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Tomorrow is the Feast of All Saints, and the day after that the Feast of All Souls, so I’ve decided today must be the Feast of All Spooks.
We have a small ofrenda in Elise and Juan’s living room, with calaveras de azucar for David Stemple and Mike Ford. Elise has added four marzipan skull-faces for people I don’t know.
Patrick and I are coming home tonight.
Ah, the Feast of All Spooks - the night when the international intelligence community comes together in warmth and fellowship, and nobody stabs anybody else with a poisoned umbrella.
This is the day before the night when the Mighty Dead return.
Someone posted "Happy Samhain" on another site. If your Samhain is happy, you missed the point!
I don't know about that, Christopher. At the Mercado Central, six blocks from here (South Minneapolis has gotten very Mexican), there's a huge ofrenda that has, among many many other things, a big gaudy commercially-produced banner that spells out FELIZ DIA DE MUERTOS.
The Feast of All Spooks... And of Spock if my wife lets me watch the Halloween episode of the old Star Trek tonight.
Come on, it's not a feast; it's a vigil (one of the very few remaining vigils, I may note).
We finesse the children-with-candy bit by observing that feast/fast rules don't apply to young children...
Well, Teresa, I didn't actually say anything about Dia de Muertos. Happens at the same time, not the same holiday. "Happy Halloween" seems fine to me, too, since it's the degenenerate commercial version of the holiday, but Samhain is a time for mourning and remembrance. Proper sombriety is an offering to the ancestors (whether of the body or the spirit).
Wish me a Happy New Year tomorrow. That works.
The other four skulls are for Bob Feldman who was an old sweetie of mine who died at the beginning of the year, Mizz Rachel who was a well-loved local woman and music-lover and big fountain of happy niftyness, Rachael who was a circle sister of mine, and Sharon Bishop who was a ... well, a force of nature who founded that circle 25 or 30 years ago. (Sharon Bishop was also a school nurse, and back about that long ago she also founded one of the first supportive groups for GLBT students at the school where she worked, I think it was, because she was determined to do anything she could do to reduce the pressures on GLBT youth toward suicide. She rocked mightily. Plus she was hilarious.)
Those are excellent cool sugar skulls, T. Thank you for finding them on our wildly successful lunch outing.
Proper sombriety is an offering to the ancestors (whether of the body or the spirit).
Xopher, I celebrate Samhain as well, and some of my ancestors would be mightily peeved if I did not also offer them some good laughs and mighty silliness-in-good-causes.
Mirth AND reverence, Elise. First the reverence, then the mirth.
I don't separate these that much, except at Samhain. But we mourn and weep, then we party.
First the cleansing, then the charging, yes?
La muerte viene para todos, lo importante para nosotros los vivos, es recordar, en felicidad, los que han pasados al otro mundo. Al fin y al cabo, la muerte nos espera todos. En la corta vida que tenemos debemos celebrar y festejar nuestros fallecidos amigos, nuestros antepasados, y tambien los ajenos. La muerte es una largu�sima noche. Nosotros, aqu� en pleno dia, somos obligados a celebrar -- no a la muerte, sino a las vidas pasadas.
All Saints is a Holy Day of Obligation for Catholics: we go to church to pray for and to ask for prayers from those the Church has recognized (Mother Theresa, Ignatius of Loyola, the big names) and all those known to God alone, i.e. the inspired ones, the heroes, mentors, friends, lovers. My particular list includes, among others, Dorothy Day, Clive Staples Lewis, and Thomas Merton. Oh, and my father, Richard Nathan Lynn. He died 10 years ago. He believed in neither God nor heaven, but he loved my mother with an intensity and faith that surely transcended death.
Pardon the relative frivolity of this post, but I couldn't resist giving two links. A piece in Science Daily wants to demystify things, while Astronomy Picture of the Day goes for spooky and informative -- can't seem to make that link go bold, so here it is: http://antwrp.gsfc.nasa.gov/apod/ap061031.html
Re #12: If the Science Daily report is accurately summarizing, that paper has more holes in it than Charlie Brown's Halloween costume. (But then, Ghost Hunters is one of my favorite shows, so I might carry just a wee bit of bias on the subject...)
"But the night is Halloween, lady,
The morn is Hallowday . . .
Just at the mirk and midnight hour
The fairy folk will ride."
Trick-or-treat *is* a vigil for those who must stay within the call of the doorbell. We await visitations. Once they were goblins and ghosts. Now--who knows? Whatever pop horrors the culture can throw at us.
All Saints is a half-holiday in Venice; I took advantage of it to document the architecture of a processional route. Very spooky experience--the streets were empty, and there was a thick fog swirling through. The time machine aspects one gets there at night were somehow amplified in the early morning.
Thanks for including David in your ofrenda. I just had his Merlin costume cleaned. It's too big for me but I may wrap myself in it anyway and sit out on the porch swing and greet the kiddos who come a-wassailing. . .oops, a-weening.
Am I the only person who finds Charlie Brown's Halloween Special downright depressing? Hell, it ends with Linus who'd have frozen to death if Lucy hadn't brought him back in. On the upside, I got to see Lucy finally showing some kindness to anybody.
