Ghoulies and Ghosties and Long-leggedy Beasties and Things that go Bump in the Night

When I decided to sit down and write, I had no topic in mind. What I decided to do was to venture out to www.pixabay.com, a site that has license free pictures that can  be utilized on blogs and websites (hint, hint).  I wanted to peruse the pictures until one “spoke” to me. One that evoked a feeling or an emotion that made my mind click and whir and say to itself, “there is something there, dig for it.”  I looked over dozens, maybe even a hundred photos. This is the one that grabbed me.

When witches go riding, and black cats are seen, the moon laughs and whispers, ‘tis near Halloween. ~Author Unknown

When witches go riding,
and black cats are seen,
the moon laughs and whispers,
‘tis near Halloween.
~Author Unknown

Two weeks ago, my blog post discussed my love for the Fall, or Autumn.  One of the things that I love about Autumn is Halloween.

Halloween is a child’s holiday, but it is for the child that still lives in all of us; for this holiday defies age. The children in their costumes evoke our own memories of being those children, of the experience of walking house-to-house on a dark, cool night, ringing doorbells and crying out, “Trick or Treat!” Of being rewarded, and the pleasure of dumping the haul on the family room floor after returning home. The memories I have to share here are my memories – memories from my childhood, and memories of Halloween with my children. The are my nostalgia. I miss these times with my kids in particular, but the memories of the joy will last me forever.

My earliest memories from my hometown of Orange, California are of being dressed as a tiger. I did the tiger thing for a couple of years and after Halloween the costume became my pajamas.  A few years later it was a cowboy: hat, chaps, and silver six shooters (loaded with a full roll of caps). My dad would take my younger brother and me out around our block. We would stop at every house, knock or ring and yell the magical, candy-producing chant. It always seemed so late when we got home. In reality, it was probably 7:30pm.

As I got older the thrill became twofold.  First was the actual making of the costume. No more store bought costumes. In the back of my parents closet was an old dresser full of “dress-up” clothes. These were the makings of great Halloween goblins.  My favorite was to go as a hobo. Old ripped jeans and a too large flannel shirt were topped off with a crumpled plastic pork-pie hat and a huge rubber cigar.  45 seconds with a charcoal briquette and my 10- or 11-year-old self had a respectable 5 o’clock shadow. Also, we had reached an age, in what was the more accepting 1970’s, that my dad no longer tagged along. We were ghouls on the loose.

Once properly adorned, and with the dark almost completely settled in (for my northern climes friends, it gets dark in SoCal much earlier than in Michigan) we set off with a goal: to reach the fire station on Shaffer St. This was the second part of the

Orange, CA Fire Station #3

Orange, CA Fire Station #3

thrill. Why?  Because they always gave out full-sized sugar daddy bars! It was several blocks of walking (or seemed like it anyway) but you got to hit up every house getting there, and as many as you wanted on the way back until either A) you were too tired; B) your candy bag was full or weighed too much; or, C) any combination of the above.

As a child you view Halloween from the child’s perspective – the costumes, the candy, the mischief.  Then I became a parent.

I have three children and each has given me the joy of seeing Halloween through their eyes. Costumes as unique to each child as they are unique to other kids. Vampire, pirate, executioner, dalmation, princess, clown, an elf, and on and on.

Pixie, kobold, elf, and sprite, All are on their rounds tonight; In the wan moon’s silver ray, Thrives their helter-skelter play. ~Joel Benton

When they were little, like my father before me, I escorted them around the neighborhood, taking them to doors, reminding them to say “Thank you.”  When they reached the point where dad providing escort was “no longer cool” (and dad deemed them old enough) they were off in large groups of friends. I am sure their memories will be much like mine, and very different too. Perhaps the basis for their own story one day.

October and Halloween hold other cherished memories for me , also. Memories that I have no doubt are shared by my wife and kids through the lenses of their perception; but all good.

Hocus-Pocus

The Sanderson sisters have come back from colonial-era Salem and have plans for the towns’ children

Our family loves the movie Hocus Pocus.  I haven’t seen it now in a few years, but when the kids were younger, we loved to watch it together every year, particularly the girls.

Jack overlooking Halloweentown in A Nightmare Before Christmas

Jack overlooking Halloweentown in A Nightmare Before Christmas

]For my son it was A Nightmare Before ChristmasThe Jack Skellington mug in my office at work attests to my love of that movie also. I have always been especially taken with the musical score.

