Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Thoughts on October Ending: the Month of Death (In the category of Want What You Have.)

I’m watching the Boys of Summer play a game. It’s the next to last game of the year, and I like to be informed at the water cooler about who won (Royals over the Giants 10-0 – sheesh!). As I watch, it occurs to me that I dislike baseball partly because I never understand what the officials are signaling. In football, the calls are exaggerated motions: hands clapped over head as if preparing for the Sun Salutation yoga pose, hands chopping at knees, fist drawn down across the face from forehead to chin, two arms held aloft, straight overhead, an obvious sign of victory. In baseball, the umpire makes a secret wrist move that might mean ball, might mean strike, or might just be a fist bump of encouragement.

I realize I reveal my ignorance of such things with this confession.

My father tried to teach me baseball – a love of watching it, not playing it. For Dad, baseball represented warm summer evenings at the ballpark of the Tidewater Tides (now the Norfolk Tides) from the box seat on the first base line. He filled in crossword puzzles between cracks of the bat (few and far between if you know anything about baseball). He knew the beer guys by name and chatted up the other season ticket holders in his section like he had known them all his life, even if the people in the seats had only just been given tickets for the night.

I spent every home game in July from 1978 to 1981 watching the Tidewater Tides play in Met Park, which was once situated, literally, in the middle of Military Highway in Norfolk, Virginia. The Tides are the farm team for the New York Mets to this day, and they now play in newer, larger, and more logically located Harbor Park. In my early adolescence, I spent most games fantasizing that the Tides’ second baseman (Kevin Something) spotted me forlorn in the box seats between home plate and first base and fell instantly in love with me. Other nights, not even the halide lit double header could keep my nose out of a book. Darryl Strawberry kept things fun for a season, but then he got called up and we went back to slow nights at the ballpark.

Tonight, I’m really watching baseball to bide time until Master Chef – Canada begins. So is my husband, who played little league when he was nine and got screamed at by the coach for being distracted by fresh wild blue berries in the outfield. No one had ever hit the ball that far…until that day when he was picking and munching sweet, warm, blue orbs of sugar and flesh instead of watching the progress of the game. The ball landed inches from the blueberry bush. Oops.

We don’t love baseball, but at the end of the season, we are drawn to the ballpark to see…to know.


Many things end in October – not just baseball. All the leaves are dying. Dumb squirrels, greedy in their survival quest for one more acorn, get squished in the road. Dumb skunks too. (And I live in suburbia. I shudder to think what my rural neighbors are scraping up.)

All Hallows Eve approaches, Samhain, if you prefer. The sacred night marks the lifting of the veil between those of us who walk in the illusion of life and those of us who float in the misperceptions of what comes after. Some families will dress up, stroll around, and collect free candy. Others will simply distribute candy. Some will light bonfires. Many will spend the evening preparing for the next day, Dia de los Muertos, the day of the dead. They build small altars, ofrendas, to ancestors, decorating them with marigolds and sugar skulls. They prepare food to take to the cemetery, a picnic with the dead to honor life.

Anne would be 70 on All Saint’s Day, if fate had allowed her to live beyond 57. Perhaps I will shape a sugar skull, festoon it with marigolds, and pack a picnic to remember her. It would have been a major event, her 70th birthday party, made all the more festive by falling on a Saturday night. Live music, I feel certain, and a catered buffet would have been the highlights. Gifts with cat themes that Anne and I could poke gentle fun at later, when the party was over -- so many cat-themed gifts.


I pulled up the stakes in the tomato garden yesterday. Most of the plants had died, and weeds had overrun my once pristine plot. The sweet brown bunny that has been living in the garden this summer apparently preferred to eat the dropped tomatoes, and not the tomatillos. The ratio was 6:1 as I cleaned the fallen fruit. I’m sure I missed a few, but I like to see which plants “volunteer” the following spring. Gardens are amazing that way. Even if you don’t deliberately plant the seed, they grow anyway. I, like Thoreau, can sometimes find my faith in a seed. In the month of death, they form and mature, holding a promise that, one day, life will return.

The Boys of Summer are almost done. One more game. Frosts get harder. The garden yellows, shrivels, and shrinks back into the ground. Days are short and nights long. I listen for the reassuring click-whoosh as the gas furnace fires up and the temperature falls. Already, I miss evenings on the back deck – the sunshine leaves my deck at the autumnal equinox and will not return until its spring counterpart occurs in late March. I will be a year older then, if fate allows me to be. Life is a thin thread that snaps easily, and let’s face it, no one gets out alive. The dead are laughing at us, but I don’t care. I’m going live each second like the thread might snap, show the ones I love that I love them, and dance at the still point of the turning world. I will blessed be.