The Spirit of Halloween

As a Pagan, Samhain was a holy day for me. As a kid and a part-time, nominal Christian, I mostly had fun with the candy and costumes and pumpkins aspect. At this point in my life, I like the candy and costumes and pumpkins part of things, as well as the spiritual side.

I’ve put a glass out for departed friends so they can stay and partake. Every year on the thirty-first I take a moment to pause and remember my loved ones. My ‘household spirits,” if you will. Mostly they are animals but there are a couple of two-leggeds also. I even remember my grandfather fondly. I have put away much of the pain and bewilderment he caused and have learned to think of him with compassion. So his spirit would be welcome at my table, should it choose to come and visit.

The Japanese have the right idea. Their festival of the dead is called Obon. It lasts three days. and is full of music, dancing, big drums, and bonfires. The people dress in festive clothes and celebrate the joyous reunion with their beloved dead. On the last day, they give them a proper sendoff, with lighted lanterns floating down the waterways and out to sea. It’s a beautiful scene at night.

Here is the best part: The Japanese people had a Lunar calendar, and changed it to a Solar calendar in the modern era. They liked the festival of Obon so much, that they celebrate it at the new time, which is earlier in the year, AND at the old Lunar time! Someday I want to go to Japan and watch the lanterns float down the river. Farewell, loved souls, we will welcome you again next year.

 

Obon-Fixed

My Favorite Costumes

Halloween is my favorite day of the year. Even though I won’t be doing much this year I still have a certain amount of anticipation. I’ve always loved the idea of putting on a costume and being someone else for a few hours. Exploring different parts of myself, showing off a little perhaps, having fun.

Though my costumes haven’t been all that skillfully made, I’ve had fun with each one. I’ve been an aviator/aviatrix a few times. I’ve even had the silk scarf, leather hat, and goggles. I took a flight that way once! I’ve been Ellie Mae Clampett. I’ve been Dead Spock. I’ve been Athena. I’ve been a kenshi who really was “shi.” I’ve been Emperor Palpatine. I’ve been a US infantryman. I was Galileo once, as I wrote about in another post. My earliest halloween costume was a devil costume when I was just a baby. The earliest costume I remember was when I was a robot, with a cardboard box body, dryer hose arms, and pliers for hands. I was so excited to dress up! I think I was four.

One of my favorite memories is of dressing up as the shortest Darth Vader who ever was. I’m only 5′ 3″ so it was a pretty big difference between me and good old Wafflepants! I was in college at the time, and went to French class in the costume. Later, I visited the Undergraduate Library. I went up to the information desk and asked where the plans were for the Rebel Base. “Maybe in the map library?” was the quizzical response. I had a lot of fun as Short Vader.

Last Halloween I was Doctor Squiggle. You know, the doctor with illegible handwriting? I had a little prescription pad that I wrote fake prescriptions on. Things like “One Apple, P.O, As needed,” or “One Banana, P. A., BID.”

What was your favorite costume?

The Cat Pumpkin

When I was a teenager, my mom would often take me to see my grandmother. I didn’t really mind visiting. It was a little boring but not so bad really, and nice to get out of the house. She lived in a retirement community, basically senior living apartments.

One time they had a halloween party. There was pumpkin carving and anyone who knows me knows I’m all over pumpkin carving. That time was no exception. My favorite pumpkin, and one my mom still remembers too, was the cat pumpkin. He had ears and whiskers and everything. Everybody loved that cat pumpkin!

If you want to make your own cat pumpkin, make sure the eyes are fairly large when you cut them out and keep the pieces whole. Then trim those pieces down to nice triangular ear shapes. Secure them with bits of toothpick to the top of the pumpkin. Carve a small triangular nose and use three more toothpicks on either side for whiskers. You may need to whittle them a bit so they stick in more easily.

Everybody loved that pumpkin and I loved the memory!

Nature Art: Making a Leaf Man

When I was little, my folks took me on nature walks all the time. In the fall, we would walk around and collect colorful leaves, and then go home and make leaf men. They made a nice decoration for the door! Here’s how:

Walk around and gather a bunch of colorful leaves. Enjoy the crisp fall day.

Pick a big leaf for the body, a smaller leaf for the head, long leaves for legs and arms, use clear tape to attach them. It’s a simple project but you can use glue to attack other odd bits to make mustaches, skirts, hats, and almost anything else to your leaf creation. The limit is the imagination. And the fun is enjoying the process!

Finally, hang your leaf man or woman on the door. These usually do better outside, because you are likely to bring little critters in if you hang them inside. It’s a really fun thing to do instead of a wreath!

How to cook beans in Nevada!