Rather than arguing about the proper relationship between mirth and reverence, I wanted to pass on possibly the best Samhain newspaper article I've ever seen. It's from a kids' "Young Writers" competition for the Burlington Free Press.
And then there are the real spooks -- the ones in Washington. The way they're talking about Iran in Washington these days bears a spooky resemblance to the Iraq war buildup -- similar missteps, similar players, similar bipartisan congressional negligence. Washington is haunted by the mistakes of the past and seems bound to repeat them, spurred on by the fantasies of the neocons and their enablers. Some Halloween thoughts about the specter of another senseless, unnecessary preemptive war.
Speaking of ghost hunting...
I was just watching "Most Haunted Live" on the Travel channel last night. I have to say, if they were faking what happened last night, then they have serious commitment to their deception.
Several members of the investigation crew had mysterious cuts appear on their bodies, as if they had been sliced open by invisible knives. Most of the cuts were light scratches, but some were deep bleeding gashes.
The only two ways I can imagine that they were wounded like that are that they encountered something dangerous and paranormal or that they cut themselves. Both prospects are horrific in their own way.
Normally on the show, the crew just travels around old English houses with night vision cameras hunting for bumps and mysterious footsteps. Last night they were in some dungeon in Edinburgh examining a circle of stones used for dark magick rituals. They may have gotten in a bit over their heads.
Whatever really happened, it made for compelling television. I'll be watching again tonight.
Jane, of course David's in the ofrenda. Of course he is.
Was it his job to play Merlin and hand out candy to trick-or-treaters? He must have looked splendid.
Faren, I put your spooky nebula into the main entry.
Lizzy, the bit about "those known but to God" always puts me in mind of my godfather's excellent observation about saints for whom we have patently implausible lives. He says it doesn't prove they weren't saints; it just means they're saints for whom we have no reliable lives.
He also has a theory about the problem of addressing potentially nonexistent saints. He observes that someone who's a contact for a three-letter intelligence agency will be given a name to call. That name doesn't actually reference a person. It references a file. If the contact phones in, they'll be put on hold for a bit, then connected to someone who supposedly has that name. During the wait, the file's been pulled and the person who speaks to them has looked at it.
"It's a sincere prayer. So what if that saint doesn't exist?" Jim says. "We're told there are lots of saints known but to God. Who knows which ones are handling the Saint Barbara file?"
"The Feast of All Spooks... And of Spock if my wife lets me watch the Halloween episode of the old Star Trek tonight."
That episode is too scary for me. Chekov's wig... *shudder*
joann@19 All Saints is a half-holiday in Venice...
Sounds like it was a wonderful experience.
All Saints Day is a full holiday in Vienna, which really surprised me. On Haloween, there were lots of kids trick-or-treating in the shops along the Landstrasse Hauptstrasse near my hotel. Apparently it's a new thing there, and appears to have only really been embraced by stores eager to connect with potential shoppers.
On All Saint's Day, I discovered that everything was closed. So, quite randomly, I jumped onto a tram bound for the Zentralfriedhof. Apparantly so did half the city. The cemetary was jammed with people visiting real relatives, while tourists like me checked out the decomposing composers and the Mozartdenkmal. Quite the experience.
As an American (and despite my latent Catholicsm) I find it hard to really use these couple of days to think of the dead, but today, I'll make an effort.
Xopher @ 2: Someone posted "Happy Samhain" on another site. If your Samhain is happy, you missed the point!
Perhaps slightly off-topic, but this reminds me of the time my parents dropped me off at the baby-sitter and went to Yom Kippur services. (Yom Kippur is the Day of Atonement, very solemn.) The baby-sitter knew only that Yom Kippur is the Jewish new year, and when they came back she said, "Did you have a fun time?"
And a happy new year tomorrow to those who celebrate the day!
Larry #23: Some of the pictures are here.
The fog was kind of variable, but all those columns in front of San Marco were amazing. When I left the flat, I could barely see ten feet, and I was really wondering if I'd get any pictures. The only person I saw on the whole 20-minute walk to San Marco was an old lady feeding birds in front of a church.
I'd spent the previous evening at a rather regrettable original-instruments concert on the other side of the Grand Canal; the walk was through some, to me, unknown territory. I don't know about everyone else, but I always feel slightly more edgy in terra incognita. It was odd to pass the one American bar and see a pumpkin glowing in the window; kind of comforting. There was familar ground.
Joe J: Last night they were in some dungeon in Edinburgh examining a circle of stones used for dark magick rituals.
That would be Bannerman's, eh?
They may have gotten in a bit over their heads.
Definitely Bannerman's. The hangover's a bitch, especially after you walk into a 16th century stone archway on your way to the loo for the third time in an evening.
(Yes, it is a pub in the catacombs. Why did you feel the need to ask? The pics make it look a lot more spacious and brightly lit than it really is, though.)
I like the idea of having an altar to remember those who have passed away this year, and have done that in the past. Mine would have included Bob Tucker, if I were at home and with the things that I would want at such a time.
