Being a conscious-minded mom, I'm wary of the kinds of rituals and traditions I partake in with my family--what they mean and what value they contribute to our lives. As a nutritional therapist, I'm also wary of American holidays and traditions that somehow always center on candy and over-eating. As 'Halloween' drew near this year, despite the cute array of options for fun family costumes, we made the executive decision not to participate. In my search for some meaning and connection, I learned more about the celebration of Samhain, only to discover that it parallels the very inertia of my life at present. Commence gratitude.
I've been drawn in the last year to sacred and ancestral rituals. Typical modern Americans like myself are so detached from any kind of authentic rooted traditions. Our ancestral ties trace far and wide, and our traditions become more distant and muddled with each generation. One such tradition that has been unrecognizably Americanized is Halloween--or Samhain--a Celtic tradition that celebrates the midpoint between the autumnal and winter equinoxes. This time of the year was often full of fear and unknowing, unsure of whether the Earth would provide a harvest plentiful enough to survive the winter. Not only was it a time to give thanks to the land for the provision and plenty of summer, but also a time to confront one's own mortality. Face it: we might not survive the winter. At a time when their own death was strong on their minds, so too were their connections to ancestors and those-gone-by. This led to the tradition of leaving out gifts of food for the spirits of their ancestors passing through--you can see how we side-stepped from there.
This year I felt inexplicably tied to this tradition and this time of remembrance, and I couldn't quite understand why. As I learned more, I discovered that these very celebrations of thanks and trepidations of the future are not only the cyclical celebrations of October 31st, they're also the meditations on my heart as I prepare for an uprooting life change leaving behind a landscape I truly love while entering into the new chapter of starting a business and expanding my family.
So in preparation for our big move in two short weeks, we ventured back to Mt. Rainier as a family to say goodbye-for-now. The mountain has been a symbol to each of us in its own way. For me, its immense and beautiful and constant presence has ignited my love and respect for nature. My husband summited Rainier this summer signifying his dedication to his goals and nourishing his masculine hunger for feats of strength. Even my daughter feels connected to the mountain, seeing how it "follows us" to seemingly wherever we are in Washington (and even from a peak in Victoria, BC). We took a hike through a trail we'd never stopped at before, with no agenda other than to just soak in our surroundings despite the rain. Along the way, I felt compelled to just offer my gratitude to the landscape, to express my wonder and amazement for the mushrooms and ferns, to revel in my smallness against the towering cedars. In return, the mountain gifted me this lovely Pig's Ear mushroom--a relative of the chanterelle.
Before going home, I indulged in what may be my last cold plunges in Washington. There are the obvious and cited benefits of cold plunging, but there are other more personal levels to it as well, especially plunging in moving waters. It makes me feel as though I'm pulling the very strength and energy of the mountain into my body through my skin. It transports me into deeper meditations. It moves things inside me as it moves around me, often stirring up revelations that have been blocked with distractions or resistance. It's a warm blanket of reassurance--just in the form of a glacially-cold mountain stream. Trust me, it makes sense.
So on this rainy transitory morning of October 31--Samhain--I am simply choosing to forego the empty traditions of Halloween that have little to offer us this year. Hear me, I understand that it's harmless fun and often a happy memory of childhood. I'm just choosing to create new ones. A good friend told me a few weeks ago: "It's YOUR life. Create it the way that resonates with your soul!" I think that's what I'll do.
Breakfast this morning is a delicious omelet of pig's ear and chanterelle, some chickweed picked on today's wet morning walk, and a dollop of local kraut. I am sad to leave here. It feels like I'm leaving an actual person or that I'm grieving a death--it's a visceral dull ache. But like my brother Daniel says, when we eat the foods of our local ecology, we bring our landscape into our cells. We become MADE of the land that we love.
After two years of foraging and eating from this landscape and literally soaking it up through my skin, breathing it in and exploring as much of it as possible, Washington will travel with me wherever we go. Blessed Samhain to you, friend.