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Letting the Skeleton Out of the Closet

I wasn't kidding about the skeleton in my closet! Sculpture by Jean Claude Soulouque

I wasn’t kidding about the skeleton in my closet! Sculpture by Jean Claude Soulouque

Labor Day has passed and suddenly, it’s fall. Of course, in the scientific sense, it is not fall until the autumnal equinox has occurred. This is when the sun shines directly on the Equator and the length of day and night are very nearly equal, happening this year on Sept. 23rd at 08:22 Universal Coordinated Time, according to timeanddate.com, just in case you were wondering. All of that is well and good – not to mention precise – but to me, fall has arrived already. The school busses are back in the neighborhhood, the temperatures are starting their blessed annual slide, and if I look very, very carefully, I can see the first signs that the leaves are starting to loosen their grip on the twigs and branches above me. That is all the proof I need.

So all of that reminds me that I have a skeleton in the closet that should come out. Maybe not right away, but at least I should start thinking about it. I might try carrying him around a little bit, give him some air, and see if if I can’t find a fresh, new spot for him to while away the hours. Yes, it is time to generate some new decorating ideas for the Day of the Dead and Halloween next month!

I have had my skeleton for a couple of years now, and I tell you, I love it. But every year it is the same. I put it on one of my two front porch pillars and there it hangs, like a macabre sentinel, guarding the Door of Dread. It looks good – great, in fact, if I may say so. But still, it’s got other possibilities. I just need to find them.

Should I dress him up? Hang him elsewhere? Use him in some other manner? The first two below are my favorites. What do you think?

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Contributed by Linda for It’s Cactus

It’s Never Over

All Souls Procession in Tucson 2013

All Souls Procession in Tucson 2013

According to the calendar, the Day of the Dead has come and gone for 2014.  But just because the calendar says so, doesn’t mean it IS so.  In Tucson, AZ, it ain’t over ’til it’s over.  The largest Day of the Dead celebration in the country will occur in the form of the “All Soul’s Processional” this Sunday at nightfall.

The Procession was born in 1990 in the mind of Susan Johnson as a creative means to express her grief.  Mourning the recent passing of her father and inspired by Mexico’s Dia de los Muertos observances, Johnson felt she wanted to honor her father in celebration and through performance art.  Her piece was enthusiastically  received and the Tucson art community was moved to perpetuate the Procession as a new and growing tradition.
This year, up to  100,000 participants are expected to parade on the streets of downtown Tucson for a two-mile long, brilliantly costumed procession that culminates in the burning of a large urn filled with handwritten offerndas from the public in memory of deceased loved ones. Inside the event are myriads of installation art, altars, and performers, some of whom have spent months in preparation for the event. The All Souls Procession, and indeed, the entire All Souls Weekend is a celebration of rememberance for those who have gone before.  Read all about the event here – and maybe even get inspired to create an “All Souls” event in your area! http://allsoulsprocession.org/
The Day of the Dead is wildly celebrated at “It’s Cactus,” too. The store and the website are filled all year ’round with Day of the Dead art in a wide variety of media, colors, shapes, sizes and price ranges.  (Click here to view the wonderous array. https://www.itscactus.com/catalog/Day_of_Dead-45-1.html )  At “It’s Cactus,” it just ain’t over when it’s over.  It’s NEVER over!
Contributed by Linda for It’s Cactus

Skeletons and Black Licorice

October is upon us and the change of season is in evidence.

This skull (HT162) is made from recycled metal in Haiti. The Day of the Dead is celebrated exuberantly there and is known in Kreyol as “Fete des Morts.”

Leaves are turnining brilliant shades of red and orange and gold and perhaps you’ve had a glistening of frost as the morning sun has risen.  Change appears  in the markets, too as the fresh produce now includes squash, pumpkins and other gourds in a fantastic palette, as well as apples, pears, and delicious newly pressed ciders.  In our homes, we take down trimmings in summer hues and exchange them for those with a harvest theme, Halloween, or Day of the Dead.

Having grown up in the Midwest, harvest decorating came rather naturally to me, as did Halloween.  Day of the Dead took a little warming up to.  And a no small amount of instruction.  In fact, I thought ALL of those skeletons were a little creepy, if not downright macabre.  I didn’t understand the holiday as a form of remembrance and reflection, a time of happy memories of those friends and family who are no longer with us.  I didn’t get that in many places around the world, it is a time dedicated to going to cemeteries, tidying up the gravesites, freshening up the flower arrangements, having a picnic with special foods and sharing stories about loved ones who have “gone before.” That it’s actually much more like Memorial Day than a festival of witches and goblins for trick-or-treaters. (For a more detailed description, visit  http://www.celebrate-day-of-the-dead.com/)

The first time I took the plunge and decided to “go” Day of the Dead, I did so with some trepidation.  My father-in-law had passed away early in the summer and my mother-in-law, who was still very raw from the pain of loss, was visiting us for a couple of weeks.  I quietly started getting out old family photos and arranged some flowers in vases. I took the only three skeletons I had out and put together a shrine to my husband’s and my grandparents, explaining the Day of the Dead traditions as I understood them to my mother-in-law as I went along.  Then I turned to her and said, “How would you feel about putting one together for Pops?”  She thought a moment and said slowly, “I think that might be kind of nice.”  Pleased, I told her that I had to get off to work, but suggested that maybe she could think about what she might like to include while I was out.  The two of us could work on it together when I got home.

Imagine my surprised delight when I returned several hours later and my mother-in-law was at the door, waiting for me.  “I hope you don’t mind,” she said, pulling me inside, “but I did a little hunting and gathering around the house and kind of went ahead while you were out.”   She then proceeded to show me the shrine she had created for Pops in the dining room.  It was well thought out – tender, sentimental, very representative of the things that he loved in life, and the things we loved about him. There were several photos, a pair of candlesticks, a beer stein from Germany, a toy airplane, his old pilot’s license, a Hawaiian lei, and a Green Bay Packer bobble-head doll.  We went out and bought a package of black licorice, arranged some more fresh flowers, and remembered.  It was lovely.

Now, several years later, I continue the tradition we started.  I change a few things here and there, but I always enjoy the process.  This week, the skeletons are coming out – there are a few more of them now.  The framed picture of Grandpa and Grandma will emerge from the bedroom, the table scarf will do some time on the ironing board, and I realize as I watch the leaves drifting from the treetops down past the back window, it’s time to get Pops a new bag of licorice.

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