Spiritual Journey: Revenants

with thanks to Chris Margocs for hosting October’s Spiritual Journey Thursday. Chris invites our group to write about those who have passed and left something behind in our hearts, in preparation for the upcoming holidays of All Hallows Eve, All Saints Day, and All Souls Day. She says: “As a person of Celtic heritage, the idea of the thinning of veil between here and the hereafter on these days intrigues me…”

—Me, too, Chris.

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The stirrings begin with the first breaths of cooler air.

As September gives way to October, while the trees and grass are still green, before any obvious turnings of yellow, orange, or fiery red, they appear.

I sense them most often at doorways. Portals.

There, on weatherworn sidewalks, a smattering of fragments from dead leaves surreptitiously dropped—I can never tell exactly from where—comes to life just as I approach. A soft rattling, a lifting, a sudden swirling… the upswept pieces begin dancing in a circle.

Fairies, I think.

And then I think, Children.

Small children delight in collecting such things, bits of leaves, tiny twigs, acorn caps, a butterfly’s bright-patterned wing, cicada shells. Nature’s cast-off scraps of life. In the hands of a child, they become treasures, magical objects, if only for a moment, in the mind of the child.

Watching the leaf-bits dancing in a circle, round and round and round again, I wonder if invisible children are at play. I almost want to linger long enough to hear them laughing…for there’s a stab of joy in it that I cannot explain, a piercing longing, a wild freedom…why should I perceive these things?

I wonder, then, about memories, so like the leaf fragments rising anew at the portals as I continue walking through the stations of my life, here to there, there to here…it is real, this revenant of my own childhood, the child that I was, holding onto the treasures that were given to me, reliving the precious bits that remain. As memories swirl round and round, I delight in them, in re-immersing for a moment in long-ago moments with people I loved, who loved me, who sheltered me, sustained me, prepared me…and who are gone but never far away. I see their faces before me, their eyes shining. I remember their stories. I hear their voices: I love you.

People die. Love does not.

Autumn comes with its fiery promises, its contrasts, its losses; trees will soon release their fragile organs in hopeful glory of surviving the winter. They shall sleep until spring, until the reawakening, life made new.

I walk on, remembering, wrapping gratitude round and round me like a hooded cloak, still sheltered, sustained, loved, awed by the beauty that deepens around me every passing year.

The stirrings begin with the first breath of cooler air.

Dancing revenants of what was, hinting at what is to be.

Perhaps they are whispering Allhallowtide.

Flavor of fall

Someone I love just gave me this “Brew” cup and infuser ball along with loose black tea leaves mingled with cinnamon, ginger, turmeric, milk chocolate curls, and calendula petals what’s not to love?
I am sipping liquid Autumn.

In my online writing voyage, I’ve just come to a new port of call—Sharing Our Stories: Magic in a Blog.

Those words, stories and magic, are all the passport I need to disembark and discover…

Today’s open invitation is writing about a favorite fall food, or one loved as a child.

My mind goes immediately to the breakfast cereal Count Chocula. I look for it at the beginning of every autumn now, but, if I recall correctly, it used to be available all year round when I was a child. I could be wrong. At any rate, I hadn’t seen it in decades when, maybe three years ago, it reappeared on grocery shelves as if by magic—poof! Voilà! —catapulting me, wide-eyed, open-jawed, straight back into childhood, to age 8? 9? 10?, hunkered over the cereal bowl, immersed in a book (for one cannot eat a bowl of cereal without a book, right? Isn’t it some unwritten law?). I wouldn’t stop at one bowl, see. Usually it was two. Maybe even three… suddenly my father is walking through the kitchen again, scowling: “First ketchup! You use way more than you should. Now this. Nobody needs to eat this much cereal…I’m buying three gallons of milk a week! For only two kids!”

What would he say if he could see how many boxes of Count Chocula I have, at this very moment, squirreled away my cabinet? Yikes!

