(This feels like a conversation — like when I ask that question, somewhere you’re answering.)
Today is Halloween. All hollow’s eve, the day we bring the old pagan ritual of harvest, of releasing summer and releasing/honoring spirits and ancestors, of masking and revelation into the public sphere. We take these days to honor who we’ve lost, to think about all the different selves we are, have been and could be, too.
This year, I think I’m going to dress up as someone on the verge of transforming her life in the direction of her dreams. What about you?
Are you being easy with yourself, if this is a difficult time of year for you, if the ritual aspects are triggering? What are you doing to take care of you during these days, if so?
In recent years, I’ve felt a lot more connected to the All Souls’/Dia De Los Muertos celebrations. These are the times to remember who has past, those we love who’ve died. I feel a little disconnected this morning, and this isn’t flowing like I want it to. I want to remember you, Grandma Sherman, and you, too, Grandma Cross. Yesterday we were on our way to a Dia de los Muertos ritual/celebration, and I was making ambrosia salad in your honor. It was the first time I was going to make that perfect midwestern treat, the thing you both always offered at your family-gathering tables. The invitation to the party said, to share at the potluck table, to bring a dish that connects you to someone you’ve lost or to your ancestors. But I’ve lost almost all of your dishes. All I have left is the candy, the cakes, the angel food and divinity, the peanut brittle, the sweet things that you prepared in small kitchens with a hundred little kids running around, including this one, who didn’t pay attention to what else you were making, who never imagined there’d be a day when she wouldn’t be able to remember what your hands looked like when you turned over the bread (did you make bread?) or stirred the batter, or basted the turkey, or mixed up the salad. Did you use jello in your ambrosia, or just sour cream and cool whip? What were your favorite foods? What were the foods you made to remember your own mothers or grandmothers? Here’s what I carry into this time of all souls’ and remembrance: I am sorry that I never asked you these questions when you were alive. Tonight I will light the candles for you and hold the marigolds for you. We create our altars in quiet and secret, or in isolation. Some year, I’ll bring the pictures of you out from underneath items on my own private altar and celebrate your lives publicly, add your names to the big altars that get created in San Francisco or Oakland.
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A prompt for today: Who are you remembering and honoring (or not honoring!) at this time of memory and celebration? Can you take 10 minutes and write their memory, what you still hold of them in your hands and behind your eyes? You might begin with food (like we so often begin with food): What foods did they like to eat? What tastes or smells remind you of them? What foods did you eat together? Start there — and follow your writing wherever it seems to want you to go.
Thank you for the ways you hold memory, in sweetness and complication, the way you let those you love be messy in your memory of them. Thank you for all the rituals you hold, for the ways you release the rituals that aren’t serving you anymore, for the times you let costume tell deep truths about you. Thank you for your brilliant, creative soul & thank you for your words.