2010 Halloween Gathering
Today is Halloween, a celebration filled with memories from my own childhood and those of my children. Owen spelled this day HallOWEeN, and it was his favorite holiday. I prepared a cleansing ceremony for today.
Our house was full of family and pumpkins last night, all of us gathering to carve our jack’o’lanterns for tonight – 14 of us - Nat, Anna, and Ruby, plus Dave’s girls, husbands, and kids - wielding knives and scooping spoons, careful to keep the little ones entertained just outside our work spaces. Jordan, an old friend of Owen, is staying with us for a while, and he joined in the fun, surprised that he could feel so comfortable in a room full of people he’s only met on occasion, some not at all. As happens, the memories washed over me throughout the night. I couldn’t help but miss the old days, noticing how much energy I expend creating new memories.
Jordan finished his pumpkin this afternoon and Dave carved two more. I was outside doing some yard work when I heard “Mad World” on the piano, the theme song from the movie, “Donnie Darko” – Owen’s favorite movie. Jordan was picking through the tune like someone just learning a new piece. I had a hard time staying in my body, thinking about the synchronicity while remembering. I asked Jordan later, and he had never played the song before, just thought about it and decided to give it a try.
My senses were on overload today – in and out of tastes and smells of pumpkin bread, drawn in to the light of candles, and listening to music that makes my heart ache and my face smile. My mind’s eye was full of pictures from the past, things we said and did, things I had wished would come to pass.
Last summer, I picked juniper and sage in a New Mexico forest where no tree stood taller than about ten feet. We gave offerings to the trees and bushes before clipping small bunches for use in ceremony. Our ceremonies, although reminiscent of many Native American rituals, became unique to our group. Since then (this trip was the end of a weekly gathering that lasted for over two years), my ceremonies have taken on their own feel, rituals, and intentions. When I took my herb pouches out to begin my ceremony, my mind became still and I no longer felt overwhelmed.
I first sprinkled blue cornmeal in the pumpkins on the front porch. I lit a fire in the living room, along with twenty candles. I sat on the floor in front of the hearth, sniffed the sage and juniper, and sprinkled the dried plant pieces over the open flames of the fireplace. My hands brought the smoke over me and through me, and my spirit lifted. My intention was one of letting go of grief, while retaining the sweetness that was Owen in this life. Once I felt myself truly feeling the ground beneath me and my connection to Mother Earth, I left my spot and went upstairs where a braid of sweetgrass sits on my dresser. I lit the braid and smudged my bedroom where I have a few of my favorite photos of my boys. I then walked across the hall to our office, where many of Owen’s possessions lie in rest – no sounds from the guitar strings, no pen scratching across the pages of his journals, no singing, no yawning, no footsteps on the stairs, no hair twisting between his fingers. One of his mantras was “positive vibrations” and I sat with him in that room, lighting and relighting the sweetgrass with my shaking fingers, until my tears could no longer contain his wishes for us.
The trick-or-treaters have all come and gone – the princes and princesses, the ghouls and goblins, the astronauts and aliens, the bees and the butterflies. It’s time now to light the twenty-first candle, the candle that signifies what is to become. My house has been cleansed and my heart is full of positive vibrations. Happy Halloween!