You will need: A bucket, water filter, rope, river, ground, firewood, paper, matches, a pot, spices, salt, a grate, rocks, a long stick whittled into a spoon, a large plastic tub of some kind, a water bottle, and beans.

First, take the bucket and the rope to the river. Carefully lower the bucket into the river and fill it with water. Haul the bucket up and take it back to camp.

Pump the water from the bucket through the filter and into water bottles. Take beans, add to large plastic container, and put water over the top. Set in the sun. Spend the next several hours going to town or doing camp chores.

Once the beans are somewhat softened, start a fire in the fire pit. Place the pot over it on the grate. The grate is probably something simple, like a wire rack balenced on rocks or cinder blocks. Put the softened beans in the pot, with more water, spices and salt. Bring to a boil and simmer for a couple of hours.

If you want super deluxe wonderful beans, add rice or possibly hot dog chunks during the last hour. Stir with clean hand-whittled wooden spoon. Boil till beans are soft, place in bowls, and wait for the whole mess to cool down…

Eat for breakfast and lunch the next day, or until you run out, and it’s time to make beans again.

These instructions will also work in northern Idaho.

The Risk of Avoiding Risk

It’s natural to want to avoid risk, whether it is emotional or physical. Sometimes it’s a good idea. But sometimes it can lead to increased suffering down the road. And for some people, like me, it can cripple you.

I’ve found that risk avoidance is just as dangerous as seeking it out. I’ll give an example. It’s just as dangerous to drive too slowly for the conditions as it is to drive too fast. If you drive too fast, you may lose control of your vehicle or hit an obstacle. If you drive too slowly, other people may hit you or get into accidents trying to avoid you. So the best path is (as usual) the middle path.

I was reminded of this when I saw that Richland, a small town in Washington State, has begun removing the swingsets in all it’s school playgrounds. Their reason? Swings are dangerous.

I submit that learning to respond appropriately to danger is important to emotional and mental development. If you sometimes have danger in your life, you learn to either be careful or deal with pain. You learn fortitude and persistence. If you are always protected from all adversity and struggle, you will develop no strength. How strong would you be if an exercise machine did all the work for you? How good with money would you be if you never had to earn any of it?

Emotional risk is especially important to accept. I have had a problem taking criticism, so much so that it has hampered my ability to learn and left me very immature in many ways. This happened because I would always avoid truth that was painful, and take criticism or advice personally, so it hurt so much that I’d ignore that advice. It caused me to completely reject all manner of useful information.

Think about how crippling it would be if you refused to love anyone because you were afraid of losing them. It doesn’t make any more sense to avoid advice or even criticism because you are afraid of pain. I say it because I constantly do it! And every day, I see more and more people who are afraid of risk. The American society seems to be terrified of risk, and avoiding it ultimately makes us weaker and less able to handle struggle or adversity.

We can stand up against fear, and at the same time maintain a reasonable level of safety. The key to all of this is to keep your goal in mind. Adversity builds strength. So don’t try to avoid all risk. Make it okay to be hurt, a little anyway. Being hurt isn’t the end. If you learn to recover from the small pains, the bigger ones will be easier to deal with. Life cannot happen without pain, so it pays to be strong.

Don’t Apologize for Being Prepared!

Disaster preparedness is not something to be ashamed of. It’s just good thinking.

When I read comments about being prepared for a natural disaster, I often see traces of embarrassment or defensiveness inherent in the message. I think this happens because it is so easy to be labeled an “extremist” or a “radical fringe element” or a “prepper” or a “survivalist.”

Shouldn’t we all be “survivalists?” That is, shouldn’t we all be focused on survival? Independent of rogue government elements, market collapse, alien invasian, rogue six legged GMO cows from the secret Monsanto corn mazes, or whatever, there are still the age old concerns of famine, fire, and flood. It’s only smart to have some stored food, some medical supplies, some suvival skills, and some tools. It’s really, really naive to just assume that the mechanism of modern society will keep ticking on, despite all ravages of earthquake, blackout, tornado, ice storm, or vicissitude of human stupidity.

It doesn’t have to take much. Some sealed gallons of water. Some cans of tuna or the ever popular beans. Rechargeable LED flashlights. A few extra blankets. A first aid kit and a little basic training. You can work up from there, but even a little bit of preparation could mean the difference between life and death, comfort and hardship. It pays to know how to build a fire, clean a wound, cook over an open flame, where it is safe to use fire and where it is not, how to purify water, how to keep warm without heat.

Training such as this has saved my life. You never know when you may have to boil a pot of beans or know how to keep your water clean!

macgyver

No, I didn’t make this, but it’s frickin’ funny.