Another great Halloween movie memory is The Halloween Tree. Written and narrated by Ray Bradbury this animated film from the Cartoon Network tells unique stories of Halloween from the perspectives of different times and cultures throughout the world. It is done in such an enjoyable and charming way that it’s not until the movie ends that you realize that you just might have gotten a little education, too. Like Hocus Pocus, I would say that The Halloween Tree is one of those films that families refer to as “cozy” and can watch over and over again.

Witch & MoonNow remember this picture? Yes, it spurred me to write about Halloween, but it still says more to me, and I think that is why I chose it.  Often when I see a photo, I “feel” things from the picture. Black and white pictures in particular pull this sensation from me,

While still Autumn related, looking at this picture  makes me think of walks I used to take as a teenager, late at night, around the home we lived in out in the country.  I could take the dogs with me and let them off their leashes and listen to them as they ran through the undergrowth. It evokes for me the end of the growing season and the Harvest Moon.  I smell leaves burning and feel crisp air on my face. I see children bobbing for apples, and I hear the breeze rustling the red and gold dying leaves. I imagine the frost that will soon start to greet me in the morning.pumpkin-201077_1280

Pictures all tell a story, and sometimes our story is not the same as that of the photographer. But the beauty of art is that it is for any interpretation we want to give it.

All the best.

The Cemetery

“Did you ever think when the hearse went by,

perhaps you’ll be the next to die;

they’ll wrap you up in a cold white sheet,

and bury you down six feet deep.”

                                                                                                  –The Hearse Song

When I was a child, my aunt taught me The Hearse Song, or at least a version of it.  To me it was never presented as a song; it was a poem and it was just meant to be a creepy little funny saying. And it really was; as a child I loved to say it, and in the creepiest little Count Dracula voice I could muster. What it did however, was created in me the opposite effect of what it probably has done to others.  I fell in love with cemeteries.

Cemeteries do not frighten me. I do not fear them, I do not think they are creepy, and I actually find them very peaceful.  Unlike many people’s perceptions however, I also don’t equate cemeteries with death. Cemeteries are history. Cemeteries are stories waiting to be told. Each stone is a lasting monument to a real human being. A person, flesh and blood, sweat and tears, like you and I.

cemetery-980056_1280Look at the marker in the picture. I intentionally found it through a random online search.  I don’t know where it is located. I don’t know if the cemetery is small, large, or even perhaps just a family cemetery.  Here is what I do know:  It marks the final resting place of Lucy Blanchard. Lucy served as a nurse in the U.S. Army during the Civil War.  She was already in her early 40’s when the war started, and she lived to an impressive (especially given the late 19th and early 20th centuries) age of 90.

Lucy was a very real human being.  She was somebodies child who probably swam in creeks or swimming holes and played hide-n-seek with friends and siblings when she was young. Maybe she grew up on a farm. Maybe not. I don’t know if Lucy was ever married nor had children. I would like to believe she did. Married or not, she undoubtedly knew how to love and received love from those around her. She probably had her fair share of suitors, and might even have had a few detractors.  Was her hair blonde, red, brown, black? I don’t know. Color of her eyes? I don’t know.  That I don’t know doesn’t make her less real. It doesn’t mean that she doesn’t hold a place in the history of our world.

Can I infer anything about Lucy.  I think so.  Lucy was a caring woman. She didn’t have to act as a nurse during the Civil War. Women weren’t drafted; but she did. Knowing Lucy was a Civil War nurse, we also know that she witnessed countless horrors: Minie balls fired from muskets created horrible wounds, cannon and mortar fire tore limbs away. She must have witnessed field amputations and surgery where there simply wasn’t sufficient, if any, anesthetic. I am sure she watched brave, young men who fought for their country waste away and die of infection from their wounds and of rampant disease. Lucy saw things that we simply cannot imagine.

I love history. I am fascinated by it and I am moved to know that I might trod the same ground or touch the same walls and door handles that people touched 100 years ago. It’s all very innocuous, just another day in passing, and yet we cross paths with the past all the time. I want to know more about the people – not the famous people, but the everyday worker, father, mother, brother, and so on and so forth. History tells the stories of the famous, but it’s the non-famous, the average person, who really makes the history, who really tells the story.

