Trick or Treat

source: Sniety Grail Photos via Pinterest

Halloween, with Thanksgiving as its precursor (here in Canada, anyway), is my favourite time of year. I love the otherworldliness, the endless possibilities of the imagination, the food, the excitement, the blurring of lines between that which is real and that which is not.

It’s probably the Celt in me. Samhain, All Hallows’ Eve, Hallowe’en – it has been called many things through the ages – is the Celtic New Year, one of the most important festivals on the Celtic calendar.

It was the one night of the year that the Celts believed the lines between this world and the next were blurred. There were warnings about this night, that if you heard something behind you, you were not to turn around, for it was the spirits of the dead. If you looked back, if you saw them, who knew what would happen to you? Probably you would be scared to death, dragged back to the spirit world, or driven insane.

People dressed in costume so that the dead would not recognize them, and carried hollowed out turnips, lit with candles, as lanterns to banish some of the darkness.

It was also thought that on this night, one’s ancestors returned to roam the land (traditionally it would still be the family land) and that they may even enter one’s house and sit down to dinner with their descendants. Some would even set a place for them at the supper table or leave food for them on the doorstep.

Today the Daily Prompt asks, if bloggers had their own Halloween and could go from blog to blog collecting “treats,” what would your blog hand out?

At the Silver Leaf Journal, you would get a cup of strong, spiced dark hot chocolate for warmth and courage, a traditional jack-o-lantern to light your way, pomegranates to remember Persephone’s trip to the Underworld, a piece of barmbrack to tell your fortune, and other traditional snacks such as salted pumpkin seeds and toffee apples, to keep you well-fed until you made it home safely.

Oh, and a story or two.

Happy Halloween, Happy Samhain!

Trick-or-treating at other bloggers’:

  1. Happy Halloween!!! | Jab and Cross followed by Cross and Stitch
  2. Trick or Treat | Kate Murray
  3. All Hallows’ Eve – Valencia style | Beth Byrnes
  4. Treats for Bloggers | piran café
  5. milk and cookies | yi-ching lin photography
  6. I Would Literally Blow Your Mind | sayanything
  7. Daily Prompt: Trick or Treat | Under the Monkey Tree
  8. Treat | Rebecca Barray
  9. Daily Prompt: Trick or Treat | Awl and Scribe
  10. Ghost Post 31: Treacherous Trio | writemybrainsout
  11. Daily Prompt/ treat at sweetwildflower’s | sweetwildflower
  12. Halloween Treats For Bloggers | Tony’s Texts
  13. Daily prompt: TREAT | I Spy with My Little Eye…
  14. The Light is ON, Come Knock on the Door! | Not a Punk Rocker
  15. Hotmyzhsk of Belgorod Region, Russia. October 23, 2011 | Bright Moments Catcher
  16. Milkweed Pods (Treat) | photo potpourri
  17. DP: Trick or Treat! | The Deepwater Goldfish
  18. Evening | Nature Activities
  19. Daily Prompt: Trick or Treat | The Story of a Guy
  20. I’ll be handing out… | Hope* the happy hugger
  21. Let Them Eat Cake Or Candy | The Jittery Goat
  22. Daily Prompt Halloween Special! | aliceatwonderland
  23. Sticks and Bones | CurTales
  25. My Life is a Trick and Treat « MID-DAY SPRITZER
  26. Halloween’s Treats | Flowers and Breezes
  27. Bowtie Beau! | Not the Family Business!
  28. Daily Prompt; Your Halloween treat | sixty, single and surviving
  29. Trick or Treat | A mom’s blog
  30. Poor Old Paul the Pumpkin… | EW Brown
  31. Daily prompt – Halloween!!! | Just some random thoughts
  32. Halloween: 11th anniversary of living in Ireland! | Daily Prompt: Trick or Treat | Ireland, Multiple Sclerosis & Me
  33. Trick or Treat | Kansa Muse
  34. Trick or Treat? | puncta lucis
  35. Daily Prompt: Trick or Treat | Rewired and Retired in Nicaragua
  36. Treats | Fruit Salad
  37. Daily Prompt| A Visual Treat For You | The Lovely Photog
  38. Daily Prompt: Treats | My Atheist Blog
  39. Here’s a Halloween Treat for You.. | mostlytrueramblings
  40. S. Thomas Summers | Happy Halloween!
  41. This ‘N’ That Halloween! | Haiku By Ku
  42. Vote for Top Dog! | Farfetched Friends
  43. HALLOWEEN PROMPT | hastywords
  44. “Trick or Treat” | Relax
  45. Daily Prompt: Trick or Treat | Pretty Pleasures
  46. A Poem: Trick or Treat? | I Hope You’re Taking Notes
  47. Daily Prompt: Trick or Treat | Chronicles of an Anglo Swiss
  48. Daily Prompt: Trick or Treat | A Mixed Bag
  49. Trick or Treat? | Journey to the Centre of My Heart
  50. Ain’t no Sunshine when she’s gone | I’m just Super Saiyan
  51. When the Veil Between Worlds Drops | An Upturned Soul
  52. Likes and follows | Life is great

