Yesterday I saw a hawk circling almost right over my condominium complex. He must have been finding some traces of thermals – air warmed by the ground – because with very little flapping of wings, he gained some altitude. The hawk’s tail was rusty red in the clear October sunlight, and his flight was so beautiful that suddenly I could understand tribal people looking up into the sky and feeling awe at the sight of such a creature, feeling that flesh and blood intersects with supernatural spirit in a bird like that.
Then I brought up a pot of yellow mums, and put it on the balcony. Immediately a honeybee buzzed up to briefly light on one of the bright yellow flowers. It was almost as though the bee blessed the plant. I would like to think so. This potted mum is going to play a part in an ofrenda in my home. Ofrendas are traditional Mexican and Mexican-American home altars where departed loved ones are honored on All Souls’ Day, November 2. My ofrenda will be in honor of my beloved grandmother. She loved all kinds of flowers, and gardening and growing vegetables. She was also an Alabama country Methodist who probably never heard the word ofrenda in her life. Creating this one is going to be interesting.
On the other hand, my grandmother sometimes saw spirits. Don’t get me wrong. She was no flake. She was level-headed as the day is long – and occasionally saw spirits or had clairvoyant visions. And she was part Cherokee Indian. These things may put her closer to Native American spiritual sensibilities than her identity would otherwise suggest. For that matter, though, she had some Welsh ancestors; and the Celts had their own sense of spirits and “thin places” between this world and the supernatural.
So the two days, All Saints and All Souls, follow All-Hallows’-Eve, i.e., Halloween. Thin times all, at least if you ask the Celts or the Aztecs and their Mexican and American descendants. I think my own home, the complex and the balcony and hopefully the wall where the ofrenda will be, is a thin place, at least some of the time. As the Wiccans say, blessed be.