Thursday, November 05, 2015

S'Mores and Ghosts

It is a few days after Halloween and the Day of Dead as you are reading this, Dear Reader, but I, Donis, am writing it on Halloween day itself, which has put me in mind of Halloweens past and loved ones past as well.

Every Halloween, my father-in-law dug a pit in back of the house, lined it with bricks, filled it with wood, and lit what he called a "bonfire", though it was more like a good sized campfire. The family would sit around it and roast wieners and marshmallows on sticks and stretched-out hangars. I have no idea where the family tradition came from, but I'm guessing it was passed down through the family from the misty past, for such traditions are remarkably enduring. So, if you live in the country or don't worry about being fined for building an open fire in your back yard, stretch out those hangars and get yourself a bag of marshmallows, and take a trip into the past with some campfire s'mores.

Put a slab of Hershey bar on top of a Graham cracker, put a melty-hot roasted marshmallow on the chocolate, top with another Graham cracker, and enjoy.

Of course Halloween didn’t used to be about s'mores, or trick-or-treat, or candy. In the Celtic tradition it is the turning of the year, the one day that the veil between the world of the living and the world of the dead thins, and thus we may be able to see our departed loved ones.

The Celtic peoples who came to the New World early on and settled on the frontiers and the back woods, from whom many, many of us descend, myself included, had a view of existence that is very different from contemporary Westerners see things. We wonder how such tough and practical people could have so readily believed in ghosts and haints. It had to be because they were ignorant and uneducated, we think, and obviously not as smart as we are.

But I say, au contraire, my friends.  As I travel through this life, I begin to have an intimation that things are not necessarily what they seem. We perceive the world as we have been taught to do. We see what we are looking for.

My great-grandmother, whom I was privileged to know when I was a girl, knew there were spirits abroad just as firmly as she knew the sky was blue.  She had seen them, and she believed the evidence of her own eyes.  Did she really see them, or was she deluded?  I’ve never seen a ghost.  Am I realistic, or am I blind?  How does a sighted person convince someone who has never seen that there is a color blue?

My great-grandmother

My protagonist, Alafair, perceives the universe in the same way my great-grandmother did, and I do not judge her for that. In fact, maybe I’m a bit envious.

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