Thursday, October 29, 2009

Samhain (pronounced Sow-een) October 31st

This Celtic holiday is the final harvest festival of the year. The word means “summer’s end,” when people gather resources for the coming winter. It is also the start of the Pagan New Year, the day when “the veil between this world and the next is thinnest and communication with our ancestors is easiest.”

There are many ancient and contemporary traditions, lore, and symbols including altars, chants, divination methods, cemetery blessings, bonfire magic, and more. You can devise your own ceremony with a votive candle, a photograph or memento of someone who has died that you wish to honor, and a Samhain symbol to energize.

Symbols that represent Samhain may include: Apples, Balefires, Black Cats, Besoms (magical brooms), Cauldrons, Jack-O-Lanterns, Masks, and the Waning Moon. Ghosts being a symbol for Samhain makes perfect sense since Samhain was the festival where the Gates Between the Worlds were open wide and departed friends and family could cross over in either direction.

In Scotland, people would place stones in the ashes of the hearth before going to bed Samhain night. Anyone whose stone had been disturbed during the night was said to be destined to die during the coming year.

In this country, we celebrate Halloween or All Hallows Eve with many of the ancient traditions like masks and symbols. In recent years, some schools have attempted to curtail Halloween parties as pagan rituals. This year, with the threat of the H1N1 virus, kids may stay home and not risk exposure to lots of strangers. We’ll put up the usual decorations of skeletons and pumpkins. Ember will be a Fairy Princess/Snow White/Ballerina (this involves multiples layers of skirts and sparkly doo-dads). She will answer the door and pass out candy to the Trick or Treaters.

Monday, October 26, 2009

My Own Bed

Whenever Iget back from a trip, one of the joys of coming home is sleeping in my own bed. For five years after my divorce, I slept on a folding camp cot that I hauled with me from dwelling to dwelling. Then…for my 50th birthday present to myself, I bought a bed. Mattress, box springs, and frame. I stuck the carved walnut footboard from my Grandmother’s bed up against the wall as a headboard (the real one was long gone) and rejoiced in my newfound sleeping situation. That bed lasted me until I moved to Missouri at which time I went all out and bought a very expensive mattress which I still have. I love it! It is perfect comfort. I’m diligent about turning it regularly so it doesn’t have a big hollow dent in it like the one I had before.

At this time of year, I remake it for the Fall/Winter season with an electric heated mattress pad and flannel sheets. On top goes my gorgeous wool Pendleton blanket with a blue fleece over it to protect it from the cat and seal in the warmth. Going to bed is a ritual for me. I go in about a half hour ahead and turn on the heated pad. Then when I slide in I am all cozy and snug. I lie first on my left side which helps straighten out one half of the curve in my spine, then I turn on my right side and relax the other half. After all the bones have settled, I lie on my back and stretch out full length and luxuriate in the warmth and safety of my own bed. Under the covers, late at night, when all is black when I open my eyes, it is one of the few places I feel totally safe.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Walla Walla Winds

The winds from the East are racing down The Gorge and blasting everything in their path. Here at the West End we live in a wind tunnel. My house, though, is nestled in a protected pocket under tall pine trees, and the outbuildings and glassed-in deck act as buffers. Still…thunks and clunks make me wonder what has blown over or away or off. I will have to bungee the trash cans when I put them out tonight.

The earliest inhabitants of the lower Columbia, the Chinook, thought the wind was the breath of powerful beings who lived far away up the river. “Every sigh, whistle, moan or roar of the wind seemed to them to be the voice of its spirit,” wrote Ella E. Clark in her book “Indian Legends of the Pacific Northwest.”

The Chinook believed that the cold East Wind, the one that is buffeting this area this morning, was caused by the five Walla Walla brothers. According to legend, the five wicked brothers to the east killed the five brothers who caused the warm west wind. Brave Chinook warriors took revenge leaving only one evil brother alive. That is the cold East Wind that blows in the Gorge.