Charlie Stross: I should have known that "some dungeon in Edinburgh" would be too vague a description of the place. They have been billing the city as the "most haunted city in Europe." I don't think it was Bannerman's as the place looked pretty uninhabited. The network at my job won't let me view the web pages for the show, but the links are
UK Most Haunted link
Travel Channel page for the live episodes (with live webcams!)
It looks like it's Mary King's Close, which I found fascinating but not in the least haunting when I did the tour last year. It's a street that was roofed over and walled up when the city wanted to build on the space (no, not walled up in the plague, that's a myth).
Bannerman's is cool. I used it in my geocache/self-guided walking tour on the history of Burke & Hare. (I needed a location in the Cowgate, where they used to wander with an open bottle of gin, inviting people home for a drink...)
Xopher and Lisa Goldstein:
I think maybe the problem is that it is hard in English to properly wrap up the sentiment of "successful holiday remembrances" with dual-factor holy days in two or three word fragments. Especially when/if you're an outside observer merely attempting wish others well. California is such a mish mash, I generally hold no ill will to those who are simply trying to positively remark on ceremony and remembrance.
That said, I'm with elise on this one. Some people are best remembered somberly, others with mighty mirth. Quiet reflection or joyous songs in honor? Depends on the soul I suppose. That said, I'll watch the sun set and tip my glass alone tonight to those gone on before. Then I'll find a crowd to move with onto the next part of the cycle.
I mentioned in the open thread that my cat, Oberon, was very sick. He passed away about an hour ago; I was here with him. He was always a very affectionate cat, and despite what you hear about animals, he made it very clear to me that he did not want to be alone.
He was home, I was beside him, and he passed relatively peacefully, as these things go.
This will be a very somber Halloween for me. He was an all-black cat and always had an air of Halloween about him. He was a joy to me on his first Halloween, as I hope I was a comfort to him on this, his last. He was, in a very real if not literal sense, my familiar.
Oberon passed on Samhain night;
He'll be reborn—it is his right.
My heartfelt condolences, Howard.
Lisa #24: That's EXACTLY what I'm talking about.
I think "Blesséd Samhain" is as good as anything. I'll use that from now on.
I wrestled with the Antipodean Problem with Samhain/Beltane. Again. I have an American husband, so I feel somewhat obliged but a Spring Fast feels a little odd.
This year, I settled for feasting my neighbours, but with Black Duck and orange vegetables. And no, Vegemite was not involved with the Duck Blackening. Although ...
We lit candles for absent friends, but a)I often do, and b)they included the living.
What do other Antips do?
Many condolences, Howard. If the Rainbow Bridge exists, I hope Olive (my own much-missed little bundle of opinions & affection all wrapped up in black fur) greets him on the other side and shows him where the nicest rays of sunshine for basking in are.
Whether it's Halloween, Dias de los Muertos, or Samhain, there's always a shadow lurking at this time of year. Sometimes the jack-o'-lantern can't shine brightly enough to keep that shadow away. And that, I tell myself philosophically, is as it should be.
I do want to wish everyone the best of this holiday, however you celebrate it, and hope you all take a moment to remember fondly those you've lost.
Condolences from here as well, Howard. Losing a cat is always painful. Even when it feels like it's time.
Vian...'Samhain' comes from a Gaelic phrase meaning "three days at the end of summer." It was traditionally celebrated at the first frost. It was the end of harvest...de facto, since anything you didn't get in before frost was pretty well ruined. It's an Earth festival, not a Sun festival, but all of them are seasonal.
Personally I think you-all should celebrate Samhain in YOUR autumn. But then a) I also think sunwise is counterclockwise down there (because the sun traverses the northern sky from east to west), and b) it's nunnamybeezwaks; it's for you to decide, since you're the ones who live there. And after all, Water is still west to me, even though I live on the East Coast, so consistency...that'd be that hobgob, yeah?
But for my part...Happy Bealtáine!
For her evening walk, my black lupinish-looking dog will be costumed as a werewolf.
One lady in the next neighborhood over mentioned she'd be handing out dog treats . . .
Chekov's wig, Hamilton? Brrr... I'll stick with Vincent Price on TCM later tonight.
TNH #21: No hay para tanto.
Howard: I'm so sorry to hear about Oberon.
Black cats are very special to me as well. My first cat was a large black cat named Acer. He, like Oberon, was a brilliant Halloween cat.
He died more than ten years ago, at the age of 19, but he still walks through my dreams on occasion. He was such a good friend that I think he wants to check on me and make sure I'm okay.
It sounds like Oberon was that kind of cat-friend to you (and you that kind of person-friend to him).
Xopher #37:It was the end of harvest...de facto, since anything you didn't get in before frost was pretty well ruined.
Except root vegetables. Parsnips are actually much better harvested AFTER a frost.
Thank you forever, Elise, for "your Ancestors may vary." I'll be using that one for a while. Hee.
Mine, I usually give a long vigil and a food offering, plus a round of helping clean up local gravesites that look neglected. Still, though, it's not a last-harvest festival, no matter how many of the harvested we honor, without a little feasting besides; you're right.
It's the sundown of the year, and I don't know about y'all, but that's candle-light-and-dinner-time for me when I can hack it.
