This year my children collaborated on a jack-o-lantern. They carved it at youth group, while I was at my writer's group, and when they came home they deposited it on the front porch, where it sat all week, as if I, festive homeowner, were responsible for it.
We lit it tonight, a proud pumpkin that hosted not a single trick-or-treater.
I had bought Reese's and 3 Musketeers minis, and they nestle still in a plastic bowl in the kitchen, waiting for me to poison myself with them (my body no longer digests milk chocolate).
Daughter spent Hallowe'en with her girlfriends, at a house where the dad had taken over the garage with an ultra-elaborate Hallowe'en village, filled with electrified gadgets, a skeleton rising out of a coffin, action figures, a train wending through a neighborhood of haunted houses. At the center of the village, an Egyptian scene with a temple made out of polysterene, real sand, fake palm trees.
Son and I took a late afternoon walk, and as we passed through a leafy glen, I told him that there would be no better day in the year. It was still warm, and the leaves here were just beginning to turn. Crickets still gave off a gentle pulse. It was as if summer was an old man, and the crickets his heartbeat.
Later we had fajitas, which is not a traditional Hallowe'en food, and watched Hitchcock's Rear Window, which is #16 on imdb.com's top 250, but not a traditional scary movie.
There was nothing traditional about tonight, which is traditionally the Irish New Year, Samhain, the moment in time when the world skips from one state into another. In the moment of that skip from and into, the fear of being betwixt and between, neither one nor the other, causes the spirits to be present. Spirits can smell fear the way we can still smell 3 Musketeers on an empty candy wrapper.
For my son and me, the spirits that hover are present in the form of yeast. I mixed wheat and water several days ago, and left it out in a loosely covered crock. I kept feeding the mixture more flour and water, and by the third day there were bubbles. Wild yeast, which is present in the air, had descended into the inviting crock and taken up residence, feeding on the natural sugar in the flour.
Today I visited a bakery and came home with more yeast-infected dough. I am now the proud owner of two sourdough starters. My house smells alternately like wet latex paint, spilled, warm champagne, and the dregs of a bowl of cream of wheat, sitting in the sink.
All good smells, as far as I'm concerned.
At the bakery, the owner and I spoke about owning a small business, and fear of failure came up. "That's the key," he told me. "If you're afraid, you can't do it."
Fear is what we seem to have a surfeit of nowadays. Everyone is afraid that the economy is going down the drain, or that Obama is a socialist.
But I'm optimistic, on this night when traditionally we move from one year to the next. I'm optimistic because we are also moving from one president to the next, and I do feel as if we have a chance to be better. There is a new ferment, a new starter.
Some folks think the world is ending in 2012. The makers of this video don't think so. If I had to bet, I wouldn't go against the folks in the video. My kids, the carvers of the jack-o-lantern, are part of them.