The Doorway of the House: A Folktale at Samhain

This is a story I wrote in the fall of 1996 for my Celtic Studies Folklore class at university. We were supposed to research and write about the Celtic folklore tradition but I decided to take it a step further and write my own folktale. I tried to use the style and voice of the traditional Irish tales we had been studying. 

This is the story of a visitor not acquainted with these parts, who was quickly introduced to our land, and who left again, just as quickly. He came not long ago and, in his short time here, he came across those creatures who inhabit the other world and the many doorways between that other world and ours.

These doorways exist in both time and space; there are certain times of the year and the day during which the line between the two worlds blurs. There are also places on this Earth that allow the two worlds to meet.

The most common doorway used by the spirits in our world, and indeed I have seen it myself, is found between the inside and the outside of a house. At certain times, crossing the threshold to the regions beyond is dangerous, as is not protecting your threshold from otherworldly beings roaming without.

Had our visitor known these things, he might have been prepared for the world awaiting him. As it happened, he did not.

This visitor came from America to settle the affairs of his late grandfather. Now, his grandfather had lived his life among us, but Bob Smith had never before seen Ireland. Well, he came over in a ship, being afraid of flying, and landed on the banks of West Munster, just down the road there, on the day of Samhain.

My wife met him not far from the landing spot and he told her of his journey over.

‘Twas a fair journey. He boarded the ship in the Boston Harbour on a sunny morning. The first days passed by, as you can imagine, slowly and uneventfully. As the boat entered Ireland’s waters, Bob came up on deck to see how much longer it would be. He was just thinking how grey everything looked and felt when he happened to look down over the edge of the boat. And what did he see but the dry land, with heather growing on it and no water at all.

He was alarmed and ran to find the captain, for you see, he was not acquainted with the work of the Good Folk. Unable to find him, Bob returned to his room to gather his bags, figuring his vision was the result of too many days at sea.

Upon reaching the shore, several passengers, and Bob along with them, stepped out of the boat and into the fog that was rolling off the sea. As he turned to wonder that more people were not with them, he could find no trace nor tidings of the boat, as if the sea and the fog had swallowed it up.

Shaking his head and thinking that the tales of Ireland’s poor weather were not exaggerated after all, he made his way up the hill towards my wife.

As I have said before, my wife met Bob a little ways up from the shore. She introduced herself and asked about his journey over. Hearing him tell of his vision in a mocking, sarcastic tone, she tried to explain to him the work of the Good Folk. She warned him that he must respect, not mock them, for they hear what we say.

She also tried to explain that there are certain times and places that are like doorways between our two worlds – the mist and the water and even the West of Ireland, for example. She explained, too, that the sea contains a parallel world, and that that must have been what Bob had seen. And Bob arrived on Samhain, the time of year when there exists almost no division between the supernatural and the natural, the night that the Sidhe mounds open and the fairies become more active. She also warned him that the fairy folk travel between this world and the other through the cracks in time at the rising and the setting of the sun, when it is neither day nor night.