This year, of course, I'm at work all night. But I'll figure something out.
I'm so sorry, Howard. I've had my dead cats cremated and I like having their ashes. My instructions for when my body comes back from Johns Hopkins are to cremate it and mix in the cats' ashes (only the already dead ones! Any live ones are taken care of in my will).
I had 16 kids tonight, so I have 20 pieces of candy to eat. I'll try to hand them off to some of the young adults in my neighborhood.
Halloween has always seemed religious to me and I'm not a religious person. I give candy because it goes to the kids I see around. I had a lot of witches, princesses, and Darths, plus an angel and a Shrek.
Howard, I'm so sorry. Sounds like he had an easy an end as possible given the circumstances, and passing at home is the least stressful for cats, who are conservatives in the strictest sense. No car, no handling by a stranger, etc.
My Melisande, always a drama queen, announced her passing this last May then lay down, curled up and, well, passed to the next world.
Adding Oberon to my thoughts later tonight.
I won't visit my parents' grave. They aren't there. In fact, they aren't anywhere. I wish I could believe different, but I can't. When I read the various statements of faith in survival of various sorts, I sometimes think it's because I'm the equivalent of colour-blind. Or just plain blind. I hope I'm wrong, I really do. But I still can't see it.
It's late for this year, but you might want to bookmark MexicanSugarSkull.com
Confectioner's sugar, a little egg white and your imagination . . .
Howard, so sorry that you've lost Oberon.
Last Hallowe'en we were still hoping that Elvyra would be coming home, even though it had been long enough that the bruise she left on my ankle as she barrelled out the door had mostly faded. Hoped, even though the coyotes had been leaving their marks inside the yard fence for weeks. She was a black cat with two white toes which, the entire family agreed, were sometimes on her left back foot and sometimes on her right.
She was not a pleasant cat, having insisted on her supremacy over all house mammals from the time she came here to live. Her barn cat mother had forgotten how to count and left two of her five four-week-old kittens in the haystack. They came to live at our house just before Hallowe'en six years ago, black and orange as was seasonally appropriate. Her brother, Jack Pumpkinhead, was a much nicer being- and as a result she beat him up frequently, until he finally took off looking for softer laps.
Now we have Zathras, who is sufficient to our cat needs, although he does have the unnerving quality of being everywhere at once.
He stays in the house; the coyotes are singing close in now that we are the last open space in this chunk of suburbia.
Howard, condolences -- so sorry.
#2: "If your Samhain is happy, you missed the point!"
actually, the festival celebrates the end of the harvest and the victory of the forces of light over the forces of chaos. it is directly comparable to the Hindu Diwali and the Germanic Yule in its thematic content.
so, it can very easily be seen as a happy day.
Madeline@42: Yes! Memories of the spring-dug parsnips served at Henrietta's Table in Harvard Square -- they specialize in local products.
This year I watched the "ravening hordes of wildebeest" at a friend's house -- almost 1200 in 2.5 hours, when the candy ran out.
Gaak, I didn't GET "Your Ancestors May Vary"! I, too, love it. Thanks Elise. And of course, ritual is a Tribal Lay in Kipling's (?) sense.
c. vermeers, what are you talking about? The ancient festival of Samhain, which AFAIK was about no such thing, or the modern neoPagan version, which varies greatly by tradition and, in mine, is about no such thing?
Thanks all for your kind thoughts and words. Marilee, I'm taking him to the pet crematorium in the morning -- he'll join his brother Baby, who passed away last March. I adopted four young cats all within the space of a couple years in the late '80s. I've still got two geriatric females.
I talked to my sister a bit on the phone. I was telling her how I never cry when it's appropriate; I only cry at stupid things. "Like what?," she asked. "Well, I had just got back from the vet with Oberon, and I was putting together a Halloween playlist for some friends, you know, third-rate "Monster Mash" imitations and stuff like that. I was listening to this song -- I don't know if you know it. It's ... it's...," and I started bawling insanely. Then she started, and we cried together for a while.
The song I couldn't describe was "Zombie Jamboree," by Harry Belafonte.
Back to back,
Belly to belly.
Oh, we don't give a damn
'Cause we're stone dead already.
Back to back,
Belly to belly
At the Zombie Jamboree!
Shit. Now I'm crying again.
A great and funny song.
I really like the Day of the Dead meme. My sister got me a little statue of a skeletal dog a few years back. It wears a sombrero with a flower on it, a bony grin, and is carrying a small vase. How inclusive!
I'd like to buy more of these. Archie MacPhee used to sell them dirt cheap, but dropped the line years ago.
Howard-my condolonces on your friend.
I was what we called a "spook" in the military (thankfully have grown out of it since). So ... when do we eat?
Happy Feast of All Saints to all of you.
Howard, my condolences on your loss. My black cat died in my arms on May Day this year.
Tomorrow is Dia de los Muertos in Sonora. I think I'll look for some sugar skulls today. It seems right.
