This year I’ve been making a conscious effort to appreciate autumn. It’s admittedly difficult when you’re forced to sit in an office, even a home office, for most of the daylight hours five days a week. (At least I have a window here, which I never had on Madison Avenue.) Seeing the blue skies and colorful leaves, each individual one of which is a singular work of art, or watching the moody, cloudy skies, I wish for freedom. Every night before falling asleep, if I can remember to do so, the last word I whisper to myself has been “September,” then “October,” to remind myself of the wonder of this time of year in which I’ve been privileged to live. Since America is driven by money alone, often in the guise of religion, Halloween is practically over before it begins. Stores have sold their candy and spooky decorations, now it’s on to the more lucrative Christmas season.
Do we really believe that holidays have any power anymore? Is Halloween really, perhaps, a time when the veil between worlds is actually thin? Or have we ceased believing in the other world, the one behind all the money and sham? Holidays are liminal times. In an ironic way, it’s my heartfelt appreciation of Halloween that led me to write about The Wicker Man, although it’s set half a year away. Nashotah House was hardly an ideal place to work, but prior to an administration change, it was the best place I’ve ever lived to celebrate Halloween. A campus with an in-house cemetery, and surrounded (at the time) by cornfields and woods, was adjunct to really believing. It was a haunted place.
Out on late nights or early mornings, I often felt it. Trying to photograph a comet down by the lake by myself, woods on either side, in the total dark. Or dragging a lawn chair through the trees to the edge of a cornfield at 4 a.m. to try to catch a meteor shower. Hiding in the graveyard on Halloween night, dressed as a grim reaper to follow the hay wagon of kids that the maintenance director would drive through on that night. Those memories remain as highlights of my foreshortened teaching career. Since Harry Potter was in the ascendant, students had taken to calling the seminary “Hogwarts,” and, I was told, I was the master of Ravenclaw. The leaves, miniature Van Gogh’s each one, are fast falling from the trees. There’s a decided chill in the air. Something might, just might, really happen this Halloween.