Friday, October 31, 2008

The Day of the Dead


Halloween owes its origin to the Celtic belief that on this night the dead return and spend time with their families around the hearth they knew in this life, enjoying their favorite food and drink. Remarkably the people of Mexico had a similar ancient belief about the next night, the night between November 1 and 2.
Ann Roy moved from the United States to Mexico. In 1995 she wrote an article in Commonweal about her experiences with the Mexican customs surrounding "The Day of the Dead." She called the article "A Crack Between The Worlds: The Mexican Way of Death." At first she found these customs frightening, but a neighbor helped her to understand that these practices remind us "that we are all mortal, and that the living are not really separated from the dead at all: life and death ar one single, never-ending continuity." The author then tells the following story:
Some years later we moved to Tepoztlan, Morelos--the pre-Aztec mountain village renowned for its powerful magical traditions--and an ancient Tepozteca neighbor came to tell me about the "crack between the worlds" that opens up there soon after midnight on Novermber first, and is held open for one mystical hour by the concerted ringing of all the church bells in the valley. She explained that she was telling me about this opportunity well ahead of time so that I could complete all the necessary preparations and be quietly ready to call and receive my own dead when this precious moment arrived--when all the bells began to toll softly together. I would have to be prepared early, she said, because my dead had so much farther to come--all the way from the United States!
"Some people not from here feel afraid at this time," she added. "But that is only because they do not understand. No one with any sense is going to call back people they disliked or feared. Why waste such a wonderful opportunity to be together with those we love? So it is only our loved ones we call, and during that time when the bells hold the door open, this valley is filled with the powerful, loving presence of many souls. They embrace us and we them, and we are all together again, for a while."
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Thursday, October 30, 2008

October Snow


Just when I had resigned myself to the fact that the dying leaves were just going to get uglier, four inches of snow created contrasts that took my breath away with their beauty. A fierce wind the night before last blew snow up against the north-west side of all the tree trunks. These straight streaks of white made the fading gold and rust and green and red stand out in a new display.
Just when we think our lives are simply going to get uglier and more desperate, some grace breaks through and transforms what looked like dying into joy and new life.
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Saturday, October 18, 2008



32 degrees this morning when I went for my walk. No wind, so it didn't feel too bad. Some frost, as you can see in the picture. Nature is such a tease. A week ago it was autumn glory with temperatures in the low 80's. Today the trees looked wrecked and rusted. The scent of dead and dying leaves takes me back to childhood and a fall walk in the woods with my mother and father or a wade through knee-deep leaves on Main Street's sidewalk. Maybe more than any sense, smell calls up memories.
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Friday, October 17, 2008

Memories of Sunshine


This picture and the one I used yesterday are from a few days ago when we had sunshine. Yesterday rain and today overcast have brought us cold weather, more like what's expected this time of year.
One of the things that I became aware of only when I started living here full time was that the evergreens shed dead needles this time of year. Yesterday morning's wind was causing them to fall almost like a light snow They pile up along the sides of the road and in some places cover the whole road. They are kind of a tan color and fun to walk through and fragrant. The trees still have green needles on them which I suppose are newly grown. I had always presumed that "evergreens" kept the same green needles forever. Again "To live is to change."
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Thursday, October 16, 2008

Spendthrift Economy


Well, the wind came during the night. Many trees this morning are completely bare. Lots more leaves on the ground, some drifted now by the wind. As I neared the end of my walk, a slight mist began falling. It is now a thick mist. Today's rain and wind will bring down many more leaves.
Here is a quote from Annie Dillard in her Pilgrim at Tinker Creek that amuses me. I don't know whether Mother Nature would find it equally amusing: "Nature is, above all, profligate. Don't believe them when they tell you how economical and thrifty nature is, whose leaves return to the soil. Wouldn't it be cheaper to leave them on the tree in the first place? This deciduous business alone is a radical scheme, the brainchild of a deranged manic-depressive with limitless capital. Extravagance!...This is a spendthrift economy; though nothing is lost, all is spent."
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Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Fleeting Beauty


And so it fades. Yesterday I noticed that a lot of the colors had faded and rusted. More and more of the leaves are falling. Usually it is rain and wind that bring them down, but we haven't had much of either. The leaves are just falling off their trees and lying in a circle below them. A thing of beauty may be a joy forever, but we can't hold on to it for long. We get some intense awareness of God's presence and wish it could last. In the transfiguration of Jesus St. Peter suggests building tents as if to prolong this brilliant experience. I suppose our finite feelings couldn't stand the constant presence of Beauty and Brilliance. We content ourselves with brief glimpses.
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Monday, October 13, 2008

Change -- Up Close


"To live is to change; and to be perfect in this world is to have changed often." So said Cardinal Newman more than a hundred years ago. I suppose change then was not so common as it is in our age. Change is not always as simple or as beautiful as autumn makes it seem, but it is almost always healthy and good for us. I am preparing a day of reflection and thinking how constant change must be in our relationship with God as we delve deeper and deeper into Divine Mystery.
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Sunday, October 12, 2008

Change--Short View


While the long view does thrill me with its expanse, it's when I am walking among the trees that I find myself lifted up out of myself into the Divine. A kind of joyful ecstasy that includes some sort of ache in my heart. This has been one of the most beautiful autumns we have had in a long time. The colors are brilliant and vivid. It is difficult to find names to capture the colors. Maybe gold and salmon and crimson. This wild variety is underfoot as well as on the trees. Today some of these bright leaves were floating in the air. It hasn't hurt that the last few days have been hot and sunny and crystal clear. A great gift.
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Friday, October 10, 2008

Change-Long View


The leaves in this area have been at peak for about two days. I took this picture yesterday not far from home. These long views from up on a mountain take my breath away. I like the contrast of green with the autumn colors and the blue sky with wisps of cloud. I am drawn completely into Beauty.
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