I love October. What’s not to love? The weather breaks, the long, slow, syrupy summer finally drawing to a close. Sweaters come out. Leaves die, turning the world all shades of orange and red and yellow and bronze. It’s pretty cool.
October is a month that teaches us about death. We all know that living generally results in dying. You are born, you live, you die. This is the normal order of things, when we talk about death. There is a special something about October though, and inversion of the order. In this month, we begin to recognize that death is required for life.
The leaves fall to the ground and become an insulation for bugs and mice and critters soon to be hiding from the snow. The days grow shorter, the world colder. October is the gateway to winter, and if you are lucky you make it through the holidays intact and reach January, a long, dark month where nothing much happens and you can rest and recover from all of the joys and trials of the year before. The death of the world is not an absence of life, but a gathering for it.
This weekend is Halloween. We’ll be setting the long, wild summer to rest, dancing and singing the night away wearing the faces of other things. I promise pictures of all the wild creatures we meet. Spirits will walk. Your dead might visit you in your dreams. On this long night, you might set a plate out for them. Perhaps you will visit their graveside and decorate it with flowers and ribbons. There are many ways to make your peace with death. It’s worth doing. As Emily Dickenson noted, even if you do not make time for death, he will make time for you.
On this holiday, I am reminded that all power comes from death. That sounds sort of creepy, which is appropriate. Even the power that moves our bodies comes from the death of others – the cells of plants and animals breaking down inside of us to create the energy of life. Life only keeps going because there is death to keep it going. I’m grateful for the peace the winter will bring, grateful for a chance to reflect. Reaching this month feels like crossing the finish line of a marathon must. You’ve made it in spite of yourself. Now it is time to breathe, to reflect. Smell the falling leaves, listen to them crunch beneath your boots. Take a walk in the night and listen to the songs of the crickets before they vanish for another year. The world keeps turning. All of this will be here when you get back.