By The Light of Burning Theobromos

Kage Baker disliked boundaries – by which I mean those set up by other people, borders that she was not supposed to cross. I think she mostly never even noticed them, until we were leaping down the wrong side of a fence, hearing a baying hound getting closer and closer … we seemed to spend half our adolescence doing that, because she just had to get closer to some ruin in the Hollywood Hills. When we were young enough, we could get away with carrying a leash and inquiring mournfully if the outraged householder had seen our dog? … but Kage got tall, and we both got curvy, and then it was harder to sneak around in jolly trespassery.

Kage still hated other people’s boundaries, though.

Ritual boundaries were different. She observed all the holidays she personally liked, the more so if they were a part of her own cultural heritage. Halloween was primary of those, the remains of the Celtic Samhain, with the costumes and carved lanterns so happily augmented by all the candy you could get your hands on. Yes, Halloween is the old Celtic New Year, and she duly observed that – but her main joy was honouring our beloved dead, and all – that – candy.

Mind you, we did always set an extra place at the table for anyone who cared to wander in (the offering tenderly disposed of in a secret place the next day, often when I was not even home). We toasted all the ones we had lost, and told stories of them to one another while we ate our holiday meal of roast pork, grain and ale. Then we waited for the few trick-or-treaters we got in the Hills or in Pismo, and ate the unused candy by candle light. We usually ended up on the dark beach late at night; where, due to the autumnal vagaries of the Pacific, the waves often burned green and blue with algae blooms and Kage kept watch for spectral pirates.

Tonight – well, we will be sitting close together here by Griffith Park, The traditional holiday meal at Kimberly’s house is pizza, which is a jolly good meal on a cold October night. And it is chilly here, at last; foggy, too, though the moon will not rise until late and only as a waning crescent then. A good night for running around in the dark yelling for candy! We are not handing out goodies tonight, as Kimberly is still wary of crowds; her teaching years have impressed her with the ecological role small children play as plague ratties. I am still at risk – not from COVID, as I am thoroughly vaccinated, but from all other kinds of respiratory diseases. But we can listen to the tide of little monsters and fairies and cartoons and superheroes running in and out on the block.

There is an owl hooting outside, most wonderfully. The air smells of wood smoke and crinkly brown leaves and burning pumpkin (I love that smell!) The local bats are flittering through the dimming air – we are a full-service neighborhood and have all sorts of beasties here. Later, we will hear the coyotes singing together, and hear them running down the midnight streets like primeval dogs chasing little Cro-magnons back to the family fire … there may be huge cat prints on the cars tomorrow, which we will tell one another are bobcats and pumas; and who knows what may crawl damply up from the LA River a mere 6 blocks away?

And there are always the local legends to ponder, too. Various Sepulvedas and Felizes, mostly female, are supposed to mourn or murder unlucky lovers on these nights, and white ladies prowl Los Feliz Boulevard. Then there are local Bigfoots – tall and lanky, reputed to be furred in purple and green, for whom there has never been a good explanation and who are reputed to go running through people’s backyards. My own father claimed to have seen one once, but my dear old dad had a very frangible connection to reality. Great story, though.

Memories. The treasured dead. Lights and voices in the trees, tiny unseen footsteps rushing to and fro, creatures materializing out of the shadows in a torrent of flying leaves and glitter. And all the candy in the Western Hemisphere. Oh, good and holy times!

For your delectation, Dear Readers, I include a couple of interesting seasonal links. Someone has invented edible candles! And they are made of chocolate. They also have edible wicks, so you can light up your cake, make a wish, blow out the candles – and then horrify your old granny by eating the candles. No end of fun!

And, in case you are intrigued with the storied history of carving lanterns out of vegetables, here is an amusing link to the oldest sort of veggie lantern I know: the noble turnip! They are difficult to carve, being of the consistency of marble when raw, and in these modern times it is very difficult to find one left in the fields long enough to have grown to the size of a volleyball. It was the old stony ones that were customarily used before the larger, softer, pumpkin was drafted. You can get a good nasty little face on a turnip, though,

Finally, Happy Halloween, Dear Readers! Now, I am off to eat candy and watch monster movies until midnight; when I shall begin working on this year’s NaNoWriMo.

And so good night unto you all …

My favourite bat wishes you Happy Halloween!

About Kate

I am Kage Baker's sister. Kage was/is a well-known science fiction writer, who died on January 31, 2010. She told me to keep her work going - I'm doing that. This blog will document the process.
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