Posted by: jevcat | October 31, 2010

A Thin – and Full – All Hallows

Photo by Roger Bingler

The Celtic tradition has a special regard for “thin” times and places, when/where the boundaries and barriers between worlds stretch or disappear completely, and it is possible to travel between them.  It’s an idea that has always resonated with me, and especially this time of year, Halloween/Samhain, the Celtic new year.  I can’t help wondering if one of the reasons Halloween is so popular these days is because we live in a world where boundaries and barriers are disappearing all the time – only unlike the ancient Celts, ours don’t go back when the holiday is over.

On a glorious fall day in New York, with this world flaunting its colors and demanding attention, I spent part of my afternoon with at least a metaphoric foot in both this world and the next:  I helped friends plant daffodils and a peony bush by the grave of a friend whose anniversary of personal passing over occurs in October.  There we were, a cluster of middle-aged women (her partner of 30 years, her sister, three close friends), gathered together for a small, subversive assault on boundaries of a different sort – the cemetery forbids non-official plantings (although the evidence we were not alone in our disobedience was all around us).

We took turns digging and spading, sprinkling fertilizer and soil and water, then carefully putting back as much sod as we could, patting it in place (and gently replacing two displaced earthworms), scattering fallen leaves to disguise any rough edges.  Clouds passed over while we worked, and it seemed briefly as though it might rain, but then the sun came out again, as though a benediction on our now-accomplished task.  We stood instinctively in a circle around the grave and looked at each other in silence for a minute, the sky blue, the sun bright, the dying leaves somehow still shouting their glory in living – much as our friend had, through her long fight with cancer.

Then, leaving the dead around us, we, the living, piled into our cars and headed for a late lunch at a bagel place (in Brooklyn, where else would we go?).  In the midst of death, we are in life.  Happy new year!  Oíche Shamhna mhaith daoibh!


  1. I remember her well too and think of her often. You did a good job. She did embrace life for all it was worth.

  2. Blessings of the day and the year, for those on this and the other side!

  3. Lovely way to spend your day…
    remembrance is love…

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