I wanted to go for a walk to see the jack 0′ lanterns and to join the ghouls in the neighborhood last night but I was tired when I finished teaching. So I dumped the last of the Halloween candy on the last few children who rang my door bell, had a Scotch, and went to bed early. (It’s an age thing.) This morning I rose while it was yet night and got out my All Soul’s, All Saints, and All Days of the Dead stuff. I took down the ghosts, the black cats, and the 15 year old jack o’ lantern taffies that are part of the General Fall Display.
The General Fall Display goes up the first of September. It features a porcelain scarecrow guarding his few pumpkins, and a small bale of hay. They pose on a carpet of flat dried leaves, which have been collected for years as far back as the 1960s when I was a child in Olympia. Framing the porcelain figures are some ears of Indian corn. Scattered about are acorns, walnuts, bits of lichen, and putka pods.
Come October, I add a black cat candle, a figurine of the guy at the organ with the crow on his shoulder, and the stale jack o’ lantern taffies. When I say the taffies are fifteen years old, my youngest students look at them with reverence.
On November first, today, the Halloween details are extracted and the truly dead people come out: Photos and mementos of my parents, my wonderful Aunt Frances, my first piano teacher, my Cornish cousin who welcomed me into my Cornish family; Meagan, my 14 year old student, and Dennis, the father of my two students, Anna and Julia. This morning I remembered each one in turn. I lit a new candle and sang Schubert’s “Litanei:”Alle Seelen ruhn in Frieden (all souls rest in peace).
In fact I drowned “an eye unused to flow for precious friends hid in death’s dateless night,” a line from one of the Shakespeare sonnets I memorized this summer:
When to the sessions of sweet silent thought
I summon up remembrance of things past,
I sigh the lack of many a thing I sought,
And with old woes new wail my dear time’s waste.
Then can I drown an eye unused to flow
For precious friends hid in death’s dateless night,
And weep afresh love’s long since cancelled woe,
And moan the expense of many a vanished sight
Then can I grieve at grievances foregone
And heavily from woe to woe tell o’er
The sad account of fore be-moaned moan,
Which I now pay as if not paid before.
But if the while I think on thee, dear friend,
All losses are restored and sorrows end.
It’s the beginning of winter in the pagan calendar and though it was warm this morning in Seattle, remembering the dead is a winter thing to do. Remembering the dead puts me into a session of sweet silence. I’m not wild about putting up on the Internet photos of people hid in death’s dateless night but here’s a long time feature of my All Soul’s altar: