What a lovely time of year! Leaves on hardwood trees turn colors, and drop off. Pumpkins and harvest decor indoors and out. On a clear day, the mountains are gorgeous. When it rains, and this year it certainly has, mushrooms appear everywhere. My yard is certainly full of a wide variety of fungi, and although I have searched for my favorite; chanterelles, so far I have had no success. I have found a couple of false ones, but that’s no good! Also, there is an impressive array of poisonous toadstools that are interesting to look at and photograph, but not to eat. A yummy seasonal treat that is quite edible is pumpkin ale. It was brewed in Colonial times because they didn’t have much hops or barley around to make beer, and necessity being the mother of invention, fermented pumpkin juice was the answer. Delicious! So are baked pumpkin seeds, of which there are usually a lot during pumpkin carving time.
Historically, All Hallow’s Eve was the one night a year when the dead were released to wander the earth, and the veil between the worlds becomes thin; making communicating with spirits easier. Ghosts have long been a staple of Halloween decor and legends. They are always made to seem frightening, but I have never found them to be so. I have seen two ghosts in my life, and they were both concerned about their “stuff.” One spirit was an old woman worried about her house and garden, and the other was that of an elderly gentleman who was kissing his elegant dining chairs goodbye, after I bought them and brought them home! Thanks, man! I know my kids have a tendency to wreck stuff, but by the second ghost I’m starting to take this personally. And both ghosts should be pleased that the old house and the dining room chairs are in great shape.
Some mornings and evenings an eerie fog rolls around, bringing to mind old stories about things that lurk in the mist. In the 1800’s people might have been worried about the Headless Horseman, today it’s more likely to be a carjacker. It’s interesting how people’s fears have changed, and how our perceptions of fear and the statistical realities of what’s likely to happen are so wildly divergent. In reality, people disappeared more in decades past then than they do now, and we’ve never been so safe as we are today, and yet so much more fearful. In yesteryear, accidents and wild animals were much greater threats, and so were people who acted like animals. Some of the more gruesome crimes of the past, like setting old people on fire in order to steal their belongings, are much less popular. Thievery on the whole is down from the 1970’s; mostly because then thieves would break into your house and steal your TV. Now, crime has moved online, and stealing identities and credit card information is far more profitable than taking the risks associated with physical burglary. And we have cell phones and locks that can’t simply be picked with a stick. So why are people so scared? I am inclined to believe it is from a culture of fear that has grown exponentially since 2001. I wonder if people have noticed that there aren’t terrorists hiding in every alley and hedgerow; just the same old aggressive hobos. Fear is a strange, often irrational emotion. Sometimes it’s well justified. You’ve really nothing to fear from ghosts or the Headless Horseman, but if you live in a high-crime area, like for instance downtown Bremerton, fear is the emotion that should preface caution.
So what’s with all the gory decorations? There wasn’t any of that thirty years ago, and Halloween was mostly for kids. It used to be more about graveyards, vampires, and Frankenstein’s monster, when people decorated their houses for trick-or-treaters. Why the shift to more blood and gore? Does it reflect the changes tastes of a culture, or is it that adults have taken over the holiday? Then again, a hundred years ago there were worker riots on All Hallow’s Eve, which made some municipalities ban trick-or-treating altogether. We certainly live in interesting times.