“So you see,” she explained finally, “if you are in the right place at the right time, you can sometimes see Them and feel Them. But I wouldn’t think you would be wanting to.”

But Bob was foolish and he passed her off as a silly, superstitious woman.

This was his first mistake, for she was right to warn him. The Good Folk must have heard his disrespect, for what happened to him that night was surely Their revenge.

Now, the fairies are not exactly evil. They can be good and generous, just as They can be vindictive. Surely you have heard of Puck? But They do not like to be disrespected.

That first evening, Bob settled into his grandfather’s house with a meal my wife had made for him. He was just sitting down to it as the sun set in the west when he spied a small shadow passing through the beams of the red sun rays. But not believing in the spirits, he shook his head and paid the shadow no attention.

My wife and I had told Bob earlier that no matter what he chose to believe, he must set all the dirty water and fire ashes outside the house at night, sweep the hearth, and go to bed.  And he must not go outside. Inquiring why this was so, Bob was annoyed to be told that these were precautions against any bad things which might come into the house.

Finishing his supper, then, Bob began to feel curious about the house and land his grandfather had owned. He poked about inside and then went out.

Remember, the sun had set and it was the night of Samhain. Well, he went out anyway.

Whatever mischief had occurred during the day, thirty-three times more mischief occurred that night – on either side of the threshold of his grandfather’s house. You see, he had not done the things we had told him he must, nor had he heeded our warnings.

Outside the house, Bob heard laughter and footsteps approaching in several directions, but he saw no one. Anyone could have told him that the air was full of Them.

Feeling uneasy, Bob decided to go back inside. The dirty water was still in the house and the fire was still alight in the hearth, but the kettle that Bob had left to boil was on the floor and was cold.

Deciding enough was enough, Bob went to bed without his tea.

From his bed, he could see the hearth and the table at which he had eaten. He lay watching the firelight flicker through the room. Then, he caught sight of one of Them in the corner by the door. Folks who have seen Them say They have a hardy look and dress in red. This One that Bob saw did, too. He danced around in a little red cap and pants, and a short red coat.

Bob lay still, trying not to move, and watched, unable to look away.

In came Another by the door, this One a girl, and dressed in grey, and then Another. After a while, the room was filled with Them and Their laughter and dancing. Bob was too frightened to move and suddenly wished he had done as we had bidden him to. But it was too late now and he would not stir from his bed.

The elves and fairies kept dancing, paying no attention to him or to anything else, but Bob soon noticed a chair drawing near the fire. No one appeared to have moved it, but there it was, moving toward the hearth. Then all the furniture began moving through the house as though it, too, was part of the dance. But that one chair by the fire stood still.

Bob lay watching, his fear turning to anger. He was trying to figure out what he could do to bring an end to all that was happening. He did not like being at the mercy of these creatures and did not intend to spend what was beginning to feel like an eternity, sharing his house with Them. He arose and ran into the room, trying to scare Them off.

Most paid little attention to him, but Some, Those with wings, flew above his head. He cursed Them, saying “damn fairies!” It is not right to use Their names like that and so, of course, he brought more ill luck upon himself.

He just about caught One, but he scared It and It disappeared into thin air.

Suddenly, the house fell quiet and he realized they were all gone out the door. He smiled, figuring he had scared off the supposedly powerful creatures. Not so.

As he lay back down, the door opened and who should he standing there, but his grandfather, the one who had died. His grandfather came in, as if he was coming home. He went to the fire and warmed his hands, as many spirits of the dead are said to do, and sat in the chair that had been made ready for him at the hearth-side.

The unprotected house was opened to all spirits that night; there were none that did not come inside. His grandfather sat in the chair all the while, as the spirits came and went by the door.

As day broke, the house finally fell quiet. Bob arose, packed his things and came in search of my wife and me. He had had enough, he said, and asked me to accompany him to the ship, for he would to spend another night in Ireland.

On our way to the docks, Bob acted rather queer. We passed by a stream and he asked me if I heard the music or saw the One in the tree. I did not, but I’m sure that he did, for They were surely up to Their tricks again. I think that They were seeing him off, making sure that he would leave. They do not have as much power in the day as They do at sunrise or sunset, but this One scared him all the same.

