Kage Baker loved summer. It was her favourite season. But second in her heart came – not a season – but the month of October. She wasn’t that crazy about Fall; except in special places, far North of where we usually lived, California doesn’t have much seasonal colour, and Kage fervently hated being cold.
But October is special. It is the gateway to the three-month festival of the end of the year, which was a merry-go-round of holidays dear to Kage. It’s when coloured lights and special candy begin; roasted meats and harvest vegetables, hot rum and brandy potables … And most of all, it is the season of Halloween.
This is the season of reminiscence and ghost stories; weird history and ancient rituals, and all the peculiar family history that could combine the two. At least it did in our families, and Kage loved telling scary stories by candle and fire light. We had Halloween parties where no electric light was permitted in the house, and everyone had to tell a spooky tale – except for the unbearably sensitive, who usually ended up in the kitchen huddled together over a candle, bogarting the candy bowl and singing loudly to drown out the grisly story of Old Green Eyes still haunting the cemetery at the Chattanooga National Military Park …
Stags would pace down our street in the Hollywood Hills, antlers silvered by moonlight; coyotes raced and howled. People in masks would peer into our flickering windows. At least, we hoped they were masks. Everyone screamed anyway.
Mind you, October is just the perfect holiday party start. Here in California, it rarely rains – and never stopped us when it did – and the weather can either be wood smoke-crisp or haunted bayou hot. If we’re gonna get thunder and lightning, this is when we get them, with wind storms that howl in the eaves and strip the trees of leaves – and sometimes, leave the trees in the streets in a creaking maze, which was a total gas whether we had to climb through them on our way to school, or to trick-or-treat. Sometimes we had to go blocks out of our ways to make sure we found blocked streets to climb through.
Due to Kage having tons of younger siblings, and then nieces and nephews about as soon as possible, we did Halloween chaperone duty until I was 30 years old. By that time, I was shorter than the tall kids, who had all outstripped me in the height department; with a modicum of black gauze and skull makeup, I got to collect candy without question. Kage paced along solemnly with a lit pumpkin in her arms like a severed head. It was great.
Later in life, the Northern Renaissance Faire often ran late, well into October. On the last weekend, we would carve pumpkins on the front table, which let us acquaint the customers with the ancient customs of Samhain and All Hallows. The historically determined would carve turnips, instead – those were the vegetable lanterns of choice before pumpkins were imported from the New World. They are also incredibly hard and difficult to carve, so all kudos to Stacy and Rebecca, who actually succeeded in producing wicked little faces on them! The last weekend nights of Faire, we’d put light sticks in them and set them out on the fence line, and scare the security guards who were always wary of lit candles.
And there was always the joy of giving out candy, once we were all too old to take to the streets. The parade of little kids in costumes is endlessly wonderful; even the awkward teenagers still hopefully extending their pillow cases are fun. I have never said to anyone: Aren’t you too old for this? That’s a sure way to incur supernatural wrath.
So, here we are in October once again. This year, I am still pretty much a revenent – no excursions for me, be the weather ever so mild. Kimberly doesn’t even want me to answer the door, if we do get any trick-or-treaters; because my health is mostly expressed in negative values. But I am getting better, albeit frustratingly slowly. I can walk for at least 30 feet before I start gasping; I can talk and rarely have to cough. I can sing a little. But I am horribly sensitive to both cold and heat. And I do have this ghastly divot in my throat – it’s healed as much as it is going to heal, but it leaves me with a lurid purple hole I can fit two fingers into. I wear scarves when I go to the doctors’ offices. I avoid mirrors.
However, it is time for me to get off my butt – symbolically speaking – and resume communicating with the world and with you, Dear Readers. My long lapse is no one’s doing but my own – Kimberly has urged me constantly to get my act together and shout once more into the void. Now, tonight – with the temperature falling, and the wind howling in the trees, and leaves being driven in head-high waves past the windows – now is a good time to prove I’m still here. I may be a revenent, but I’m not dead. It doesn’t seem likely that I will be any time soon, either. I have officially survived.
Today, my dear old friend Rebecca called to ask Kimberly if I was, indeed, still among the living. Kimberly swore I would resume my bloggery. It’s the least I can do for Kimberly, who has nursed me though so much; and for Rebecca, who has fronted the inquiries from so many of my concerned friends. She seems to be person of choice to poke me with a stick.
It’s the season to talk to the dead, and tell old tales. Since I am, amazingly, not among the dead, I have things to say and remember and invoke. There is candy to eat, pumpkins to carve, lights to be lit against the echoing dark. I’m really here.
And I still have things to say.
Where I live now (Scotland) there are older people (my age) who routinely rage at the notion of newfangled ‘pumpkins,’ and who grimly still hack out rutabaga entrails because that’s the way it’s supposed to BE. More power to their arms, I say, happily shaping my pumpkin lantern with a soup spoon and butter knife.
To be fair, rutabagas are scarier than pumpkins, and much more durable as well. Try flinging a lit rutabaga. You’ll kill whatever you hit. Same effect four weeks later, as well.
It’s also impossible to get an arty-pretty-cartoony face out of a turnip. If you manage to blast out two holes for eyes and one for a mouth after removing the brains, you’re doing great …never mind what shape they are. And you get cheery orange (with topknot handle on the beret) replaced by unhealthy purple-and-beige with scary hairs still present on the baldy heid? Woooooo…..
Having been converted to rutabagas by that long-ago front table under the live oaks, I agree that it is impossible to get almost anything but a frightful visage. Before its demise, we’d hang them in the avocado tree in our front yard, where they’d quickly dry into shrunken-headed creepiness in time for All Saint’s Eve..
The best use for rutabagas, though, is to boil, mash and eat them! Glorious clouds of orange silk, dripping with butter: mmm, they are among the best of all root vegetables. They were considered a super food, you know, when they were first introduced into Europe. I admire anyone with the patience to carve the damn things, though!
This is absolutely true, no foolin’, no fingers crossed: my world has been darker and dimmer without your heart-full essays, without the hope of imminent stories of Ermenwyr, Mars, cyborgs or other amazements. Stay well, if you can. Write, if you will. Know that your friends and acquaintances are many, cherishing you from points all around the compass rose.
You are, indeed, still alive and have things to say…..and I’m awfully glad you do :-)Sent via the Samsung Galaxy Note8, an AT&T 5G Evolution capable smartphone