Friday, October 29, 2010

October Reclaimed

October is one of my favorite months, if not my favorite: growing up I couldn’t stop obsessing about crunchy autumn leaves, the soles of my shoes cracking through their veins and crumbling the leaves into piles of orange, brown, yellow, red. Some of my favorite memories involve diving into raked leaf piles, burying myself or being buried in them, their edges gently scratching my face and neck. Here in Portland autumn holds a different kind of beauty, and admittedly one that’s harder for me to latch onto fondly. The days get short, really short, and really quickly. Plus, your bones start to feel damp and instead of crunchy leaves you most often find yourself walking on sloppy, wet goop that used to resemble leaves! That being said, autumn is autumn, and the moon seems bigger and more haunting here, landscaped against the mountains. The Pacific Northwest has a certain haunted quality year-round, actually, some mystery living in the snowcapped mountains you can see outside Portland. This mystery almost echoes from the ocean just a couple hours west of here. Finally, Halloween is just around the corner, and I find myself just as excited to watch scary movies and dress up as to pass out candy to kids, pass some torch and ritual and phase of life onto them.

Last October kicked off a pretty intense (read: dark) period in my personal life, much of which I didn’t (and don’t) feel comfortable putting on this blog. I will say that I’m feeling better and stronger than ever, and that I couldn’t have reached this place unless I decided to face my own demons and ghosts and take a stance and exorcise some unhealthy ways of living my life, most especially inside my own heart. The last couple months, as with the rest of this year, have offered up plenty of surprises and chance encounters. Two of my new neighbors, A and T, have really stood out lately in my thoughts. About two weeks ago I was headed out to my car to go to work, and I saw A struggling to help T stand upright. T is about fourteen, and I could tell right away (his thin frail body, some psychic energy he was projecting) that he was sick, that he had some medical condition. His mom was trying to help him into the car. They decided to take a break, and T leaned against the picket fence and A stood by the car, her wiry gray hair poking out every which way from the clips. Instead of heading right to my car I decided to stop by and introduce myself. We ended up talking for five minutes or so, and I found out T was trying to feel stable enough so that he could go to school and not miss any more classes. He’s in the eighth grade. He and A moved here recently from Durango, Colorado, and they made the move because there would be better doctors and medical opportunities and hopefully breakthroughs to offer T some help and hope. (I don’t actually know at this point what T is sick with.) I felt an immediate connection with this mother-son team, and I’m sure it’s partly because I’m so close with my own mother, and here was this family who – so plainly and nakedly in front of their community – was struggling, literally, to make it through their day. Last week I saw them again; T was sitting up on the porch and A was in the garden. I stopped by and A was frustrated because the teachers weren’t being as accommodating to their needs as she’d hoped, and T was missing more school (he can’t use a wheelchair because the building doesn’t have an elevator and the classrooms are up on the second floor). A started talking with a fellow neighbor, something about gardening, I believe, so I sat on the porch steps next to T and he showed me his new “pet” slug, which A had rescued. The slug was resting on a bumpy rock. T seemed to think fondly of this slug, and we talked for a bit before I headed on my way. I look forward to more talks with both of them.

I’m grateful I’ve been able to embrace so much beauty this month. I feared, after last year, I might shy away from October – force its essence away, even – but I’ve been pretty darned good about tackling it with grace, directly. I visited Aaron and Stephenie in NYC, and we hiked on Bear Mountain in the Hudson Valley, where we met this spiritual young woman in a hoodie, who reminded me of some guardian angel or keeper of the gates. We also attended a puppet show at PuppetWorks, the marionettes for “Beauty and the Beast” almost dancing across the stage, the performers wowing us with their kindness and magic in that old theatre of lost arts, the puppets dangling on their strings all over the walls, fairy tale characters shadowed and loved. Back here in Portland, Gus and I were lucky enough to be invited to Meagan’s in-laws' beekeeping farm in Colton; so many kids dashed around and ate rice krispie treats and laughed, and Gus and I hiked out past the bees through the thicket of trees, and the whole group picked pumpkins in the patch so we could take them home, carve them, display them for the holiday. And there are a few fun things in store this weekend: a Day of the Dead belly dancing performance on Alberta Street tonight, The Thirteenth Door haunted house tomorrow night, scary movies and pizza and passing out candy to trick-r-treaters on Sunday. As for these stills from Scream 4, it’s A) in honor of the holiday season, and B) my way of saying, “I’m so excited for Scream 4 in April!”