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All Hollows Eve and Fall Kama

an Article by Rebecca Barry

If there is a month for me that represents kama, it is October. I love this month! Each day I get up and walk down the tree-lined streets and it is so luminous and yellow and vibrant. And yesterday I was standing in the window at the coffee shop looking out at the stream as it tumbled along, with orange and red leaves running just beneath the surface like wild salmon, and I thought, how lucky we are that there’s water all around us, singing constantly, even in winter, when it is just a whisper beneath the ice.

Yesterday I worked on my Day of the Dead/All Hallow’s Eve/Halloween altar to honor the grandmothers and grandfathers and people and pets who have crossed over. I planted an oak branch in a bucket full of stones and water so it stood upright and wrote names on some fallen leaves I had dried and pressed.

I started making Halloween altars a few years ago, right after my grandmother died. She died at the end of September, so near the end of October I was still missing her and thinking of her a lot. The night before Halloween that year, I took my younger son Dawson, who was then 5, to a dramatic reading at the Conservatory of the Legend of Sleepy Hollow. Dawson was completely thrilled by Halloween. Everything about it—the costumes, staying up late, the visits to other people’s houses—delighted him. (One year when he went as a pirate, he got so excited he stood in the middle of the street, threw his pirate hat up in the air, and shouted, “HAPPY HALLOWEEN!! TO EVERYBODY!!”)

Anyway, he was in an excellent mood when we came out of the old building that houses the Conservatory. It was almost dusk and everything was blanketed in a fine mist.

“Look, Dawson,” I said. “Do you see that?”

“It’s like the whole town is a ghost!” he said happily.

We walked down the road, past the bank and the auto supply store, over the bridge above the creek and by the coffee shop where the barristas were making hot cider and chocolate, up the sidewalk to our house. The fog moistened and cooled our skin and silver droplets clung to our hair. Above us, wild clouds filled the sky. We had heard a hurricane was coming, and Halloween might be canceled the next day. But we’d spent the morning decorating our house anyway. We’d covered the front windows in blue tissue paper and decorated an old branch with black cats and pumpkins and ghosts. “If Halloween is canceled, we’ll just invite everyone over for a party,” I said. “And we’ll celebrate it that way.”

“Oh yes!” Dawson said. “And great grandmother can come! It will be much easier for her now that she doesn’t have her walker.”

At first I thought I was going to have to remind him that my grandmother was dead, but then I realized that he knew that already, and it was obvious to him that now as a ghost, unlimited by her old, frail body, she’d be able to come to parties again and dance in the mist.

“Just like the Day of the Dead!” my mother said later. “Isn’t he sweet!” Then she told me a story about how when she went to Mexico to teach in her twenties, she arrived just before the Day of the Dead. And everywhere she looked there were beautiful altars with candles, marigolds, some sweets, and some pulque so the dead would know that they were honored and missed, and it was so spectacular and moving that she fell in love with the whole country.

So we did invite my grandmother to our house and started our own Day of the Dead tradition. To me, this is the gift of this season—when the veil is thin and we get an awareness that the conversations between the spirit world and the material world never really end. And this year it feels like the culmination of kama, this way of enjoying the fullness of all of the energy and light around us, even as we enter the darkest time of year. (Which is also the coziest. Unless you live in Honolulu. Which is a good idea for February.)

Later, when I rode my bike past the graveyard to go to the water to sing the wind kicked up and yellow leaves skipped across the grass in front of the headstones as if they were chasing each other. It was so joyful, I thought I love this day when it seems as if the dead are talking to the living. And I wondered, as I often have before, if in either side of the veil there are beings full of light, arms outstretched to one another, saying, “hello! I love you! It’s wonderful here!”