Could somebody contact numb3rs's Charlie Epps? He's such a smart guy, and he seems to be able to run calculations with his board & chalk that should require a supercomputer, so maybe he could explain the cycles of Halloween to me. It seems like, every time we buy lots of candy for the kids, almost nobody shows up, so we buy less the next year and of course more kids show up.
Yeah, we have LOTS of candy left.
Donate it to your local firefighters. It'll make them happy.
Howard, my condolences. It's never easy to part with a good friend.
Thanks, James. That's an excellent idea.
#53 -- Howard, my condolences as well. It's never easy to lose a pet. We've lost too many since moving here.
Have you heard the Rockapella a cappella version of that song? It's on their album Primer, and on the Spike Lee Do It A Cappella soundtrack. Great stuff!
#54 Stefan, I've seen a wonderful series of tiles in the tourist shops in Albuquerque's Old Town depicting all sorts of Day of the Dead vignettes. And whaddayaknow, they're available online: http://www.seaporttileshop.com/dayofdeadtiles.html
From memory, from the Dutch translation of the Communist Manifesto:
Een spook wardt door Europa, de spook van het communisme...
#53 -- Howard--
I'm so sorry. We lost our oldest cat 2 weeks ago as well. He was diagnosed with lymphoma in January and it finally got the upper hand. Alas, we had to take him to the vet and have him released as he was hiding in corners and obviously in pain but too strong to let go. And now I'm in tears again too. My dead for remembrance this year included my father and Bob Tucker as well. It's been a hard hard year.
Howard, sometimes your heart needs to cry the way your body needs to bleed. Our training keeps it in check, so it sneaks up on us.
Back in 1993, I was going through some terrible times. Relationship problems, health problems, employment problems...I held it all together until River Phoenix died. That was plenty sad, but my reaction was extreme; I basically didn't stop crying for three days.
It wasn't about River. It was about me.
I'm glad you've now been able to cry, even if the trigger was odd.
Stefan Jones @ #54: I really like the Day of the Dead meme. My sister got me a little statue of a skeletal dog a few years back. It wears a sombrero with a flower on it, a bony grin, and is carrying a small vase.
I can't remember where I got this link in the first place-- maybe a newspaper article?-- but I absolutely adore their skeletal dog/cat couple sipping milk out of a dog bowl, of which design I bought a t-shirt several years ago; they seem to've rearranged their selections since then, so the dog/cat pair is now only available with long sleeves. Or as a mini-sculpture, via a chain of links from CafePress to a Yahoo storefront.
Howard Peirce #31 et seg:
It is as hard to lose a beloved cat as it is a friend, relative, or parent. I wish there were something better I could say that the mere extension of my condolences.
Howard, my condolences on your loss. Oberon sounds like a wonderful cat.
"Put the rubber mouse away,
Pick the spools up off the floor,
What was velvet-shod and gay,
Will not want them anymore..."
We have five elderly cats, the youngest is 11 years old. Though one of the eldest is so healthy as to seem immortal, I know I will be saying goodbye to all of them eventually. May that day not be soon.
Thanks again to everyone. I really hadn't intended to take over TNH's holiday thread with my grief, but we were talking about symbols, death, and remembrance, and it seemed somehow the place. I took him to the pet crematorium this morning. I chose "My Familiar" for the epitaph on his urn.
Janet @ 62: I heard the Rockapella version of Zombie Jamboree first. A friend had put it on a mix tape years ago. I should dig it out -- it'd be interesting to compare verses (I don't recall Rockapella singing the verse about Brigitte Bardot).
I put the song back on (on repeat) late last night, to exorcise some demons. It occurred to me that "Zombie Jamboree" is not just a clever, fun calypso song, but is actually a Totentanz, with all the medieval theological implications intact. We all dance when Death calls the tune; all else is vanity.
My condolences on Oberon's death. My first beautiful cat, Shadow, died in my arms at the age of 18. My second cat, Monster, who was ludicrously fat and acted more like a puppy, died unexpectedly at the age of 10 in the summer of 2005 while I was in Glasgow for worldcon. My wonderful cat sitters rushed him to the vet, but it was too late to save him. I'm still struggling with the agonizing guilt of having my beloved kitty die alone and terrified among strangers. My memories of Glasgow (and my con report) are neatly bisected into "absolutely wonderful" and "unmitigated hell." (Okay, I mitigated it somewhat by spending much of the middle of the convention utterly smashed, and I'll always be grateful to PNH for his kind condescension in keeping me company and contributing to my general pickling in alcohol that night. But mostly, it was hell, and I wandered around the con like a small black cloud bursting into tears at the least excuse and generallly spreading gloom to everyone I knew.)
(Now I'm crying, too.)
Both cats are now buried in my front yard, contributing to my very healthy shrubbery. A few months after Monster's death, I felt ready to adopt my two new companions, Audrey and Phoebe, who look like small furry Holsteins and still refuse to come out when anyone but me is around. They were feral kittens and are not particularly fond of humans, though they'll come and cuddle with me under strictly controlled conditions. My friends have never seen them and are not entirely convinced that they really exist.
