A week ago today I was in the midst of Samhain planning and preparation. I scanned family photos into my computer and printed them out on good glossy photo paper for the Ancestor Altar. My husband and I purchased several pumpkins, large and small, for carving. We worked on cleaning up the yard and making new Autumnal arrangements for outside with cornstalks, branches of red, yellow and green leaves, ornamental corn and mums. The shopping list for our traditional Samhain meal, beef stew, was made up and ready for the weekend shopping. I worked on writing some simple but beautiful ritual invocations and prayers. The gradual thinning of the veil was in the air and I was keenly aware of it.
Then came Sandy....
Last Friday it became clear that Hurricane Sandy was coming our way and that it would be a historic unprecedented storm for us here in the Northeast. She was forecasted to arrive Sunday as a "hybrid" storm, a hurricane wrapped in a Nor'Easter, and, due to Her sheer size, would stay with us through Wednesday. October 31st. Halloween. Samhain! After mourning this a bit, I set aside my Samhain/Halloween plans and began preparing for our uninvited guest.
The original grocery list was scratched, replaced with non-perishable food items, batteries and lots and lots of water. My entire Saturday was spent outside, battening down the hatches. Yard decor and patio furniture was secured and bird feeders were taken down. Herbs were harvested and were either prepared for drying or bagged for a few neighbors. The last of the vegetables were also harvested. Potted plants were moved to the shelter of my enclosed sun porch. My husband cleared gutters and, with the help of my brother-in-law, worked on mending some "iffy" areas of our roof caused by last year's Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee. The car got gassed up and cash was taken out of the bank.
Sunday morning brought the first bands of Sandy. We awoke to darkening skies, a light chilly rain, and a more than gentle breeze. While my husband worked on last minute preparations, like moving items in our water-prone basement, I went outside and reinforced the protective "shields" around our home. Taking a black permanent marker, I located the flat round stones at several points around our property to redraw the rune of protection, Algiz, on each one. I then walked the perimeter with sea salt, water and a homemade sage smudgestick, speaking words of protection. Each and every tree near my home received extra magickal attention in an attempt to protect them from the expected strong winds and torrential rain. I then decided to walk around my whole block doing the same thing, encircling my neighbors's homes with the light of protection. (If any of them happened to see me doing any of this, they must have thought I was nuts. Oh well. I was just being helpful.)
The weather deteriorated over the course of Sunday and through Monday morning but things didn't get really bad until Monday afternoon and night. The wind literally howled at certain times and the rain pelted the windows, all as I stayed tuned to local news coverage of the storm's onslaught. Long story short, we were lucky here. No damage except a few small tree branches and lots of leaves down. Our lights blinked alot but we never lost power. Not a drop of water came into the basement. Many people were not so lucky, especially those on the Jersey Coast and in the New York City area. (Many prayers are with those people tonight.) Sandy is still spinning over us in bands of rain and, again, a not-so-gentle breeze but She is almost gone, but she will certainly not be forgotten.
As I awoke Tuesday morning to a quieter but still gray wet and windy day, I joyfully realized that my Samhain plans were not ruined. However, as I watched the news coming out of the Jersey Shore and in New York City, my heart became heavy. So much destruction, so much sadness. How could I celebrate Samhain when so many people were suffering? By remembering the people who have lost their homes and neighborhoods and remembering the places that are no longer there. After all, these are the places where we all come from, the places our ancestors have dwelled. These places haunt our memories as much as our loved ones do. These washed away, blown away or burned away places held our memories and so must be remembered as well.
Samhain will be different this year, the original plans fluttering away in the winds of Sandy, drowned in Her destructive surf and torrential rain, buried under the mountains of sand She moved into seaside towns, but it will occur nonetheless and all will be remembered, especially Hurricane Sandy, for She changed so many lives this Samhain.
A blessed Samhain to you all and many prayers to all of the people who were in Sandy's path.