Halloween An Appealing Day
Reprinted from Vol. 1, No. 15
by Sandra O. Martin
Late autumn days sing a siren song. Appeal rings in the air. The blazing trees, the ticklish breezes, the sunbaked smell of Concord grapes, wraithful mists and the Hunters Moon break open human hearts like pumpkin shells.
This mornings pastel sunrise shimmering on the spread satin of the Chesapeake summoned me as strongly as love.
Its no accident, I think, that we celebrate Halloween, our most appealing holiday, this time of year.
Halloween, youll remember, is short for All Hallows Eve. October 31 is the eve of a big celebration in the Catholic calendar. The next day, November 1, believers pay special attention to all the saints (or hallowed ones) whove gone to heaven before them. Thats All Saints Day, which in turn is the eve of November 2, All Souls Day, when all the dear departed whose addresses were not so sure about get their share of prayers.
This lovely time of year our thoughts are on the dead; perhaps their thoughts are on us. Maybe not. It may be only our mood, provoked by the bone-deep knowledge that autumns abundance is not about to last. This years scarce crop of blazing leaves is about to burn out. Theyll fall, and our gardens will wither, and the sun will seem snuffed out by winters wet blanket. The lovely Persephone is bound for her half-year in Hades, taking our summer with her.
It may only be winters coming that puts death on our minds. Or it may be that the spirits of the underworld really do come calling this time of year, and that Halloween is the open door through which they pass.
Calling that shot is a gamble many prudent folk are unwilling to take. Thank you just the same, they seem to say, well be ready when the ghosts come.
All those little ghosts fluttering in the trees of suburban houses are calling cards marking households that give ghosts their due. Dont bother to stop here, the black cats, harvest kings, spiders and inflatable skeletons signal. Were frightful enough.
Any frights you have in stock would be superfluous at our house. If you really need to scare the living daylights out of somebody, try the house next door. They didnt bother to put up any decorations. Theyre quite unprotected.
Thats the jack olanterns message.
Its not crows those scarecrows are scaring away. Its the beckoning underworld. Ghosts are appealing to us through Halloweens open door:
Margaret, are you grieving
Over Goldengrove unleafing?
Leaves, like the things of man, you
With your fresh thoughts care for, can you?
Ah! as the heart grows older
It will come to such sights colder
By and by, nor spare a sigh
Though worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie;
And yet you will weep and know why.
No matter, child, the name:
Sorrows springs are the same.
Nor mouth had, no nor mind, expressed
What heart heard of, ghost guessed:
It is the blight man was born for.
It is Margaret you mourn for.
So wrote the poet Gerard Manley Hopkins. Autumn, like spring, wants poetry, and long-remembered verses spring forth unbidden to help me interpret my heartfulness. Its not only leaves and tomatoes that will be leaving all in such a blaze of glory that we love them better than ever since they were new. Were thinking ahead.
This time Shakespeare said it: we love that well which [we] must leave ere long.
So why the good mood? Why are all the little ghouls and Freddies and goblins and monsters and veloci-raptors shrieking with delight as they run from house to house to extort candy? Why are big kids and grown-ups dressing up, too? Whys Halloween such a party?
No wonder we celebrate it. All those little ghosts are crooking their fingers and calling to us in fond, familiar ways: Were hearing voices of old friends we have loved and lost. Were hearing our own sweet ghost in them.
The appeal is irresistible. We cannot help but respond.
Come on. Lets carve the pumpkin and put a candle in it.
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