I’m missing Halloween at home this year, which is a little sad, because I love the friends we celebrate with. Their daughter is the same age as my son and they’re going out in paired costumes as Peanut Butter (my son) and Jelly. I even made a peanut hat out of burlap before I left – Halloween costumes are the world’s easiest sewing projects. Thank goodness they only have to stay together for one night!
This year I am taking advantage of a spare time share week to go on a solo writing retreat at the beach in Florida. I know, poor me! I have been looking forward to this ever since I realized this was a use it or lose it week and I was the only one in our family with the flexibility to take advantage of it. Now two days in, I am seeing the advantage for writers to be able to set their own schedules, and also the disadvantages of cable TV (I was sucked into Dancing with the Stars last night!) and poor beach internet connections.
As I sat on the beach yesterday enjoying the unbelievably cerulean water (yes, writers on retreat don’t use the word blue!), I read through some high school writing from when my best friend, Amy McPherson, gave me a Stuart Hall 5-subject spiral bound notebook for Christmas. Of course, we didn’t even think about dating it, but I imagine it was somewhere around 1983 or 1984, since the first page is a fancy hand-written version of the poem read by Vincent Price in Michael Jackson’s Thriller video. Inspiration, I think for my one and only attempt at horror writing.
There is some fun and pretty good writing later in the notebook. This poem is probably not top of anyone’s list, but in the spirit of the writing mentoring work I am doing with middle schoolers right now, I will share for Halloween. When I get back next week I might share it with them and give them a chance to “do revisions” on it, just like I’ll be doing with them. It’s not finished: How would you finish it?
It’s all things dark and dreary
In a place that’s black and eerie
It’s all things twisted and sick
Better grab your candle and light the wick
The ground beneath me is cold as ice
What did I step on? It couldn’t be nice
No, it was a mouse all shriveled and smushed
Its guts all splattered, its bones all crushed
Its eyes were just sockets filled with dry blood
And its fur was all matted and covered with mud
I heard a noise and hid by a house
A shadow came up and stared at the mouse
As gross as it was, it screamed with delight
And spread out its arms and blocked out all light…
That’s it – I’m pretty sure the shadow eats the mouse before it turns on me, but you may have a better ending. I’ve never really been into horror – there’s already too much evil and sadness in the world. But looking back at my teenage-self is fun. Maybe I’ll be a writer for Halloween this year!
How does a holiday like Halloween fit into your faith journey? Is it related at all? If you celebrate Halloween, have you ever wondered about the connection to paganism, Christianity (All Saints’ Day/All Hallow’s Eve) and other traditions? I recently watched Coco and learned more than I knew before about The Day of Dead. It makes me want to continue learning more. Are there holidays that you don’t celebrate religiously that have a religious connection or that you want to learn more about? Do you have any writings or pictures that can take you back to your early teenage years? How do those years inform your faith journey then and now?
I’ll have several more posts about the (better) writing that I did in high school and things I’ve learned rereading those three decades later. Do you have memories of the past that you might want to explore in a spiritual memoir? I am putting together a 5-week course in Savannah on Spiritual Memoir in January and February. Keep an eye out on my website if you want to know more about that class or how to bring something like that to your neck of the woods.