I had to have my cat Murphy (named after RoboCop) euthanised last summer until we figured out that she wouldn't be getting any better, that her liver was shot. She wasn't very friendly, but she was our responsibility, and my wife and I stayed in contact with her until the last moments. My last image of her is her dead body being taken out of the room, her head upside down and her eyes wide open.
The other night, my wife and I were trying to figure out how many different cats have strolled through our lives over the past 25 or so years -- we topped twenty, and are sure we have missed someone. Our previous house had a huge backyard, with an alley beyond, so we had room for lots, and ended up being adopted by strays. At peak, we had ten cats, half and half indoor/outdoor. It helped that our vet was a close friend. Ever since, the meezers have been first among equals in our house, and damm well knew it. Marian was simply my wife's best friend.
We were down to six when we moved into our current house, and over the past decade it has been a process of saying goodbye to one friend after another. This year, we were down to two very special residents, Robin and Marian. Walking to the bus one day from our old house, two tiny Siamese kittens started to chase me down the sidewalk. (We had a Cat Lady at the end of our block, and there are dozens nearly identical Siamese across that whole side of town now.) One stumbled while running and started meowing loudly as only a Siamese can. That was Robin, and his sister Marian joined in, yelling for me to come back. I couldn't resist scooping them up for a ride inside my jacket back to the house. From that point, the meezers were first among equals in our house, and knew it. (We used to tell people that the meezers owned the place and we were renting. They thought we were joking.)
It has been a rough year -- I spent some time in the hospital, Mom died, all sorts of other stuff happened, winding up with leaving my job a couple of weeks ago. But one of the really low points emotionally was when we finally had to let Marian go. Robin has adjusted to being a solo cat, sort of. We still "see" her out of the corner of the eye several times a week.
Howard, we grieve with you.
Apologies for the duped sentence -- I am not sure how the last sentence in the first paragraph got there but I am sure I fatfingered it somehow.
About the only holy day I have is 2 November -- the day that tells me I've made it through another year, another October. That when I say goodbye, again, to too many, too close to me. It's not a day for anyone special. It's a day for everyone special.
I could forget them, but the cost of that is far worse than the cost I bear. So, every year, come that day, I stop and thank everything that at least I knew them.
The Ancient Egyptians said that as long as someone will speak your name, your soul will live. I do what I can, and I pray that I'll be able to make it through the next October. Then we get on with the year. This year, I'll be overseas, with friends, busy installing the new beta of Hangover 4, but at some point tomorrow, I'll stop, and say the names, and be thankful.
See my response at dragonet2 in Live Journal. It became to long to decently post here.
Howard, thank you for providing the opening that so many of us apparently needed. I am so sorry about Oberon's, and all the others', passing. One of the traditional promises of the Christian heaven is that we will see and know our loved ones, and they will know us. (Whether God is planning a traditional heaven is another subject.) But so many of my loved ones have had four legs . . .
On a crazy segue, I burned a CD this year of (almost) all the versions of "When the Saints Go Marching In" I could find on iTunes. About half of them were mono recordings of singers pouring their hearts out, and most of the other half were up-tempo Dixieland recordings. Completely over the top ("Happy Yom Kippur") was a long version by the Cambridge Singers. I kept it because of the amazing harmony, but the sentiment was approximately Broadway. Irreverent but respectful (IMHO) was "The Saints' Hallelujah," by the Canadian Brass. The best concert version was by the Weavers. They began with
We are traveling in the footsteps
Of those who've gone before,
And we'll all be reunited
On a new and sunlit shore.
Which is sort of where this thread started, so I'll stop.
"Put the rubber mouse away,Pick the spools up off the floor,What was velvet-shod and gay,Will not want them anymore..."
On the question of the holiday, I can personally attest to having had a happy Samhain. I have also had a meditative one. Good wishes are always welcome, however worded--although I do empathize with Xopher's frustration concerning the clueless.
And some things definitely weren't happy--my husband has apparently established a seasonally appropriate but emotionally devastating tradition of losing a friendship at Samhain. Both last year and this we were able to see it coming a long way off, but each time he had held out hope that things could be worked out, and damn if he didn't put a lot of effort into it--so the final blow really did him in. At least the timing meant that it could be included in our annual commemoration of those lives and relationshipts that had not survived the year.
For some years now our Samhain has sort of been smerged into the annual NaNoWriMo kick-off; we have the neighborhood participants over for a late night potluck, and when midnight tolls we all start writing. So there's our new year celebration. New year, new writing, and new friends as well.
Which contains the line "There's a high-wire zombie 'tween the World Trades". I had entirely forgotten this until I heard it recently, and it startled me into crying.
We still "see" [our cat] out of the corner of the eye several times a week.
Yeah...Ares has given up haunting the place, it seems. He died in June, but he hung around for several weeks afterwards. Fortunately he left before we got the new kittens.
I was missing him quite a lot at the beginning of the week, but the connection to Samhain didn't even occur to me till just now.
Nicole, The poem is "To a Dead Kitten" and is in a collection of poetry entitled, "Reflections on a Gift of Watermelon Pickle..."
Unfortunately I cannot recall the poet's name. I keep meaning to buy another copy of that book, as mine has disappered into the house's sentient black hole.
