Remembering the Dead (All Souls’ Day and Día de Muertos)

Ah, but you were always leaf-light.
And you so seldom talk
as we go. But there at my side
through the bright leaves you walk.

And yet – touch my hand
that I may be quite without fear,
for it seems as if a mist descends,
and the leaves where you walk do not stir.

(from “All Souls’ Day” by Frances Bellerby)

********

 November 2nd is All Souls’ Day in the western Catholic church and in some Protestant denominations. It’s a day to remember and pray for the souls of all those departed this earth.

Similarly, Día de Muertos, derived from an Aztec ritual, is a three-day holiday in Mexico and other places to celebrate and commemorate friends and family who have died. Graves are decorated with orange marigolds, muertos (the bread of the dead; I love saying that: the bread of the dead the bread of the dead), sugar skulls, mischievous skeletons of paper mache, lacy paper, and other materials, foods, candies, and drinks. Relatives and friends also make altars in their homes decorated with salt, incense, candles, and trinkets and food associated with the one who has died.

This is my virtual altar to those beings who once walked through “bright leaves” — or swam in salt waters, or flew in light air — whose death now means that the leaf, the water, the air does not stir with their movement any longer.

I’m more than willing to believe that all animals have souls.

These perfect beings swam in salt (and one, fresh) waters; may they swim and float, enfolded in safety and relaxation, with joy forever:

3 dead jellyfish, Jekyll Island, GA, 25 Dec 2013
3 dead jellyfish, Jekyll Island, GA, 25 Dec 2013
jellyfish, Jekyll Island, GA, April 2012
jellyfish, Jekyll Island, GA, April 2012
jellyfish, Jekyll Island, GA, 26 Dec 2013
jellyfish, Jekyll Island, GA, 26 Dec 2013
shrimp, Jekyll Island, GA, Sept 2005
shrimp, Jekyll Island, GA, Sept 2005
gorgeous blue crab, Jekyll Island, GA, Sept 2013
gorgeous blue crab, Jekyll Island, GA, Sept 2013
baby horseshoe crab, Jekyll Island, GA, 25 Dec 2013
baby horseshoe crab, Jekyll Island, GA, 25 Dec 2013
horseshoe crab, Jekyll Island, GA, 25 Dec 2013
horseshoe crab, Jekyll Island, GA, 25 Dec 2013
large crab. Jekyll Island, GA, Sept 2005
large crab. Jekyll Island, GA, Sept 2005
crab, Jekyll Island, GA, June 2014
crab, Jekyll Island, GA, June 2014
fish, Jekyll Island, GA, Sept 2008
fish, Jekyll Island, GA, Sept 2008
shark, Jekyll Island, GA, Sept 2008
shark, Jekyll Island, GA, Sept 2008
shark, Pine Point ME, June 2013
shark, Pine Point ME, June 2013
shark, Jekyll Island, GA, Sept 2014
shark, Jekyll Island, GA, Sept 2014
small fish, Jekyll Island, GA, Sept 2014
small fish, Jekyll Island, GA, Sept 2014
skate, Jekyll Island, GA, June 2014
skate, Jekyll Island, GA, June 2014
pond full of dead fish, Jekyll Island, GA, June 2014
pond full of dead fish, Jekyll Island, GA, June 2014
burr fish, Jekyll Island GA, Sept 2013
burr fish, Jekyll Island GA, Sept 2013
puffer fish, Jekyll Island, GA, Sept 2014
puffer fish, Jekyll Island, GA, Sept 2014
sea turtle, Jekyll Island, GA, April 2012
sea turtle, Jekyll Island, GA, April 2012
sea turtle hatchling, Jekyll Island, GA, Sept 2008
sea turtle hatchling, Jekyll Island, GA, Sept 2008
sea turtle, Jekyll Island, GA, Sept 2013
sea turtle, Jekyll Island, GA, Sept 2013

*************

These perfect creatures flew in the light and lovely air; may they swoop and glide with grace, on currents of ceaseless love, ever after:

seagull, Pine Point, ME, Oct 2010
seagull, Pine Point, ME, Oct 2010
moth, Jekyll Island, GA, Sept 2005
moth, Jekyll Island, GA, Sept 2005
warbler. Jekyll Island, GA, Sept 2014
warbler. Jekyll Island, GA, Sept 2014
dragonfly, Brookgreen Gardens, Murrells Inlet, SC, June 2014
dragonfly, Brookgreen Gardens, Murrells Inlet, SC, June 2014
fritillary butterfly, Jekyll Island, GA, Sept 2012
fritillary butterfly, Jekyll Island, GA, Sept 2012
moth, NH, Sept 2010
moth, NH, Sept 2010
bird, Kezar Lake, NH, June 2014
bird, Kezar Lake, NH, June 2014

 *************

And these perfect ones walked on the land, through the bright leaves and on the yielding sand; may they move with fluency, ease, and a sense of spaciousness and unassailable well-being all the days of their afterlives:

raccoon carcass, Jekyll Island, GA, 26 Dec 2013
raccoon carcass, Jekyll Island, GA, 26 Dec 2013
ghost crab, Jekyll Island, GA, Sept 2005
ghost crab, Jekyll Island, GA, Sept 2005
vole or shrew, Kezar Lake, NH July 2014
vole or shrew, Kezar Lake, NH July 2014
hare?, NH, July 2012
hare?, NH, July 2012
porcupine, Kezar Lake, NH, Sept 2014
porcupine, Kezar Lake, NH, Sept 2014
shrew, NH, Aug 2014
shrew, NH, Aug 2014
chipmunk, Kezar Lake, NH, Oct 2014
chipmunk, Kezar Lake, NH, Oct 2014

 

***********

I’m not sure, I understand only a little, I can hardly see,
but it seems to me that its singing has the color of damp violets,
of violets that are at home in the earth,
because the face of death is green,
and the look death gives is green,
with the penetrating dampness of a violet leaf
and the somber color of embittered winter. (from “Nothing but Death” by Pablo Neruda, transl. Robert Bly)

2 Comments on “Remembering the Dead (All Souls’ Day and Día de Muertos)

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