I saw him off shortly after and returned home, passing by his grandfather’s house on the way. I walked up to the window and looked in. The tables and chairs had been upturned and everything within was in disarray.

Let that be a lesson to you. Beware of the fairies, their comings and goings from this world to that, and above all, beware of ignorance. May all who hear this tale learn from Bob.

That’s my story and if there’s a lie in it, let there be. I saw it all myself.

Regarding Eternity

Did Eugenia know then? Did she know what she would say when asked the question, when faced with eternity?

Possibly not. Or maybe it was hidden deep within her heart, waiting to come out.

In all likelihood, on that afternoon she was blissfully unaware.

It was a Thursday.

She sat down, quiet, calm, in the sunny afternoon. Just another weekday. A weekday like all the others. It was cool, the first real chill of the year. And of course, it was Halloween. But otherwise, an unremarkable day.

She breathed deeply and noted that she felt like being a touch luxurious. She turned on some jazz, made a cup of black espresso, snapped off a piece of cinnamon-infused dark chocolate, and allowed her gaze to drift out the window.

Eugenia lived alone and valued her time to herself. She had converted the front half of her first floor into a small office from which she sourced and sold hard-to-find antique books. She had a short list of select clients who, in this age of big box bookstores, came to her for her personal touch, her familiarity, and her coffee.

She was able to choose her hours and enjoyed the seclusion and silence her way of life afforded her.

On this afternoon, she sat at the desk in her office among her books, allowing her mind to drift. She watched the branches swaying on the tree outside as she distractedly sipped her coffee and ate more chocolate than she had intended.

At some point, the lights seemed to dim, leaving a spotlight, a halo, falling softly about her.

Her thoughts alighted upon a dream, or perhaps it was a memory, maybe a story in a book.

In the dream, there was a house. In front of the house stood a statue. And during certain nights of the year, the statue would come alive.

For a moment, Eugenia pondered this, allowing her imagination to wander through the scene.  She tried to remember where the story had come from.

Then her eyes focused, as though a lens had been adjusted on a camera to make a blurry image crystal clear, and she realized for the first time that the house across the street, the house she had been gazing at in a trance, had just such a statue outside.

Rising from her chair, she walked slowly through the room without looking away. She stopped at the window and kept her eyes on the view across the street. She had always been drawn to that place. Had often found herself standing at this window or that, looking across and thinking that there was something indefinable about it. Something magnetic, a sort of gravitational pull that always stopped her in her tracks, however briefly, when she looked out at it.

It was an old brick house, at least 150 years old, with soft, cream trim. It was large, with an elegant and stately verandah along its front side, facing the street and protecting the front door and heritage picture window from the wind that whistled and whipped up the leaves in the cold.

A maple, older than the house, towered over the property. Its branches, now bare, scraping across the black roof like so many witches’ fingers, its broad trunk rough and peeling. A wrought iron fence ran around the whole property, passing just outside the tree, protecting the grounds from intruders. The little gate had been left to swing open on its hinges, though, and it seemed to be welcoming, beckoning her to cross the street, pass through the gate and up the black cobbled path through the garden.

She turned away for a moment, sensing something she couldn’t name, then looked back at the garden itself. Shrubs grew in the front, under the tree and rising up before the verandah. Scattered here and there among the leaves were blooms that, even in this cold weather, appeared curiously fresh and bright.

The statue stood among the shrubs and flowers. She almost looked like a real maiden as she stood there, gazing up into the tree, or perhaps at the sky, her face open and bright, her hands clasped behind her back. She wore a crown of flowers in her long hair and a simple draping gown that, if real, might have been made of thin, white linen.

Eugenia noticed the silence, then, and realized that her music had stopped. Roused from her daze, she turned away from the window to find another album.

Inexplicably, she forgot what she was doing and did not put any music on. Instead, she walked past the stereo to the front door, put on her shoes, and went out.

She crossed the street and stood at the little gate she had been watching from her window.

