The End of Summer

Samain                                                                      Healing Moon

SamainSamain. The end of summer. The end of fall. The end of the growing season. The time of quiet and darkness and cold. Ushered in here on Shadow Mountain with 6 or 7 inches of wet snow. Welcome. Winter has come.

The veil thins. The always resonant link between the living and the dead thrums, pulses. A moment to consider those who have died, to remember them, celebrate their lives or appease their spirits. Most present to me right now are 11 lives ended in Pittsburgh, people I didn’t know, but with whom I share a spiritual connection. They left the living under circumstances so horrific as to be unimaginable, except, of course, circumstances also all too common here. All the horror this Halloween needs.

Samain is also the beginning of holiseason (though to be fair with my Jewish inflected life holiseason really begins on the first day of Tishrei with Rosh Hashanah.). This long dormant time causes humans affected by it to want gatherings, lights, gifts, bravery in the face of potential starvation. It is, as a result, peppered with holydays, days of family and friends and feasts, days that encourage both standing over against our fear of bleakness and ample opportunities to pause, reflect, and embrace it.

dias de los muertosThe wings of the angel of death hover, whirring. They brush the air past our souls. We feel it, a faint quiver. He is never far away, never at rest, never near the end of his duty. Murders, catastrophes like Tree of Life, Pulse, Columbine, 9/11 are not awful because people die. We all die. They are awful because these are lives ended too soon, with malice, through hatred and venality.

I prefer the wonderful Day of the Dead with its playful, joyous overtones. Like the Nayarit House in the collection of the Minneapolis Institute of Arts we all dine with our dead. On the day of the dead we remember that. At each shabbat service near the end kaddish is said for all those mourning a recent loss and for all those celebrating a yahrzeit, the anniversary of a death. In this sense each Jewish service is a rolling Dia de Muertos.

47.2.37On this day, Samain, summer’s end, the season of vitality, growth, the season which replenishes those things we need to sustain life comes to a close for another cycle. As it does, we remember those whose vitality and presence shaped our own lives, just as later, after our deaths, others will remember us. I suppose this could sound grim, but I don’t experience it that way. I’m more of the Mexican, Latin American spirit in this regard.

However you experience it this is a day when memory underscores the unique value of each day, each moment. Ichi-go, Ichi-e. This time, right now, is once in a lifetime. Savor it, don’t gloss over it, don’t let worry blot out your attention. Happy Halloween.



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