The Darker Months
I love Halloween. It’s one of those holidays that I like even more as an adult. Sure, trick-or-treating is fun, but I’ve grown to appreciate the lengthening shadows and chill in the air even more.
For me, this time of year is all about the rattle in the leaves, the orange streetlights pooling on the evening pavement. It’s the wind stripping the branches bare; the shadow that wasn’t there a moment ago; the frost coating roofs slick in the morning; the soil slowing and gathering itself for a long slumber until spring rolls around again. It’s the seductiveness of twilight and shadows; the half-understood shiver that comes with incense and decaying leaves and words like All Hallows, and Wheel of the Year, and the dark months.
Halloween, of course, shares its roots between the Feast of All Hallows and Samhain: the Celtic (and modern pagan) New Year. I think the closing of autumn is as good a New Year as any. As discussed before, the shape of my year divides neatly into two halves: season and off-season; museum time and writing time; the warm, secure months and the colder, leaner ones. Halloween is the beginning of the end; the harbinger; the already, but not yet.
At the museum, you see, Christmas starts in mid-November: only two weeks away. Once Christmas starts, it’s a quick, short slide to the end and the off-season. Halloween isn’t the beginning of the dark months; it’s the herald of it, much the way that Easter usually isn’t springtime itself, but the promise that warmth and sunlight are returning.
So because we haven’t actually gotten into the off-season yet, for me, it’s a time of potential. You can taste winter on the wind—but it isn’t here yet. And it’s oddly appropriate to have potential beginning in the dark, isn’t it? I think of the harvest gathered in, the seeds dormant in the ground—waiting. For me, Halloween is a time of baited breath. I’m planning my off-season writing. I’m gathering myself for one last push before the season ends. I’m sensing the winds grow colder; the last leaves falling; the knowledge that the warmth is well and truly gone, now.
And if that’s all sounding a little Victorian—the winter is coming on fast—then yes, I suppose it is, a little. Now, don’t get me wrong: I cherish and value and treasure my four months of full-time writing so very much. I’m very lucky to have the set-up that I do.
But in some ways, the winter is harder. While I’m very pleased with how my writing’s supported me thus far, it’s never a sure thing. Toronto gets cold: the whole city feels too hard, like you could bruise yourself on it. Without a daily commute, a Metropass becomes too expensive to justify, which means that I spend four months walking everywhere.
None of that is here yet. But it’s coming. And Halloween is the first sign—the first shiver and held breath and remembrance of everything else that might be out there. (All those ghosties and ghoulies and long-legged beasties…)
No matter what you call today, or how you celebrate, all my best to you as we enter into the year’s dark half. The winter gets cold, but the most exciting things usually start in the shadows. 😉
What I’m Listening to this Week
Well, it couldn’t be anything else, could it?