Why I Hate Halloween

Merry Thanksgivoween

I hate Halloween.  Okay, well, hate is such a strong word – let me rephrase that into a (perhaps) more palatable form:  I intensely dislike Halloween.  More accurately, I intensely dislike what Halloween has become – the gateway drug of the holiday season.

You know it only gets worse from here, don’t you?  Tonight (if you’re not careful) you’ll enter a three month blackout induced by too much candy, oxygen deprivation from too much apple-bobbing, or over-indulging in more adult refreshments as Halloween becomes a more “adult” (in what sense, I wonder?) holiday.  Your holiday-induced altered mental state will be sustained by the wine, beer, tryptophan, and football at Thanksgiving.  Rum (or brandy, if you prefer) laced egg nog and twinkling lights at Christmas after the shop-till-you-drop marathon will have you twitching and drooling under the kissing ball, blissfully unaware of your surroundings until you awake with a post-New Year’s hangover along about Martin Luther King, Jr. Day in mid-January.

In and of themselves, I really don’t hate these holidays.  But I do intensely dislike what we’ve done to them.  And to the extent I can, I avoid the most extreme excesses of them.  Besides, I really don’t want to wake up in three months and have to wonder where that tattoo came from.

Halloween?  Just say no.

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Fall 2007

fall-2007.jpg

It’s been an unusually warm fall here in southern Maine.  Fortunately, we have not had to endure the scorching weather and deadly wildfires that have recently plagued southern California.  But this month is the sixtieth anniversary of the 1947 forest fires in Maine that burned over 200,000 acres and left sixteen people dead.  Still, though it has been unusually warm, it has also been wet so fire dangers are low.  We can only hope southern California gets a break – soon.

The unseasonably warm weather means foliage has also been slow to turn color.  Our area was reported to be at or near peak color last weekend, with areas north of here already past peak.  As luck would have it, of course, we have also had rain and wind, so what color there has been is now on the ground.  But I took advantage of a warm, sunny afternoon Monday and took a few photos, including the one above.  Before too much longer we will enter the period of late autumn before winter sets in.  The trees will be bare and the fields brown – sounds bleak and depressing, I know but, truth be known, I love that time of year.  Shouldn’t be long to wait now.

From the Bookshelf – October 2007

Thomas Merton, 1915-1968I’ve been working my way through the journals of Thomas Merton lately.  Several years ago I read Merton’s autobiography, The Seven Storey Mountain, after stumbling into it completely by accident.  His style of writing, and thinking, struck a chord and I have been reading his work ever since.

Having read several of his books now, but only being mid-way through the second volume of Merton’s journals (sometime in 1948), it finally dawned on me what the basic similarity between us was – a struggle with a spirit (or psyche, if you like) that is always looking for “the next thing” in search of peace, satisfaction, contentment, or fulfillment.  In Merton’s case, his search led him to convert to Catholicism, to discerning a vocation to the priesthood, then religious life, and entering the monastery at Gethsemani.  Once in the monastery he struggled with his growing popularity as a writer and his desire for peace and solitude as a contemplative, thinking he should become a Carthusian, or a hermit, or searching for common ground in Eastern spirituality.  His journals, at least as far as I have read, chronicle Merton’s effort to overcome his restlessness – and his frustration at being unable to do so – and find the contentment he sought in the surroundings of everyday life.

The circumstances and surroundings of Merton’s everyday life and mine are, of course, quite a bit different.  But the struggle seems much the same, and I have to keep reminding myself to stay in the “now” more and worry about the “later” less.  Like Merton, I get frustrated with myself when I realize that I am not as present to the people and situations in my life as I should be but, in the same way, I keep trying.  It’s funny, but reading Merton’s journals (published, with his permission, more than 25 years after his death) I feel as though he’s a contemporary, and his writing like letters confiding in a friend, even though he died almost forty years ago and would be old enough to be my grandfather.

Merton’s writing, thus far in my reading, hasn’t revealed whether he ever found the peace he was looking for, at least while he was alive, or how.  Guess I’ll keep reading.

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Fallingwater
Every year I attend the ICMA conference I experience the same arc of thoughts from “I wouldn’t mind traveling more for business” to “Oh, God, I can’t wait to get home” and “I couldn’t deal with this on a regular basis.” No doubt the swelling ranks of travelers and the increasingly dysfunctional airline system (not to mention the distinct lack of room for those of us in the ‘big and tall’ category) have something to do with that. But, as much as I enjoy getting my head out of the community I serve for a few days to see and hear what’s going on elsewhere, I think I like being home more.

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Steel City Status Report

Airline delays have been much in the news in recent months.  I didn’t pay too much attention since I don’t do a lot of travelling, by air or otherwise.  Getting to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania from Portland, Maine last Friday (and Saturday, if that gives you any indication) made me a little more sympathetic, however.  I finally arrived at my hotel in Pittsburgh about 1:30 Saturday morning, only about nine hours behind schedule.  There was some good news, however; my bags both got here before I did, and I was treated to a nighttime view of downtown.  Coming through the tunnel under Mount Washington there was really not any hint of the downtown skyline but, as the guy next to me on the flight told me there would be, there was a pretty spectacular view of it upon emerging from the tunnel.

There hasn’t been a whole lot of time for sight-seeing, and being a few miles away from downtown makes it harder.  However, I was able to walk around the University of Pittsburgh campus, saw the Cathedral of Learning, and visited one of the landmarks I made it my goal to see, the Cathedral of Saint Paul.  Below is my photo of the 1962 Beckerath pipe organ that I also mentioned in my “Steel City Countdown” post:

1962 Beckerath Organ - St. Paul’s Cathedral, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Not bad considering the lack of adequate lighting, tripod, and, oh yeah, a lift so I could get the kind of shot from the Pipedreams web site.

Tomorrow it’s off to Fallingwater.  Hope the weather’s reasonably cooperative and I can post a photo or two and some reflections on my pilgrimage.