Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Rustic dreams and cool autumn nights ...

Not only do I love the horror and spooky side of Halloween,  I'm also a huge fan of the more rustic, vintage style as well. It takes me back in a time machine, where the doors to that vast storehouse of wonderful memories are thrown wide open: that of being a youngster again, growing up in the '60s in small town suburbia California, and discovering all the amazing things life had to offer.

There were days in the late summer when you would just know that the weather was about to shift. You could feel a very slight change in how the blazing desert heat of the sun felt against your skin. Summertime in southern California would always be long and hot as a furnace blast, but then gradually, the days would creep ever-so-slowly on toward early autumn, which first meant a return to school. That was okay, as the days felt a little bit less scorching, and the nights felt just a tad cooler. Sunsets would take on hues of oranges and purples as the inky twilight encroached. And, as the calendar continued to wind down, we all knew what was drawing near at summer's end... 

It would soon be Halloween!
"Sweet Surprise" by Wesley Dallas Merritt
Mom would take the box of decorations out from the big den closet, dust it off, and crack open through the multiple layers of ancient crumbling tape that barely held it closed. What followed next was pure bliss, as out came the sacred, magical cardboard that my little brother and I lived all year long to see: the colorful, realistic life-sized skeleton (and a super-neato one at that, with movable joints and jaw!), the witches, the black cats, and of course, the smiling scarecrow astride the expandable crinkly orange tissue paper pumpkin that we un-accordionized onto the table, which was then placed in the kitchen window for all neighborhood kids to see. Mr. Skeleton was always delegated to his sentry point - that being, taped securely to the front door, his long bony arms and legs askew in different directions in a Halloween jig of joy. The black cats and witches were also placed on the front door, surrounding Mr. Skelly.

Of course, probably the most important elements needed (besides abundant candy for trick or treaters) were pumpkins... yes, Jack O'Lanterns! Those had to be carved and with candles inside, ready to illuminate the front porch on All Hallows Eve! With our smiling Mom and Dad sitting nearby, supervising us at the kitchen table (which was covered in old newspapers), me and my little brother would be presented with a fat pumpkin each. We'd happily de-gut and then carve out the scariest faces we could dream up, in an effort to beat one another. (Funny, how it was always a 'tie' according to our very wise parents!) 

Saving much of the seeds, Mom would put them on a sheet of tin foil, sprinkle a bit of salt and pepper, and then toast them in the oven. They never lasted long in our house. Yummy stuff indeed!

And, sadly, as we all know, that night of magic and fun and love passes by in a flash. 
The next day, everything seems a little less bright, a touch less joyous. Sure, more holidays are to come, with lots more love and sharing of food, family and laughter; but the Samhain magic is spent and then it's as if everything must hibernate again for another 364 days. Leaves turn color and grow brittle, falling from the trees and scattering in the hot, dry Santa Ana winds as they howl across the valley like the cracking of a whip, taking the last few bright sparkles of autumn away.

My memories of this most beloved and sacred time in my young life remain intact, yet grow just a tiny bit more sepia-toned with each passing year in the cobwebs of my mind. But thankfully, what always stays vivid are the main colors that I love so dearly. 

The orange, and the black.

"Orange and Black" by Ellie Gee

Polymer pumpkins and vines
Wood blocks and base
Acrylic paints

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