I wish when I knelt at a grave I could talk to the inhabitant. Not in a creepy way. I’m not looking for a Stephen King experience. One clean pair of underwear a day suffices just fine.  I just want to ask them about their life. What did they do? Where did they live? How did they celebrate their holidays? Were they married? Have kids? Where were they from? What made them laugh?  I could spend hours asking and listening. People fascinate me (living ones too). I want to know their stories. I would love to write their stories. I believe the saddest thing is when you visit a cemetery and you see the graves of the forgotten. I wish I could help them be remembered.

I call my blog the “Senseless Ramblings Blog.” If you made it this far, then you have truly experienced one of my senseless ramblings. It is what it is and I hope you enjoyed it.

I dedicate this piece to little Romona Keaggy; she’s another story for another day.

My "rose" in New Mexico

Forever a child – forever special in my heart

All the best!

Autumn

As I write this, I am gazing out my back door. The sky is an absolutely clear, beautiful blue. The maple tree in my back yard is still fully crowned in green. It is currently 69 degrees. Other than the cooler temperature, it might almost appear a perfect Summer day. But the signs are there. The signs that we are heading into Autumn.

I love the change of seasons. I can’t really answer why, nor is the reason

Autumn is: quiet country roads

Autumn is: quiet country roads

important. I simply do. It is just something I feel. Each new season brings its joys and wonders. Each new season brings its headaches and annoyances. The combination of all these keep each day, week, month, and year fresh.

Autumn is by far my favorite season, though.

It starts with the light. There is just something different about the light in the fall. I’m not talking the scientific aspects of light relative the positioning of the earth to sun. This light defies science. It defies explanation. It is completely sensory. The light shines, shimmers, and glistens; and I’m not talking reflections, but the light itself, suspended before my eyes.

Then there is the air. Winter air can be cold and harsh. Spring air can be overly flowery and sometimes musty. Summer air can be humid, heavy, thick. Autumn air is as different as Autumn light. It’s thin, fluid, crisp, and clean. It is so refreshing that you want to take the deepest breaths you can. It is like breathing fresh, spring water but never feeling suffocated or drowned.

What of Autumn colors? They, too, are splendidly different than any other

Autumn is: maple leaves, syrup, and cider mills

Autumn is: maple leaves, syrup, and cider mills

season. The deep ruby reds of the changing maple leaf are not the same as the red of a rose. The vivid golds are not the same tarnished tones of the wheat and hay in the fields. The luminescent oranges make the most vivid sunset seem dull. Somehow all the colors of Autumn evoke the sense of earth for me. I never feel as one with our planet as I do in Autumn. How can they be so different? They are just colors after all. But different they are.

Even the word Autumn is special. I will be the first to tell you that more often than not, I use the word Fall at this time of year. Most I know do. The word Autumn has a very special place in language for me though. For some unknown reason, Autumn looks better to me in print. It has a fine shape and tenor to it. It is the best word to evoke all I feel that I can not otherwise adequately explain.

Then there are all the human aspects of Autumn that I find so agreeable. Cider mills with their smells of pressed apples and fresh hot fried donuts

Autumn is: the Jack 'O Lantern and the joy of Halloween

Autumn is: the Jack ‘O Lantern and the joy of Halloween

coated in cinnamon and sugar. Caramel Apples. High school and college football. The start of a new hockey season. Halloween, pumpkin carving, children trick-or-treating, and the prelude to the holidays.

For me, Autumn is also about peace. I find that I like long hikes in the woods in Autumn much more than any other time of year. The animals are on the move and to see the deer moving, the squirrels gathering, and the geese flying is a special treat. For all the sounds of nature, Autumn is strangely quiet. Leaves rustle and creeks trickle. Footsteps crackle on dry leaves. Combined, however, it all seems to create a great, white noise that envelopes me, lulls me, and brings me a solitude I need after the busy, active days of Summer.

In short, I find Autumn amazing, and beyond this poor attempt to place into writing why, it defies my ability to explain. Is there a need to explain however?

Autumn is: clear light that sparkles on water

Autumn is: clear light that sparkles on water

I don’t think so. It is for me what it is for me. It is for you what it is for you. The beauty of Autumn, of all the seasons in fact, is that we get to witness a change in the world around us. We do not live in a world where we enjoy the same day 365 day a year. In fact, I know that I wouldn’t enjoy that.

Here’s to Autumn.