Sunday, October 10, 2010

Halloween Memory-Shadow Manor

Shadow Manor runs the fantastic Art of Darkness blog, and really captures my imagination with this memory. As you all know, I came from L.A., too, and never carved pumpkins more than a couple of days before Halloween. This writing really makes me want to schedule a trip to the other coast for a taste of autumn.

Halloween has been something of a leitmotif with me, so choosing a single memory is difficult: One of the earliest Halloweens I can recall involved me dressed as Peter Pan, with a costume sewn by my mother and pan pipes welded by my dad out of scrap metal. There was the Halloween I co-hosted a "mystery" dinner party themed around a homebrewed ghost story. Heck, I even got married on Halloween.
I think, however, that my favorite Halloween memory is a bit more prosaic: It was simply experiencing my first October on the East Coast.  I grew up in Southern California, where palm trees abound and deciduous trees are confused; at some point during the year they'll half-heartedly drop a few leaves, but autumn in Los Angeles is dull brown. Autumn there is also warm; we'd traditionally carve our pumpkins no more than a week before Halloween, lest they be soft and moldy by the big day.

But then I moved to Virginia, where nature takes autumn seriously. I vividly recall my first October on this coast, realizing that this was the season I'd been looking for all my life. It got cold at night, with a marvelous, crisp quality to the air. We carved pumpkins at the beginning of the month and I was thrilled to be greeted by them when I came home each evening. The trees turned colors that I had only seen in storybooks, then suddenly were reduced to stark, bare branches. Plump barn spiders, perfectly outfitted for the season in orange and black, appeared seemingly out of thin air and set up shop on the front porch. My soon-to-be father-in-law had a large garden and he bound all of his dead corn stalks into a proper stook.

I remember standing outside in the chill dark one evening shortly before Halloween, looking at the moon through a tangle of clawlike branches, and really understanding for the first time why so many ancient cultures believed that autumn was when the year died. I could imagine the veil between worlds growing thinner, and strange things on the other side restlessly awaiting their chance to visit. I gave my jack-o'-lantern a pat, went back inside, and realized that I was finally exactly where I belonged.


  1. It's funny how much you take for granted when you've been surrounded by these sights and experiences your entire life. Thanks for showing them to me through new eyes. :D

  2. I can't imagine Halloween any other way. I live in Pennsylvania where most of the Autumn is cool days and chilly nights, leaves changing colors and there is just that smell in the air. I agree with halloween spirit, you just take it for granted....


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