Feels like poetry tonight . . .

A glass of wine to ease the way

A cup of red scented sweetly as bruised roses

Warming the flesh and humming along bones

Alive with memories of days long past.

The storm came and drenched the road,

Ragged clouds harried before by mighty wind gusts

emptying torrents of rain on the blanching grasses

and jewelled leaves still clinging to the trees.

There is a waiting about the air,

A pause in the atmosphere,

A stillness in the movement of time and tide

while the planet hurls itself through space.

The season changed, but the earth resists,

delaying the fall into barren branch and frozen earth

as a woman plucks her silver hairs

as a man fights the aches of age.

September Thoughts — a poem

Cold feet in thick socks

Cold nose and chill fingers

Mid-September coolness seeps

Despite sweaters and jackets and hats.

More leaves are gathering in uneven sweeps,

Yellow and orange and red scattered roadside fragments 

While the clouds lower grey brows close to the rooftops 

And the heavy dew silvers almost into frost.

September Walking . . . with Skittles! Or, Forest Creatures Unbound

Sometimes, you just have to get out of the house. Too often, I know I ought to get out and go for a walk, and end up ignoring that thought — and regretting it later. After all, the dishes aren’t going to do themselves! Nor is the laundry. But walking is good for inspiration, as well as health. Plus, at this time of year, there are fewer mosquitoes and blackflies to make the stroll less pleasant (although leave it to me to attract the last of the sluggish and most stubborn skeeters in the woods . . .) And as much as I’d like to think I’ll get all the chores done that I want to get done, that’s not likely, either. Ever. So today, I got out of the house with my pooch and enjoyed an hour’s jaunt along one of the ski trails behind our community centre.

I hope you enjoy my pics, all taken with my iPhone (with the chance of drizzle, I didn’t want to take my camera) — scroll over each or click to see the captions. 😀

Mabon Thoughts

Blue sky peeking between the edges of the off-white cloud cover reveals their feathery edges, recognizable to Northerners as those that provide the first winter’s snow. The temperature has dropped overnight, welcoming the Autumnal Equinox with near zero celsius cool and fading sunshine. The rich green grass of summer now complimented by the bright reds, oranges, and yellows of changing leaves, nature’s flaming crowns overseeing the last warmth as the last of the growing season is ushered out and the Wheel of the year turns again . . .

I saw the moon last night, just out of her fullness and veiled by the lowering clouds. The chill has already been carried down by the north winds for weeks, but summer has lingered, kissing bared arms with tender warmth even while being pulled away. I wonder if any of the tomatoes which grew unexpectedly in my garden this year have survived the first killing frosts. My back lawn has been carpeted in a scattering of yellowed leaves, and overhead, I’ve seen great flocks of Canadian geese spread in their vee-shape as they escape the approaching cold for the lush feeding grounds of the south.

Of course we become pensive at this time of year. Playtime is over, at least for a little while. An elusive thought finally articulated itself, just this morning, as I was contemplating one last grass-cutting: that summer is not the state of being in this part of the world. It’s winter. This land exists for the cold. Summer is only a brief respite from the long periods of stillness, piling drifts, howling winds, and freezing cold — it comes to allow the living things to prepare themselves for long sleep under white, fluffy blankets and deep dark of midwinter months.

But as much as hunkering down, building our dens, finding our thick woollen sweaters and mitts can bring us sadness, there is an excitement in the undercurrent. The last harvests are being gathered, and we can celebrate everything we’ve accomplished under the sun. To the ancients, this time represented the end of the old year approaching. There are festivals to prepare for and enjoy, renewing ties of friendship and kin, as our circle of activity begins to draw itself closer to the warmth of home.

However you spend this weekend — putting your garden to bed, setting up car shelters, taking down your summer décor — stop for a moment in the waning sun and close your eyes. The pulse of the earth is there, in your blood. It’s in the scent of the wind, fresh with the melted morning frost and aged leaves. It’s in the taste of your food, made more deep and savoury with fall’s appetite. It’s in the rosy cheeks of your son as he rides his bike stubbornly through the cold, not yet ready to put it away, and the pout of your daughter who is told to put her shorts away for another year. Talk to your family and friends about your plans for Thanksgiving, and enjoy the coziness of your socks.

Happy Mabon!

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October Dark

There is a certain difference to the blackness of night in October. In September, the night is still optimistic — there is a residual, lingering hopefulness and life. In November, everything is sleeping or dead, only awaiting the shroud of snow to bed it down.

But October…

October is the time for the dying to complete itself.

The sun goes down, and even with moonrise, the dusk is pensive. The stillness is not natural. The land feels like it is waiting for the cross-over, a steady but almost imperceptible slide into death and silence. You can sense the energies wafting invisibly past — the spirits whose time is pressing closer, until the veil between the worlds is at its thinnest and they may make their best efforts to contact living beings. The October dark is the calm before some kind of storm…the tension before essential news is delivered…the closed curtain on a quiet stage before the drama is unleashed.

I think I had a visitor last night.

I remember distinctly waking up, but not opening my eyes. It was the same feeling I have when my daughter comes padding in because she can’t sleep, that eerie sensation of being watched. But normally, when she comes in, if I pretend to be asleep she will whisper my name to wake me up.

Last night, I felt watched, but heard nothing.

I kept expecting to hear my daughter say “Mommy” to wake me up so I could take her to the bathroom, but there was nothing. To say that it was creepy is a bit of an understatement. I was scared to open my eyes. I wanted to look, but at the same time, not knowing what I would see, I just couldn’t do it. I felt silly. There was probably nothing there. If I had been brave enough to look, I know there was probably nothing there.

But that certainty still lingers in me.