Once this prompt got me walking around in Long Ago, savoring my Count Chocula, I began tasting other things… my mother’s peanut butter cookies with Hershey’s kisses on top, slightly melted from the fresh-baked warmth. She made them when neighborhood kids gathered at our house to watch the annual airing of The Wizard of Oz on TV, in those pre-cable days. I think this was in fall… there was a chill outside. The grainy-crunch cookies with their soft-bottom chocolate caps, Dorothy, her comrades, her red ruby slippers (which I later went to see numerous times in the Smithsonian), dear Toto, Glinda in her iridescent bubble, the Emerald City, the music… all magic, all warmth… there’s no place like home in the living room with friends and family, taking a trip down the yellow brick road once a year.

I do not know why memory leads from that scene to school carnivals, the caramel apples and Crackerjacks that I did NOT like, the scent of hot buttery popcorn in the air, the delicious excitement of reaching my arm into a giant clown face with a cut-out mouth for a grab-bag full of little treasures…and onto Halloween, the shivery joy of putting on a costume and going out into the cold dark night with friends who looked funny, creepy, and spooky but never really scary, in a time and place where it was safe to go trick-or-treating from house to house to house…oh, and I never did like candy corn, although it’s pretty and fun to use as decorations, like for turkey beaks or tail feathers on tabletop arrangements at Thanksgiving.

—Thanksgiving.

My mother’s carrot cake.

Locally famous, the only carrot cake I’ve ever really liked. Everyone loved it. I have her recipe. I make it every Thanksgiving and again at Christmas. Her secret: carrots finely-grated to pulp and extra cinnamon.

—And there it is.

My favorite flavor of fall.

Cinnamon isn’t exactly a food in itself, but to me, it’s the essence of celebration in my mother’s cake, the aromatic allure of my new autumn spice latte tea, the crowning glory of hot apple cider, the thing behind my longing for pumpkin spice coffee at the first hint of coolness in the air, just as reds and golds begin tinging the leaves… interesting, isn’t it, this tree-connection. Cinnamon is, after all, bark. The dying of the leaves, the dying of the year, going out in a blaze of glory, cinnamon their royal embalming spice, rich, fragrant, preserving like memory, like immortality, like being a child at home, face pressed again the window soon to reflect candlelight, the holiness in holidays, flickering bright with hope and promise when the days grow short and dark…

My best-loved taste of fall.

Well, and Count Chocula.

—Yum.

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I’m joining an open community of writers over at Sharing Our Stories: Magic in a Blog. If you write (or want to write) just for the magic of it, consider this your invitation to join us. #sosmagic

After

On a mission through the school’s main hall

a casual glance through the glass wall

fresh mulch, a sea of woody brown

a few dead leaves scattered round

—Fall.

It registers after I pass

something else beyond the glass

something crumpled on the woody bed

a conspicuous spot of red.

I turn around. 

A bird, lying on the ground

flat on its back

speckled white and black

white claws curled, scarlet head.

Little woodpecker. Dead.

Flew into the glass wall, it’s clear

from the way it’s lying here.

A broken neck, I think

but then, then—I see it blink.

What comfort can I give?

Is it even going to live?

I mustn’t touch it, must let it be

I won’t have it die for fear of me.

The hall’s deserted, what to do

people are waiting for me, too

—I’ll hurry. I can never atone

for letting it die alone.

On my hasty return, a wondrous sight

the woodpecker, sitting upright

scarcely moving, still dazed.

I am amazed.

It opens one eye, tests its beak

assessing the damage wreaked

turns that stunning head

of breathtaking red.

I silently celebrate

as I watch and pray and wait

for that one eye remaining shut

to be all right, to open, to see—but

the instant it does, without warning

with a flurry of wings, off in the morning

he goes. I didn’t see him fall

from my side of this glass wall.

I’m just here, rejoicing, for his open eyes

his reclaimed strength, his reclaimed skies.

My heart goes with him, as he flies

—I saw him rise.

Just before he took flight again. A woodpecker happens to symbolize communication, opportunity, and awareness. How grateful I am to have seen him, to have witnessed his overcoming.