ones who took the prizes. 

plowing~~~guest blogger

Gentlereader, now that the garden is tilled  and for a time, at least, the big jobs are done.   This piece on Clifton Clowers came to mind,...