The Day of the Dead (31)

I harvested my “Mexican” marigolds for my Day of the Dead altar. I wished I had a sugar skull, but my little sombrero-wearing skeleton and my painted wooden cats brought it to life for me. In Ajijic I went to the cemetery for el dia de los muertos, watched while everyone worked on their plots of land, helped one woman carry a hose and bucket to her spot. A couple roasted fresh garbanzo beans just outside the gate. I bought a small bag and ate them while I wandered. This year I took Halloween off from work. I’ve always wanted to honor the eight main pagan holidays, and because this is the pagan new year, it seemed like a good time to finally begin. I spent the afternoon building my altar. I hosed off the patio table, and I gathered all my bird figures, my big metal raven, the rounded dove. The eleven birds became the base, and I added in the painted cats and my gargoyle from Joe and the skeleton with the sombrero, two apples, a pumpkin, a pomegranate, a sunflower seed I found amidst the thistle, the smooth stone with the little black painted bird. Photo of cats, bird, gargoyle on my altarI picked 44 blooms from the marigolds who were blocking my pathway and placed them one by one on my altar. I tucked six of them in the frames of the wire birds my mother gave me. Then I pulled the bushes out by their roots and cut them up in small pieces over the trash can. I can still feel the extraordinary relief I felt looking at the cleared stretch of stepping stones.

Photo of skeleton wearing sombrero I lit a candle on the altar in the late dusk and walked out through the gate for my evening walk, unimpeded for the first time in months. On my way home, I stood for a long time in the dark before a neighbor’s home marveling at the eerie lit-up other world they’d created for Halloween. I felt enchanted. When I walked back through my gate and saw my candle-lit altar in the courtyard, it held the same mystical charm, as though the veil between the worlds was indeed flickering. That night I remember coming halfway to wakefulness again and again. A part of me was outside the screen door with my altar. I remember whispering the names of my own dead, the long list a living, rolling thing in the dark. I have a misty memory of praying, of letting go, of turning a corner in the night. And every morning since I have been happy. I sweep the floor and grin. I remember how it rained in August and how sad it made me when my heart didn’t dance. Today it rains again, and I sit under my big yellow umbrella. I listen to the raindrops falling on the fabric. I smell the wet dirt-on-concrete smell, and my heart lifts like it used to. I am full of smiles and eager peace. I breathe the quiet in the air. I sense we have as a hemisphere moved into a new stretch of time. I drink in the changed light. And I wonder if maybe this is a new happy. Maybe this kind of happy is here to stay. Toco madera. Touch wood. Oh, and happy new year, too. :)

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About Riba

I'm a writer and a teacher, though I usually say it in reverse. I hope to find more of a balance between the two. ;-)
This entry was posted in Birds, Gratitude, Home, Life, Prayer, Spirituality, Walking and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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