11 November, 2012

Day of the Dead - Guest Post

Last night we took down the altar, marking the end of Dia de los Muertos.  My first Dia de los Muertos has been a wonderful one. I feel so much more connected to the people that we honored.  I find that even tonight I am missing them again, as if they just left us yesterday... It is so difficult to wrap up in words all the sights, sounds, feelings....  there is just so much that goes into and comes from these festivities.  One of our guests at the Cafe in the past month Fred and Diane are from Sonoma County, our wine country neighbors, shared with us their thoughts and feelings after their first Dia de los Muertos in San Miguel.  Fred is an incredible writer and has agreed to let me share with you his words.  One day I hope to write as well as he does ;)

Thank you Fred for sharing with us.









November, 2012
-- Dia de los Muertos --

Walked a thousand graves last night -- every one a person being missed.  Celebrated, honored, revered.  Every grave attended-to; dirt freshened/mounded up, concrete cleaned, stonework dressed as needed.  Flowers EVERYWHERE!  Iron railings draped, garlands strung; pots, altars and tombs simply overflowing with vibrant color.
Across the way and again over there, and again way back in the back, walls of niches and crypts rambled along, fit to the terrain, nothing level or square.  They were stunning and haunting and beautiful, presenting barriers of Here is where we lie, Do not forget us.  Each niche or crypt was different from the other, hand-crafted and heart-wrought as only the Mexican can.  Do you know there's a thousand ways a candle can cast its shadow?  A thousand ways it can glow?  And that a single candle come across on a forgotten mound can stop you dead in your tracks?
Hundreds of people milled about, softly, solemnly, with purpose.  Hundreds more were still.  The dead were of the issue, and there were offerings to place.  A special picture, a cookie, some fruit or favorite food; a tamale, maybe a banana or an orange.  A toy, a carving, a rosary; figurines, a hoe, some bricks.  Diane knelt at a mound of dirt for an eight year old little boy and left the little straw scarecrow she was carrying; passed it from her to him, from present to past, from heart to soul.  As she rose she looked to the sky, and with welling eyes said simply God bless you.
Every marker a story, every pause an event, every person a soul.  Kids fetching water with buckets.  Grandmas huddling in shawls.  Husbands weeping for wives.  Let's sit silently and remember.  Let's spend this moment with them.  Let's let this evening have our sorrow...
And our joy.  Music and singing filtered the air in a somewhat disjointed way; some over there singing one song and others over there singing another, all dis-accompanied by the group right here, loudly singing its own.  Joy.  Sorrow.  Families and friends gathered-in.  Guitars out of tune, a string missing here and there, an accordion with a busted key -- no matter.  Let's just sing.
The cemetery was huge, spread wide down a gently-sloping, tree-covered hill, graves packed tightly but individually, mostly in order but in that wonderful Mexican way.  Many were enclosed by a simple, iron-railing fence; some of the larger ones were altars in themselves.  Backtracking became necessary when they came too tight to pass; but squeezing through the ones we could brought a closeness that felt us at home.  Off to the North was a church on a hill, white against a darkening sky.  A cross glowed blue on its tower, and its bell rang out to the night.  The lights from the houses falling away from its sides fell in with those of the Barrio.  They formed a sparkling blanket, warmly rumpled over the scene.  I just watched awhile.
As darkness continued to fall, footing in the cemetery became less certain; but still we wandered along.  Something was here that tugged at us, something that wouldn't let go.  Our life?  Our death?  What it was we thought we believed?  We tried to talk about it, but found no words to fit.  Not even looks would do.  So we settled on the holding of hands; the simple, grounding, holding of hands.  We were together, and as we walked along we knew:  This was life a-pounding, just a-pounding so.
Santiago y Elena
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