Happy Day of the Dead, everyone - which, after years of living close to the Mexico border (when I was in Tucson), is now one of my favorite holidays of the year. I value it not only as a time to remember all the friends and family members who are gone (and at my age that's a list that grows longer every year), but also as a ritual re-engagement with the dark-moon side of nature's cycles: the death of the year and the dream-filled sleep of winter; the air grown cold and the nights grown long; the dark, stark months when we dress in many layers, feed the fire, tell sacred Trickster tales, and patiently await, as Rilke says, "the birth hour of a new clarity."
Here in England, last night was Samhain: when the dead return and the fairies are abroad and the light half of the Celtic year comes to an end. The leaves are falling, the bracken withers, and I'm reminded of my own mortality. Your time here is not infinite, the browning countryside is whispering. So if there are things we've always meant to write or draw or do, it's time to buckle down and do them.
In that spirit, today's two quotes come from that old classic by Annie Dillard, The Writing Life:
"Write as if you were dying," she advises bluntly. "At the same time, write as if for an audience consisting only of terminal patients. That is, after all, the case. What would you begin writing if you knew you would die soon? What could you say to a dying person that would not enrage by its triviality?"
“One of the few things I know about writing is this: spend it all, shoot it, play it, lose it, all, right away, every time. Do not hoard what seems good for a later place in the book, or for another book; give it, give it all, give it now. The impulse to save something good for a better place later is the signal to spend it now. Something will arise for later, something better. These things fill in from behind, from beneath, like well water. Similarly, the impulse to keep to yourself what you have learned is not only shameful, it is destructive. Anything you do not give freely and abundantly becomes lost to you. You open your safe and find ashes.
"After Michelangelo died, someone found in his studio a piece of paper on which he had written a note to his apprentice, in the handwriting of his old age: ‘Draw, Antonio, draw, Antonio, draw and do not waste time.’”
The art in this post comes from Emiliano Lake-Herrera's Dia de los Muertos series, which was recently on display at the Fiskum Art Gallery at the University of Wisconsin. Emiliano is an amazing young artist based in Milwaukee (who also happens to be Midori Snyder's son-in-law). Visit his website, The Studio, to see more of his work, which is inspired by Latin American folk art, folk music, and martial arts traditions.
And speaking of Tucson (as I was above), the city's famous All Souls Procession is scheduled to take place on November 7th. My friend Stu Jenks has shot a great little video of arial artists practicing their in-the-air moves for the procession's grand finale. 'Wish I could be there.