day of the dead

November 1st Day of the Dead. My ancestors are at the gate, dressed in heavy winter coats with a dusting of snow on the collar. The air smells of ancient Russian pine forests and clean running streams. I coax them in with salted peanuts and vodka, small offerings on my altar.

November 1st. The clock ticks down and the collective anxiety ticks up. My friends have headaches or stomach aches, can’t sleep or have started drinking again.

We are trying to wrap our minds around the possibility of four more years of this regime and it seems unthinkable. But in the not so long ago memory of our ancestors, it was thinkable. The Soviet Union, South America, Eastern Europe. Africa. Our ancestors endured and survived much longer brutal regimes than this one.

They had faith. And when their faith ran out, they had each other. They knew that kindness built community, that it was the fabric that wove the web that sustained them.  They grew food and medicinal herbs and shared them. They made alliances that crossed sexual/political barriers and grew strong. And stronger. They tore down walls. Toppled governments everyone said were too big to fail. I do not mean to make it sound easy. I mean to say our ancestors did it.

Listen. Our ancestors are at the gate asking us to keep their stories alive. Invite them in. Under the skin and bone of our DNA lies the dark mystery of our inheritance. They are here to tell us that we already have within us all the brilliance, power and beauty needed to restore our world. They’ve passed down resiliency, intuition, generosity, cooperation, empathy, humor, self-reliance. Vision and imagination. The capacity for joy. Courage even when we are afraid. They have given us everything we need to survive.

Dance. Write. Hike. Do whatever it is you do to strike your own spark, because this is how our light keeps getting brighter. This is how we overcome darkness, how we find the keyhole, the underground passage way, the crack in the armor, the green shoot pushing up through the winter of our desolation. This is how we say yes to life.

Our ancestors are at the gate today. Invite them in with roses and wine. With bawdy jokes and their favorite accordion music. Take the seeds they offer and plant them in the tangle and promise of the world waiting to bloom. Make their favorite soup. Ask to hear again the old tales we have almost forgotten. About the village innocent who outwits the bully, the buried treasure and where the map is to be found. About the wolf and the bear who know the way home. About the unseen forces who arrive when we call for them.  Our ancestors are here to bless us with the living waters of their grief and their joy. They are here to remind us that love always wins.

I won’t promise
you’ll never go hungry
or that you won’t be sad
on this gutted
but I can show you
enough to love
to break your heart
              Diane Di Prima

7 thoughts on “day of the dead

  1. Nancy, your message is beautiful and useful during these crazy times. Thank you for your generous and compassionate writing to all of us.


  2. Such a superb piece, Nancy. I didn’t get to read it until just now, as we hang out in purgatory until all the votes are counted… Thank you for this!


  3. Beautifully written, Nancy. Sending my love your way, as love hath prevailed. Onward we stagger towards some promise of positivity, in this much needed rebirth of our country. Hope our paths cross soon, amazing lady!


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