I felt it again earlier, when I let the dog out in the back yard and felt that oppressive, October dark. It was not evil, or good, in any Hollywood sense of the term. Simply…something.

Shadows in the darkness…

It seems rather unnecessary, doesn’t it? The title of this blog. How can shadows — which are themselves, dark — exist where there is no light?

They simply do.

My life is filled with them. They haunt me when I am trying to fall asleep. I see them on these grey and dreary days of fall, as the yearly cycle comes to a close. I feel them in my heart, as the dwindling light begins to sap the energy reserves I built all summer.

This is a dangerous time of year for me. I love Hallowe’en and Samhain, but as an adult, I haven’t expressed that feeling as I did when I was younger. My husband is also an eager devotee to Hallowe’en, and given a free rein, would turn our home into the creepiest on the block. So what stops me from fulfilling my every spooky desire at this time of year?

The shadows, in the form of depression. I feel them gathering in the corners and moving slowly toward me, as inexorable as the winter dark. I’m better armed against them this year, and I’m not spiralling as I have done in the past. But nevertheless, I feel them. It is the lack of motivation to get off the couch…the increasing desire to sleep…the lack of motivation to do anything, really, but those low-energy activities that help me feel less lonely. Like going on Facebook, looking at lolsnaps, fails, etc. The more I indulge in these time-suckers, the more connected I do feel but the less I get done in the things that matter in a physical sense. The shadows are gaining ground.

I attended a series of workshops in the spring, learning methods for dealing with my anxiety and chronic depression. To some extent, those techniques are working. I’ve been treated for anemia since May, also, which is helping. The techniques are going to become even more vital, now.

Part of that is learning to accept my own limitations and not comparing myself to others. I need to stop saying “I should” and be satisfied with what I do accomplish. For example, this weekend I aimed to finish my Hallowe’en decorating. Didn’t even start. I constantly visualize one of the best moms I know and berate myself for not being more like her, but at the same time, the logical part of my brain is fighting back to tell me what I am doing well and why I should not be ashamed or feel inferior. That particular mom doesn’t have a mental illness. That particular mom hasn’t gone through the money troubles we have experienced. That particular mom has gone through her own battles, faced her own demons, and for her own personal reasons, has gained victory. Maybe I’m just jealous of that and I want my own battles to be over. Could be a form of battle fatigue — maybe I could call it “life fatigue”.

I remember my mother giving me full control over decorating for Hallowe’en, and not understanding why she didn’t want to do it. Now I know…it’s just not on my to-do list of things that must be done. What I am supposed to be doing — housework, marking, shopping — those things aren’t be done either. And the whole avoidance makes me feel ashamed all over again, so I shrink further into my shell and keep avoiding until every dish is dirty, the clean laundry threatens to topple over in its mountain, and/or people are coming to the house so clean is a must.

I miss decorating for Hallowe’en.

I miss setting up for Samhain.

I miss my enthusiasm. It’s there, just dampened.

I once had a conversation with two of my colleagues and friends (one of whom was the above super-mom), about the point of Hallowe’en. The points of view were a) it’s all about spending money on candy and costumes, which is a waste, and b) it’s the Devil’s holiday, so if anything, the candy and costumes are the main focal point to take power away from the skulls and gore. My perspective is Pagan, Wiccan, witchy, and anthropological: we need a day in the fall to blow off some steam. It was once the Devil’s night, yes — after months of hard work, harvesting, preparing for winter, young people would perform acts of mischief like tipping outhouses and soaping windows. Kids needed that release, and some adults did as well. It still happens in places, when eggs are thrown or trees toilet papered.

Pagans and Wiccans of all stripes recognize Samhain as the night when the veil between the worlds is the thinnest, and it’s important to remember those who have passed on. The traditions in this sense cross many cultural boundaries, and the food that is shared represents honouring the dead, feeding hungry spirits that come to the door, appeasing evil spirits wishing to do mischief, and I think, sharing the bounty of one’s harvest.

Today, the costumes and decorations and candy are mainly symbolic of cultures long dead. How many of us really believe that children in masks will frighten away spirits on the streets, or that the jack’o’lantern will protect the home? Why do we buy sugary junk to fill their sacks? I think it’s a remnant of the community spirit of making sure that all have enough before winter. We have our Thanksgivings, an official harvest festival of light and warmth and nourishing food — Hallowe’en / Samhain is another, celebrating the coming darkness with noise, colour, sweets, and candlelight. As the trees bare their skeletal arms to the sky, the rain and snow chill the air, the plants wither and die, those of us with depression (and even those who are not) are brought to thoughts of death, loss, and loneliness. Death is a solitary thing, after all. So at Hallowe’en, we push back our fears of death by poking fun at it, admonishing it by taking control of it with decorative skulls, gravestones, ghost stories, and gifts to those who represent the dead. If we laugh at what we fear, it has less control over us (or so we would like to believe). Hallowe’en is a powerful psychological device in helping us to deal with our fears. It’s a necessary device, I think.

Which brings me back to my shadows.

One of them is always money, because there is never enough. We live constantly in debt, which is a long story; my wish to indulge in Hallowe’en is necessarily curtailed by budget. I am perfectly capable of whipping up papier-mâché bats and spiders, sewing costumes from clothing remnants, etc., but I find it difficult as an adult with two children to raise. Much easier when I was single and a dependent. When I was a teenager and a young married wife, I envisioned my house changing with the seasons — throw pillows, blankets, tableware, towels, even the pictures on the walls changed to reflect each turn of the wheel of the year. We’re not even close to that goal. But I take out that dream, every October, and December with the approach of Yule, and I polish it. Maybe I should print it and post it on my fridge.

My dreams keep the shadows away.