The wind died down and again, she had the sense that the light was dimming everywhere around her, except directly overhead. She seemed to be standing in a sunbeam meant only for her and for the house she was facing.

From this angle, the flowers and garden seemed to sparkle, as though coated with the fairy dust of legends and tall tales.

It must be the way the sun is hitting everything, she thought.

Eugenia paused again to look at the statue from outside the garden gate, and then almost instinctively, passed through onto the cobbled path.

She did not turn back, and so did not notice that the gate behind her had shut.

In front of her, a girl was bending over the flowers in the garden. She was young and dressed simply in a long, white linen dress. Although it had been cold only moments ago, the garden felt warm and the girl’s clothing did not seem out of place.

Without a trace of self-consciousness, Eugenia cleared her throat and said “hello” quietly, not wishing to disturb the girl.

The girl did not appear surprised; it was as though she had been expecting Eugenia. She only half turned her face to smile and say, “hello, welcome,” and then turned back to her garden.

Eugenia watched her for a few minutes and then stepped forward.

“I’m Eugenia,” she began.

“Yes, I know. And I am Chloe.”

“Do you know me?” asked Eugenia.

Chloe only smiled over her shoulder, and then turned back to her garden once more.

Eugenia stood and watched the girl for a few minutes.

Finally, Chloe spoke again. “Please, have a seat, you must be tired.”

Eugenia realized then that she was indeed a bit tired and, looking around, saw that the sun was already setting and the brightest stars were shining in an indigo sky. She sat down on the soft, mossy ground and leaned against the trunk of the maple tree. Her eyes closed and she breathed in the sweet, warm smell of the flowers and the earth.

She must have fallen asleep, for she jolted awake to find that night had now descended completely. For the first time since entering the garden, she thought of her home across the street and had the uneasy feeling that she should not be in this garden.

Standing slowly, she brushed the earth and leaves from her clothes and looked around. The flowering shrubs were bare; their flowers and leaves had blown away while Eugenia was asleep. And Chloe was no longer gardening. Instead, Eugenia noticed the white marble statue standing where it had been when she had been looking at it from her own house. Now she was sure that the statue had not been there earlier, when she had first entered the garden.

She walked closer to get a better look at it and, seeing the upturned face, realized that it had been carved to look like Chloe.

Deciding it was time to leave, she turned down the path toward the gate. Although the path was short, she did not seem to be able to draw closer to the gate no matter how many steps she took.

The wind picked up and the fallen leaves danced about Eugenia’s feet as she shivered, looking back over her shoulder with a dawning unease.

A cloaked figure was standing in the shadows on the verandah. Although she could not see his face, she was sure that it was a man and that he had been watching her.

“So, you met Chloe,” he said in a deep but whispered voice.

Without waiting for an answer, he continued. “Her name means ‘the green shoot’ in Greek. Do you know the story of Demeter and Persephone?”

Eugenia stood transfixed in the middle of the path expecting him to continue.

After a few moments of silence, he did, but his voice when it came again was louder, harsher.

“Are you in the habit of walking into your neighbours’ gardens? It is probably not wise. You never know what you might find in there. Or where you might end up.”

You have happened upon us at a time of transition. Transition between day and night, light and dark, summer and winter, life and death, Chloe’s time and mine. Do you think most people, if offered the choice, would choose life and death, or eternity?”

Eugenia had looked briefly at the statue when the man had mentioned Chloe, in fact she thought he might have gestured toward it himself. She had been thinking about the story of Demeter and Persephone, and was trying to figure out how Chloe fit into its archetypal personification of the seasons. It took her a minute to understand the man’s almost off-handed question.

“You’re asking me if most people would want to live out a normal life and then die, or if they would choose immortality?” she asked. She thought she should, for her own safety, at least try to answer the question. “I think that, without thinking it through, most people would choose immortality.”

Having answered him, she turned again, hoping to leave.

His voice reached her again. “If I offered you a glimpse of eternity, would you accept it?” And then, in almost a whisper, “There would be a small price, of course.”

For some reason, on this night, in this garden, under the power of the cloaked man and in the shadow of Chloe’s statue, she was able to consider his question without distinguishing between truth and fiction, without fully realizing how strange the conversation was.