Winterizing the place usually takes place toward the end of October, but we were early this year and all the outside work is done. I go by the early thickening of the coats on my dogs, the geese migration, and my own gut feeling that we will have an early winter. So I can rest easy today and enjoy the coziness of being inside.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Autumn in Osceola

Daydreaming this weekend of Autumn in Osceola. I loved the late afternoons when I would walk with Princess Dark Star around Congress Hill. We shuffled through leaves and I tried to think of names for all the fall colors: red, purple, magenta, burnt umber, scarlet, etc. Smells drifted out from the houses we passed of dinner cooking, and fires in woodstoves sent smoke drifting into the sky. Flocks of geese were going over on their way to safe harbor for the winter.

My last day at Terrapin Station was four years ago this month. It seems only yesterday. I’ve been gone now as long as I was there. My days at Terrapin Station were some of the best of my life. A place where I found the peace and serenity I had been searching for. Perfect in every way except for the fact I was a thousand miles away from my family.

Fall in Oregon is not as glorious as in Missouri, but we have had some unusually rain-free days this month. The weather forecasters predict it will end next week. So this weekend may be the last for outdoor chores. We had the Family Work Day a week ago so not too much remains. Boxes to take to the shed, pine needles to rake up, deck to be winterized.

Sunday evenings have always been hard for me. All those years of going to work on Monday mornings meant that Sunday night was a time for getting ready for the week ahead, doing the chores that were put off all weekend, and realizing how quickly time goes by. A friend used to call it “Back to prep school” syndrome. Whatever it is, tonight will bring on the angst and I will be nostalgic for Autumn in Osceola.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Early On A Frosty Morn

Mornings come early for me these days. Despite what time I go to bed, I wake up around 5:30 or 6:00 a.m. It’s been a long time since I needed an alarm clock. Today I was up while it was still dark. A reminder that summer is over, fall is here, and the earth has turned. I like to sit at the window and watch the sky lighten in the east as the mountain wakes up to join me. Lately we have had some awesome sunrises. Usually by my second cup of coffee the sun’s rays begin to hit the roofs of nearby houses. It will be awhile before sunlight floods my front porch.

We have had our first frost earlier this week and mornings are quite chilly and wet with misty fog. Shivers when I go out for the paper which is securely wrapped in plastic and up off the ground in a bright yellow plastic tube. As the day wears on, the temperature climbs and we have nearly perfect autumn afternoons. Sharp and clear and just right for walking the dogs. No need for a coat or jacket yet.

Weather reports from other parts of the country and world tell of heavy storms, typhoons, floods, earthquakes, deluges, mud slides, and snow. The Northwest is spared so far. The rains will start soon enough and dreary skies will take over. True Oregonians do not retreat inside, but don their rain gear and soldier on. There will be wrecks on the freeway of course, and some complaints. But this is Rain Country and people who choose to live here love being wet.

Today though the air is dry and crisp. As the daylight fades, I’ll close the windows and soon after draw the curtains shutting out the night. But I’ll go out on the porch at some point to see the moon that is going to get blasted early tomorrow. And sniff the air for signs of rain coming.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Harvest Moon

The clouds gathered early last evening and the Full Moon was hiding behind them. Now morning mist hangs over the river and dew coats the car. Faint shafts of sun are trying to get through. It is a morning for regrouping after the weekend. And catching up with chores.

Friday and Saturday were spent at a Knitting Retreat at Camp Collins. Very relaxing and restorative for the body and soul, but the laundry didn’t get done. Then Sunday was the Annual Work Day at Mom’s and my sons were out to get the place ready for fall. Grass mowed, weeds eaten, leaves and pine needles blown away, gutters cleaned and fixed, potted mums into the ground, door latches repaired, new heater vents installed, new batteries in the smoke detectors, and brand new steps by the back door. Windy’s contribution was taking the dogs to the grooming parlor for top-to-bottom clean-up plus laundering the dog beds. Part II will occur in November when the sons will install an awning over the back door and shrink wrap the windows to keep the heat in. A few more safety touches here and there, followed by a trip to the dump with the “big chunks.”

Inside there are dishes in the drainer waiting to be put away, laundry to be done, toys to be picked up, vacuuming needed, and camping gear to be put away after the Retreat. Bills to pay, checkbook to balance, e-mails to write, plans to confirm for October activities, and, of course, knitting to be worked on.

It is October already and I am amazed that summer is over. If I blink it will be Christmas. My life is simple and ordinary yet wonderful because I am here to enjoy it.