Kage Baker loved Halloween. Being a respectable person, she gave up actually trick or treating when she was 12 – but, being amply supplied with younger siblings, nieces and nephews, she kept going out on the trail until she was past 40.
There was a brief hiatus when we left LA and began our wanderjahr through Northern California – and eventually we settled in Pismo Beach, where we had no small relatives at first. We became enthusiastic candy butchers, with all manner of lights and pumpkins and cornstalk-idols all over the lawn … then, as Kage said, “God provided!”, and the lovely Emma Rose was born: the youngest niece, born right there is Pismo. Kage was able to fulfill a life-long desire, and actually trick or treat in Pismo Beach.
Emma being as beautiful as a fairie, she raked in tons of sweeties: Kage got to pace solemnly through the night still, her trademark carved-with-a-crescent jack o’lantern in the crook of her arm like Anne Boleyn’s head. When little Emma was returned home to sleep in a dune of chocolate bars and Smarties, Kage and I would go down to the beach and dance in the moonlight … the best years, there was fog and a red tide, and all we needed for perfection would have been zombie pirates swaggering up from the glowing sea …
My personal run-up to Halloween foundered this year. Somewhere around Lief Erikson Day, I tripped over something and fell by the wayside. I’ve been crawling through the ditches ever since, working my way toward Halloween and the Celtic New Year: which year was sensibly counted in nights, not days, and revolves around the stump of Samhain as a pivot in these modern times. A time to start over, just when I really need it!
Kimberly and nephew Michael have decorated the house heroically, as I wallowed in self pity this autumn. We have lights in all the appropriate fall colours; garland of bright leaves, and paper lanterns painted like pumpkins. We have lots of jack o’lanterns, everywhere; wraith and ghouls here and there, an alligator surfacing on the front lawn, and an undead gnome grinning on the front porch … lots of candy, too. My family ALWAYS has one of “those houses” on our street.
Kage would approve.
It being that night when the walls between the worlds thin, I harbour a tiny childish hope that maybe a certain red-haired ghost will swing by and give me a wave. Probably not, though, as I am sure the joyful dead have lots of parties to go to tonight, and she’s probably slow-dancing with God. If not tangoing with Alex, Edward and Nicholas … but yesterday, I did get an early treat. The new collection from Tachyon, In The Company of Thieves, arrived here: an entire box, a dozen of the gorgeous things like a box of painted chocolates! And the last story in it is the new one – the one with both our names on it, a cheerful revenant, but not undead! It’s as lively as any Celtic spirit dying in one world to be born in the next, alive alive-oh and ready to rumble.
And tonight, at Midnight, by candlelight and aye, I will strike out once again for Babylon: I’ll begin work on Marswife for my Novel Written in A Month project. I’ll have a bowl of chocolates ready nearby, to lure in the appropriate spirits and muses. I’ll light the Lamps of the Weird, and a candle scented with roses. The little black cat will purr on my bed behind me, and the littler orange cat will fall asleep in the arms of her toy hedgehog. As All Soul’s Night diffuses into All Saint’s Day, I’ll invoke the beloved dead and invite their attention and intercession.
And start all over. That’s what life does, you know.
How many miles to Babylon?
Three score miles and ten.
Can I get there by candle-light?
Yes, and back again.
If your heels are nimble and light,
You may get there by candle-light
Happy Haunting, Kathleen.
Happy writing, too.
And Happy Haunting to you, too, Luisa. At our age, the occasional glimpse of our beloved dead is more comforting than not, eh? Although for trick or treaters, I guess all you get is the hen party!