As she did so, she grew more fearful of the man before her and her apparent imprisonment in the garden. She thought for a moment of her house, just across the street, her books, her clients. Would they come looking for her if she disappeared?

But almost as soon as this thought had come to her, it was gone again, banished by the sudden memory of the story or dream she had been trying to recall earlier in the day. She realized that she had been dreaming it not long ago, when she fell asleep against the tree while Chloe gardened.

In the dream, the house had loomed large in front of her, the statue lifeless in the garden. As Eugenia watched, night fell and the statue had come alive, becoming Chloe. Chloe had stepped off her pedestal then, stretched her arms and turned toward the house, beckoning for Eugenia to follow.

They had walked up the steps and through the front doors, passing soundlessly down  darkened halls. She had peered into old, lavishly furnished rooms as she passed their doors but now she could not remember precisely what she saw there. She knew, though, that they contained mysteries, horrors, and secrets no human is meant to know. And then, at the end of the hall, Chloe had stopped and opened a door. As Eugenia peered through the dark, she saw the cloaked, faceless man and realized before she fell forward into the darkness that this door led below ground.

Before she awoke, she had had the fleeting sense that the Earth was smaller than she had ever imagined and that the Universe stretched large and dark around her.

As she struggled to pull herself out of the memory of her dream, she saw the cloaked man reach out to her and felt herself lifting one foot after the other as she moved toward him and toward the house.

She realized then that she had already answered his question, that she had already made her decision.

The Man with the Limp

It was early, 6 am, the morning before Halloween. It was still dark, and storm clouds had gathered overhead. A soft, wet snow fell here and there. The first snow of the season.

Most of the houses lay in darkness, their occupants still asleep.

At this hour, there are only a few people up and moving on the streets; the early morning runners, those returning from a late night on the town, the night shift workers, and the guys who comb the curbs in search of useful refuse and bottles they can return for cash.

A shadow moved down Charles Street. No one noticed him, no one saw him.

He was faceless, nameless, nondescript. He carried a black umbrella to protect him from the snow, the prying eyes he was sure were there, and to hide him from those who might attack. He imagined them around every corner, waiting in the shadows for him. He could hear their voices.

But there was something he had to do before he gave in and went back to the little cot in the cold room. It was just a bit further now.

He couldn’t believe it when he had seen it the other day. At long last. He had searched and searched and then, there it was, waiting for him. It had spoken to him and told him so. He would finally reclaim it today – now.

Just another block to go. His left foot was dragging badly and he tried to lift it as he moved along, wanting to speed up but not wanting to make any noise in the quiet neighbourhood.

Surely they would be right there, the moment he grabbed it. The voices. He would have to run quickly then so that they wouldn’t get him, wouldn’t steal it back from him. He had already decided to duck down the little path between the houses and the trees. His escape route.

There it was!

“I’m coming to get you, Stan,” he mumbled under his breath as he arrived at the house. Holding his umbrella tighter and closer to his head, he bent down a bit and sloped over to the little garden on the far side of the driveway.

He paused for a moment to look at the broken headstone and the cobwebs, thinking how sad it was that it had fallen into such ruin. Shaking his head, he reached down and grabbed the skull. He looked both ways suspiciously and checked over his shoulder.

He allowed himself a second to stroke the cheek, muttering “Stan” several times to himself or, rather, to the skull, and thinking of happier times when his brother had been alive.

As the voices began to close in on him, he turned and with controlled and measured steps, made his way down the sidewalk to the path, as he had planned.

An hour later, a small boy came out his front door to catch the school bus. He stopped to look at his Halloween decorations and could not believe that the skull was missing. It was the best part of the spooky graveyard he and his mother had built in their garden. They had set it up to look like it went with the old, web-strewn headstone. But now it was gone!

His mother, when he told her about it, thought it had probably been stolen by some drunken college kids who thought it was a funny prank.

No one would have guessed that it was the quiet man with the limp who lived around the corner. Nor would they have imagined why he did it.

