a prelude for november

There are basically only two holidays that I really appreciate: Halloween and New Year's. (There's also May Day, but that's not really a holiday in the US, and anyway that one is much more personal) They're the only ones that feel genuinely human to me, because they aren't trying to be about anything else. I've written about the new year extensively (just look at January and December in my archives), but less so about Halloween. I guess it's harder to know what to say, because it's mostly a holiday about having fun. But it's also, inescapably, about death, which is why there's ghosts and zombies and vampires crawling around.

But now we're moving into November, which opens up cheerfully with the Day of the Dead, and, more to the point here, is six months after May. When I started this project I knew there would be a pairing of life and death, and I knew that May had to be the month of life, so it fell to November to be the month of death. It would have worked well for October, of course, but it's fitting here, too. November is the point where you can't pretend that winter is still a ways off. It's coming, and it will always come sooner than you think.

Of course, despite the fact that I've always known I wanted to write this month about death, I haven't had the faintest idea what I'd write about, because my usual framework of ghosts and the absurd isn't here for me to fall back on. I had this idea in my head that death required some sort of special treatment that I was afraid this framework wouldn't support.

And that's absurd, of course, because I talk about death the same way that I talk about anything else I've written about here. Death has been a part of my life from a very early age: I can't talk about who I am without, ultimately, talking about death. Why should my characters be any different? Even if they haven't known anyone who's died, death is a constant companion for us all. So perhaps I can learn something by approaching it from someone else's perspective, for once.


Kizolk said...

When I think about it, I only went to two funerals. 0/10 would not see corpses again-- let alone the badly damaged corpse of someone you seriously, if a little childishly, thought was the most beautiful person on earth. I've been avoiding that stuff since then, plus dead people don't really care if you don't attend their funerals. Death rituals/mourning are a little silly - not saying they're bad, and people shouldn't do them, or denying their "usefulness". I'm just saying humans are fascinating creatures, we cope by producing meaning. (Which incidentally is why I'll never agree with what some call "scientism", you know, like when people like Sam Harris get cocky and think their poor understanding of philosophy gives them the right to say philosophy's dead, and science can provide all the answers instead.) And while chimps, say, have a different take on funerals, I can't help picturing us all hairy under our formal clothes.

In other words, I approve of this month's theme!

Rob said...

I don't do open caskets anymore. You form strong memories at funerals, and that image of your loved one lying there still and cold and pale becomes the only thing you can see when you think of them.

I wrote a poem for the Day of the Dead, also, which touches on some of the same things your comment does: http://rcrantz.tumblr.com/post/65742206215/a-poem-for-the-day-of-the-dead

Kizolk said...

Your poem made me think of Christmas, or even birthdays. For some people, it's the Day of the Living. I remember when I was a kid, someone asked me why my family didn't celebrate birthdays. I replied "there's plenty of other days to give each other presents".