In my corner of Romagna, t-shirt weather has persisted until the very end of October. It’s got all the wrinkled Romagnolo men who play cards and stare at women all day talking. If you can decipher the Romagnolo slang as I suddenly, magically can, you’ll get hints at the abnormality of it all.
Despite this, everyone who’s Italian has been running around in down coats since early September. It’s like once the end of August hits, they have a little nonna (grandma) in their DNA that starts yelling at them to bundle up — and wear a scarf!
Today is Halloween — a holiday adored by American and Canadian partiers, largely ignored by (jacketed) Italians and honored elsewhere in the globe. Mexico and other Latin American countries simultaneously celebrate life and respect the dead from October 31st to November 2nd. Hindus in India just participated in the “Festival of Light,” a brilliant expression of good over evil. Early November in Thailand will find millions of glowing orbs filling the night sky, released by Buddhist monks and devotees alike during the festivals of Yi Peng and Loi Krathong.
Regardless of where you are or whether you respect or revel, it’s impossible not to note the change in the air. There’s the literal sensation in the Northern Hemisphere as the air grows chilly, snowy and/or so damp it’s like being wrapped in a sponge. And there’s the transitioning aesthetics, as trees release their leaves to form that short-lived, deliciously crunchy carpet.
It’s a moment when nature makes itself known; even in the heart of a city, it’s hard not to see the persistently gray skies or feel the nip in the air behind a passing train.
Then there’s the change in the air that requires more perceptiveness than pelle (skin). A more profound shift that the native peoples of the world know: the natural cycle of the planet. One that whispers about the frightening, marvelous impermanence of everything.
In the divided and tumultuous time in which we live, October’s end can be a refreshing invitation to pay attention. At least in America, we do this on New Year’s day when, as a calendar year is born, we are encouraged to reflect and reset. But I would posit it makes just as much sense now, in accordance with the Earth and its cycle of ending, closing and surrendering.
As plants volunteer their ravishing colors to the damp earth, we too can release the things in our lives that are withering, drying out and fading. They take a million forms: unhealthy relationships, lingering sadnesses, unhelpful partnerships, excess possessions.
I know that for me personally the last year has contained every possible emotion. In many ways it was quite heavy. So, I’ll take this time to learn from all these weighty but worthy lessons. And then let them go.
The way I do this is often through a silly, improvised but meaningful ritual. Since I’m an artsy-fartsy type, the result is typically something created — an autumn-inspired drawing, a time to journal and sip cinnamon tea or carve a pumpkin.
Each night, I light my carved pumpkin and place it on the windowsill facing the road (noting, of course, that I’m the only straniera, or foreigner, weirdo doing this). As I light the candle I think about one thing I’d like to focus on going forward.
Before bed, I retrieve my jack-o-lantern so the incessant humidity can’t turn it into a pile of orange goo. When I blow out the candle, I conjure up something — wonderful or bittersweet — that’s finished and think how grateful I am to have experienced it.
The point is acknowledgement. A pause to note what’s taken place since the last first time I pulled out my warmer jacket. A moment to heal myself from the wounds that have been inflicted on me or the ones I’ve inflicted on myself.
Because one thing is clear — at least to me — which is that our world is going through some sort of crisis. And one way we can all contribute positively is by patching ourselves up so that we continue on full of light and love. And, of course, have as much fun with and bring as much joy to the process as we possibly can. Even painting my nails Halloween colors counts, I think.
The other point is that we don’t have to keep the things that don’t work. Nor must we continue going the same way; truthfully, changing directions is tricky but it’s often fear that blocks the path. Most fear stems from unsolved problems.
Bravely unlock that door and the way unfolds. Maybe it’s even covered in autumn foliage.