One of our Siamese haunts a house he never saw while he was alive -- he died a month before we moved in.
While we only glimpse him occasionally, we know he's around because our youngest 'mese, Kitsumi makes peculiar sounds when Robin shows up.
None of the cats are allowed in my bedroom at night (when I have canaries they live in my room), but occasionally I will feel a cat walking over my legs when I am in bed... Master Robin comes to share my slumber -- and at least one canary was aware of him, because Mario would start fluttering around his cage whenever Robin manifested!
Lori, did you ever see Allegro Non Tropo? It came out in the early Seventies, and was an irreverent Italian homage to Disney's Fantasia. One of the segments is about a cat who is tied to a bombed-out house by his memories of happier times. Heart-breaking.
Lori: Google brings up discussions and personal web pages citing Sara Henderson Hay as the author.
What was warm, is strangely cold.Whence dissolved the little breath?How could this small body holdSo immense a thing as Death?
Oh, and if anyone is interested in yet another totally tear-jerking thing in the feline category, there is a beautiful beautiful anime feature called Voices of a Distant Star, and one of the DVD extras is a voiceless short called She and Her Cat. No, the cat doesn't die--it's tear-jerking for another reason entirely.
wiki here, IMDB here, review here.
Serge, no, I haven't seen _Allegro Non Tropo_, and from your description I suspect it's a good thing. Sounds like I'd need to have a Kleenex box at hand.
But then I always cry at the end of movies/shows like the original _Homeward Bound_, and though I love the song dearly, I cannot sing "Memories" without sobbing my way through: "Touch me -- it's so easy to leave me all alone with my memories of my days in the sun...If you touch me you'll understand what happiness is..."
Yes, happiness IS a sun-warmed purring cat.
Lori, you would definitely need a kleenex box to watch that cat's story from Allegro Non Troppo.
Lori, I've now ordered the 'Watermelon Pickle' book.
I have lots of cats to remember, including a couple that I never actually met (I've heard stories and seen pictures of them). Also a couple of rats (Masterson especially).
You can watch She and Her Cat here.
I didn't know about it before this thread. Thank you for telling me.
Which contains the line "There's a high-wire zombie 'tween the World Trades".
I suspect that like most calypsos, the verses to "Zombie Jamboree" vary from singer to singer and performance to performance. The recording I have is from the '50s, so there's no WTC in it. It includes a verse about the scandal in the US around Brigitte Bardot appearing nude ("Even old men out in Topeka/Find their hearts growing weaker and weaker") and a verse about Cold War atomic threats:
We've got to pitch in and do our part,
Got to appeal to their goodness of heart.
'Cause if this atomic war begin,
We won't even have a part to pitch in.
We'll be singing:
Back to back, belly to belly..."
(I'm not sure if the punning sense of "a part to pitch in" comes across in text.)
So, like I say, it's literally a Totentanz, a Danse Macabre, with nuclear weapons replacing the Black Plague: sex, puritanism, politics, war -- all vanity and folly.
Sidebar: I went on a mini-calypso kick a few months ago, because I knew almost nothing about the music. "Shame and Scandal in the Family" has become a standard that almost all calypsonians do, each with their own verses. Most people think it's traditional. But it was actually written for the soundtrack to Val Lewton's I Walked with a Zombie, where it was performed by Trinidadian actor/singer Sir Lancelot, who was also in Lewton's Curse of the Cat People.
Circles within circles. It all comes back around.
P J Evans and other cat lovers, if you have not read Paul Gallico's _The Abandoned_, I highly recommend it. And it does have a happy ending. (I'm betting most of you have read his more famous cat book, _Thomasina_.)
Also, Gallico's book of poetry and photos of cats: _Honorable Cat_ is well worth reading too. My favorite edition of this has a lovely sealpoint Siamese on the cover. The funniest poem is about a ginger kitten who encounters a live crab and observes that he seems to have forgotten to bring a can opener...
Well, I troll the lyrics sites so you don't have to. (Does anyone else feel like they've been rooting in a junkie's dumpster after visiting lyrics sites? Even with antivirus, adblockers, and popup blockers, those things are full of little nasties that can prick you and make you sick. Also, the songs have all been transcribed by Lady Mondegreen and Mrs. Malaprop.)
It seems that Belafonte was the only singer to explore the human vanities theme in "Zombie Jamboree," although I didn't look up Bob Marley's "Jumbie Jamboree," and I couldn't find Lord Intruder's original 1953 (written down but unrecorded) lyrics. It makes sense, though, that Belafonte would go the political/spiritual route where others go for whimsy. In the Kingston Trio version (which may be the closest to Lord Intruder's), the "female zombie [jumbie] who wouldn't behave" wants to "make me her slave," so there's a kind of a creepy sexual revulsion/misogyny subtext.
Cat poetry: I'm still a sucker for Christopher Smart's "For I Will Consider My Cat Jeoffry."
For he can spraggle upon waggle at the word of command.
There's also Pangur Ban:
I and Pangur Ban my cat,
'Tis a like task we are at:
Hunting mice is his delight,
Hunting words I sit all night.
Old Irish poem.
