A Personal Reflection on All Souls Day
Momma would have been 98 today. My best friend as a teenager / high school, Kim Marie, would have been 56 tomorrow had she not died at age 21. A once good friend who no longer speaks to me because I’m a progressive was 56 yesterday. These personal stories lead me into the darker celebrations of Samhein and Dia de los Muertos which arose out of celebrations of the end of harvest and recognition of the beginning of winter.
All Souls Day, November 1st, is celebrated in the Southwestern U.S. as it is in Mexico, as Dia de los Muertos. Many peoples with a European heritage carry on part of a cultural tradition in which the veil between the worlds was thinnest, the most permeable it is all year. Here in the part of the U.S. that was once Mexico, in La Primeria Alta or the Northern portion of the Sonoran Desert, the day is one where the graves of loved ones are decorated with intricately cut paper (papel picado), depictions of skulls and skeletons, marigolds, sugar skulls, candles, and pictures.
In Tucson, Dia de los Muertos, and the our unique observation of it on the weekend nearest to that day, has come to be a very special celebration for and by our community to mourn, to heal, and to celebrate lives and memories where they mix. A few years ago, in 1990, a personal remembrance performance began what has now become an All Souls Procession with over 30,000 participants. “Parade” is a term sometimes used to describe the event, but which is far too superficial a description of the procession. It touched the hearts and filled some of the emptiness of souls who are learning how to carry on in this world without the physical presence of loved ones.
Each year the procession grew. And this seems fitting. Tucson, the Old Pueblo, is a special place. People have lived here for thousands of years. In recent history thousand have died in the surrounding deserts as they attempted to migrate to find work. We are a fairly large city, but we were a town and still feel like one. We are a community that has always attracted artists and writers. Tucson is unique. Any person who is sensitive to such things can feel a sense of history and special energy in this beautiful town between several ranges of mountains. It is a place that honors life, history, and cultures.
I wish I could participate in the procession this year, but I cannot. I have several folks I would much like to acknowledge who left the earthly realm this past year. I will have to do something privately.