Finally, Stan’s ghost had gone quiet and had left him in peace.

Mid-Season Thoughts on Autumn

It comes in flashes, like so many flickering, falling leaves, raining down in gold and orange and crimson.

Thoughts, memories of autumns past. Of Thanksgivings.

I am a small child again, walking with my grandfather to my piano lesson. We are kicking up the leaves on the sidewalk at dusk, enjoying their crunching, swishing sound, their sweet scent, and laughing as we kick them, too, at each other’s ankles. We pause to share a KitKat bar.

Then, I am older, raking up leaves with my father in the back yard. Begging him to let me run and jump into them. Finally, he says yes and I disappear into a floating, crinkling cloud of browns and oranges. Somehow I am held aloft in their softness.

Next we are at the cottage, the deep blue fall sky reflected in the white-capped waves on the lake. The grey logs of the house stand out against so many colours. My grandparents have just arrived, driving through the multi-coloured tapestried walls of birch and beech and maple. The smell of woodsmoke is carried on the wind with the scents of Thanksgiving cooking. A fragrant chicken is roasting, with oranges and carrots and celery. A pumpkin pie, my favourite dessert, sits cooling on the counter.

Over the weekend, as with other Thanksgivings at the cottage, we will prepare the Christmas cakes, each person stirring once for good luck and making a wish. And my mother, grandmother and great-aunt will together make my Halloween costume. Another family tradition. Will it be a lady bug? A harlequin? A cat?

I fast forward to Ireland. I am 23 and away from home for Thanksgiving for the first time. I am living with three other people. It doesn’t feel too much like fall in Ireland. The leaves stay green for the most part, but the cool damp air is noticeably cooler. I search out the Canadian section of the arboretum – there are five small maples, a speck of home, glowing in their bright foliage against a sea of emerald green.

A group of us from the housing estate have a dinner party once a month and each of us takes turns cooking dinner. As it is Thanksgiving, I have elected to cook dinner this time. I am not cooking a traditional Thanksgiving feast, though. I am cooking my own memory of Canadian food: a large trout broiled with onions and tarragon and lemon, carrots with basil, potatoes. If I close my eyes while it cooks, I can smell the cottage.

Another year, I come home from Ireland for a visit. I’ve chosen to come home at Thanksgiving because I miss Canadian autumns. I go to my dad’s and his wife’s for a lunch in the countryside. Her family is there and we all go for a walk in the field.  The grass is tawny, the sky is deep and limitless, the trees are in their full glory. It is wonderful to see these colours again!

And then, my last Thanksgiving in Ireland, though I don’t know it at the time. I am 27. I make cranberry sauce, roast chicken with sage and thyme bread stuffing, mashed potatoes and green beans and carrots and apple pie. It is almost a real Thanksgiving.

Before I know it, I am home again, living in Ottawa. My mother gathers everyone to her country house in Kingston – halfway between Toronto, where she and her brother and my grandmother and great-aunt live, and where I and my cousin and her husband live. We are all there. The trees are alight, the cool brown river rushes past, tumbling over rocks and the cement of an old dam.  It is Thanksgiving once again.

Two years later, I have a son. I take him out into the wonders of the fall colours. I press red leaves into his hands. I wonder how this world looks from his perspective, this world that so far in his life has only been green, is now multi-hued. I can hardly wait to talk to him about it, to hear his thoughts. To know what his favourite season is.

And now, 8 years later, another Thanksgiving. My son is excited for Halloween, and for tomorrow night’s pumpkin pie. We reminisced this past week about the previous years that we collected coloured leaves, pressing them between sheets of waxed paper and hanging them in the sunlight to glow like stained glass windows.

He and my husband are up on an adventure run in the forest as I begin the task of cooking my favourite foods. I’m looking forward to hearing all about the colours and the trees up there – they are always brighter earlier there than they are down here in the city.

My favourite season, with its flaming colours, pumpkin pies, cool temperatures, deep blue skies, and Thanksgiving and Halloween, is entirely too short.

So, yes, I am glad to be moving into this new season. I hope it lasts awhile, that it does not flash past in the blink of an eye this time.