All posts tagged: autumn

Where we lay the dead.

Happy Halloween! I love the deep quiet that cemeteries have, even if there are leaves crunching and birds squabbling.  I get the feeling feeling that I’m able to barely brush against something eternal.  As a child I would often be taken on walks at Mountain View Cemetery in Oakland, designed by Frederick Law Olmsted.  I suspect this gave me the idea that cemeteries are places for peace and rest, whether you are living or dead. Here are some cemetery photos I’ve taken in the past year – you may have seen them on Instagram already.  The oldest of the grave markers are from the Eliot Burying Grounds in Roxbury.  It’s usually locked behind a large wrought iron fence.  For two years I used to stand under the horse chestnut tree outside its gates to wait for the bus, and wonder what it would be like to walk inside.  Happily, on a recent walking tour in the neighborhood I got the chance.  I was told that the adjacent building was recently renovated, and when they tore …

Celebrate: Halloween

“legend says there is a seam  / stitching darkness like a name.”  (Annie Finch) Tomorrow is Halloween.  Why not get in the mood?  I’ve never been much for costumes but I love the iconography and the old meanings of the holiday, the day of the year when this world and the next stand just next to each other, and small glimpses across the divide become easier. I’ve been interested in watching Dia de los Muertos become more mainstream in the States, too!  When I was home in California I reflected that it felt so much more authentic to the place, so I loved seeing skull sugar candies in supermarkets next to Halloween candy, and hearing about how families and schools celebrate it now.  A holiday for celebrating ancestors, feeling the presence of the past, is a wonderful thing. It’s what this time of year is for me. Here are some of the things that have been knocking around in my head this week as I think about the coming of Halloween. . The Physick Book …

My October: fire and quake

for the next week I’ll be in Edinburgh, Scotland, at a storytelling festival called “Once Upon a Place.”  I’ll also be thinking about this time of year, which the Celts who created Scotland’s bardic traditions called Samhain (the predecessor of Halloween).  In many folk traditions, this is the time of the year when the boundary between this world and the next is thinnest.  There will be stories about land and I can’t wait to share them with you. October has a whiff of calamity. As a child in the San Francisco Bay Area I lived through two natural disasters, and they both happened in late October. In 1989, the Loma Prieta earthquake hit San Francisco on a Tuesday evening at rush hour.  I was six.  When the rumbling began, my mother gathered my sister and me under the broad wooden doorjamb in our dining room.  My sister’s little friend froze under the ceiling fan; I remember the feeling of urgency with which my mom darted out from our place of security in order to scoop …

September Tomatoes

“September Tomatoes” by Karina Borowicz has become one of my touchstones this season.   Traditions are a way of measuring the passage of time – the day, the week, the year, the passing years – because they force us to tune into change.  Where were we during the last time we celebrated a season changing?  The last time we ate apples and honey?  Who were we with, how were we feeling?  Family traditions can be especially evocative in this way, because we feel them assemble in a kind of continuum over the course of our lives.  As adults, I feel like we live these traditions in a kind of double time: in the present, as a way to attend to the moment or the celebration in our current lives, and in our memories, as we remember our own experience as a child participating in them.  Celebrating each holiday or keeping each tradition in a way is the feeling of reliving each one that you’ve kept previously — and if it’s a cultural or family tradition, reliving …

Cultivating: Harvest

On the Autumnal Equinox, I put out a cutting board laden with apples and honey. I sliced an apple at its equator and left it open on the table, revealing the star of seeds. Apples and honey are a symbol of Rosh Hashanah, the first holiday of the Jewish High Holy Days and the marker of the Jewish New Year, but that core of seeds made me think of Persephone.  Seeds, the rhythms of the day and the year, the poetry and work of abundance and austerity — those are some of the things that this season means to me. Persephone, the daughter of Demeter (Goddess of the land and earth), was just a girl, playing in the fields, when she was taken by her uncle Hades and brought to the underworld. While she shivered in the darkness, her mother roamed the earth, her grief shriveling crops and blackening seeds. Hades offered Persephone a pomegranate, a gesture of the summer that she had left behind aboveground. When Demeter found them, she negotiated for her daughter’s release. Hades …