I’d begun to wonder whether there would be any chance of cutting the grass again before Spring, so relentless has the rainy weather been this week. Then it stopped and the wind came blowing through to dry the ground briefly, just long enough that I could tidy the garden and harvest the three remaining pumpkins.
We won’t be carving these and scooping out their flesh, putting candles inside and sitting them on the doorstep waiting for children with plastic buckets full of sweets. We’ll be eating them.
The Halloween tradition is borne from the Celtic festival of Samhain when people believed that, on the 31st October, the night before their New Year, the dead returned to earth in order to cause trouble and damage crops. So they’d light bonfires and and put on frightening costumes to ward them off.
“I can’t stand Halloween” both my sister and my daughter tell me on the same day within a few hours of one another.
“You used to love it” I tell my daughter.
“Yes, when I was a kid” she says.
It’s an odd contradiction that the people who enjoy Halloween the most are the children, those of us with the fewest ghosts in our past and the least need to banish them.
We might not fear the threat of an actual ghost but perhaps it’s a time for us to ward off some aspects of ourselves which have a tendency to haunt us.
Reading about Iris Murdoch’s concept of “unselfing” through the act of concentration instead on the beauty of nature and art I look at the dog sleeping in her bed while I, in the half light, revel in getting up early to make use of the extra hour instead of sleeping through it.
The house is quiet, the air is chill compared with the past few days. The pumpkins sit obediently on the garden table having endured a night of heavy rain and a buffeting by the wind. Protected by their thick smooth skin I wonder how different life would have been if my skin had been like theirs.
Walking with Daisy in the park I notice the tiniest of things I would never have seen alone. A wild flower hanging on for dear life and an intricate web illuminated by the rain. While she is busy licking water from a blade of grass I stare up at the vast maple with its claret and amber leaves.
Here, it is almost impossible to be concerned with my own vanities and insecurities, as she tears through the muddy tracks towards the water and then stands dripping with her head pointing upward as if reading the morning wind.
Later there are jobs to do and things to deal with but, right now, we are almost unseen. We are ghosts.