And Dorothy L. Sayers' Timothy:
Consider, O Lord, Timothy, Thy servants' servant
(We give hims this title, as to Thy servant the Pope,
Not knowing a better. Him too Thy ministers were observant
To vest in white and adorn with a silk cope.)
Thy servant lived with Thy Servants in the exchange
Of affection; he condescended to them from the dignity
Of an innocent mind; they bent to him with benignity
From the rarefied Alps of their intellectual range.
Hierarchy flourished, with no resentment
For the unsheathed claw or the hand raised in correction;
Small wild charities took root beneath the Protection,
Garden-escapes from the Eden of our contentment.
Daily we came short in the harder human relation,
Only in this easier obeying, Lord, Thy commands;
Meekly we washed his feet, meekly he licked our hands --
Beseech Thee, overlook not this mutual grace of salvation.
Canst Thou accept our pitiful good behaving,
Stooping to share at our hand that best we keep for the beast?
Sir, receive the alms, though least, and bestowed on the least,
Save us, and save somehow with us the means of our saving.
Dante in the Eighth Heaven beheld love's law
Run up and down on the infinite golden stairway;
Angels, men, brutes, plants, matter, up that fairway
All by love's cords are drawn, and draw.
Thou that before the Fall didst make pre-emption
Of Adam, restore the privilege of the Garden,
Where he to the beasts was namer, tamer, and warden;
Buy back his household and all in the world's redemption.
When the Ark of the new life grounds upon Ararat
Grant us to carry into the rainbow's light,
In a basket of gratitude, the small, milk-white
Silken identity of Timothy, our cat.
Consider, O Lord, Timothy, Thy servants' servant
(We give him this title, as to Thy servant the Pope,
Not knowing a better. Him too Thy ministers were observant
To vest in white and adorn with a silk cope.)
Oops -- can someone delete the first one? There's a typo in the first stanza of the poem in the first post.
Longtime lurker here... If I may quote a favorite James Baldwin (it seemed appropriate to this thread and Oberon's passing):
"For nothing is fixed, forever and forever and forever, it is not fixed; the earth is always shifting, the light is always changing, the sea does not cease to grind down rock. Generations do not cease to be born, and we are responsible to them because we are the only witnesses they have. The sea rises, the light fails, lovers cling to each other, and children cling to us. The moment we cease to hold each other, the sea engulfs us and the light goes out."
Howard, I was once a transcriber of lyrics for this site. It subsists on Google Ads, no banners, no popups, and as far as I know, no adware. It grew out of a Yahoo Club, and it has the following restriction:
ARCHIVED LYRICS ARE FROM ARTISTS, COMPOSERS WHO WERE ESTABLISHED PRE 1980.
It's got about 31,000 song titles and lyrics, so if you're looking for something that meets that criteria, try it.
Almost all hamster discussion boards have an In Memoriam section, because we love the little critters, and they have such sadly short lifespans.
This is from a poem posted at HamsterHouse.com:
We will remember when you climbed up the bars
Or when you ran around in your little green ball. You were so tame.
You ran to us when we called your name.
We will never forget. You were so clever.
We will always love you, love you, forever.
And Thomas Gray's "Ode on the Death of a Favourite Cat, Drowned in a Tub of Gold Fishes"
'Twas on a lofty vase's side,
Where China's gayest art had dyed
The azure flowers, that blow;
Demurest of the tabby kind,
The pensive Selima reclined,
Gazed on the lake below.
Her conscious tail her joy declared;
The fair round face, the snowy beard,
The velvet of her paws,
Her coat that with the tortoise vies,
Her ears of jet and emerald eyes,
She saw; and purred applause.
Still had she gazed; but 'midst the tide
Two angel forms were seen to glide,
The Genii of the stream:
Their scaly armour's Tyrian hue
Through richest purple to the view
Betrayed a golden gleam.
The hapless nymph with wonder saw:
A whisker first and then a claw,
With many an ardent wish,
She stretched in vain to reach the prize.
What female heart can gold despise?
What cat's averse to fish?
Presumptuous maid! with looks intent
Again she stretched, again she bent,
Nor knew the gulf between.
(Malignant Fate sat by and smiled)
The slippery verge her feet beguiled,
She tumbled headlong in.
Eight times emerging from the flood
She mewed to every watery god,
Some speedy aid to send.
No dolphin came, no Nereid stirred:
Nor cruel Tom nor Susan heard.
A favourite has no friend!
From hence, ye beauties, undeceived,
Know, one false step is ne'er retrieved,
And be with caution bold.
Not all that tempts your wandering eyes
And heedless hearts is lawful prize;
Nor all that glisters gold.
Lori, last time I rewatched the Cats DVD, my face started turning inside-out during "sunlight through the trees in winter, endless masquerading", because I was instinctually anticipating the next bit. Which I spent with my face buried in my husband's shoulder.
Most music that makes me cry, I work up a bit of a tolerance towards after awhile. I can (finally) sing along with Tori Amos's "Ribbons Undone," for instance. But "Memories" in its original context always, always gets me.
Sarah S--thank you for the link. I didn't realize I could watch it online, and I was missing it.
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