Wednesday, October 31, 2007

My Home Town...Halloween!

It is Halloween week and the waning full moon illuminates my early morning walk. This magnificent moon represents the Hunter’s Moon, or in earlier times, the Blood Moon. Its name is just what it suggests, more light for hunters to find their prey. It used to be a grand celebration in Western Europe, called The Feast of the Hunter’s Moon. That tradition died out in the 1700’s but has been revived down in Lafayette for their festival of the same name. Whatever you call it, it is romantic. My Mom and Dad were engaged on the full Hunter’s Moon 59 years ago on a hayride. I like to think of them so young and happy and laughing on that hayride years ago. They used to dance to tunes like By the Light of the Silvery Moon and later to Moon River. It is charming and comforting to watch parents dance. We do not dance enough, any one us.

My neighborhood is decked out for Halloween….orange lights, glowing pumpkins, plastic bats in windows. I scuff through the leaves nightly to see what has been added. There used to be a decoration contest in town for Halloween and one of the winners of that contest years ago is now dark and lonely and for sale. I thought about buying that house just to decorate it back up for Halloween. It already has an eerie haunting look with the peeling gingerbread trim and the forlorn sale sign out front. I probably am not the best one to buy it though as my own decorations are pretty minimal. Corn stalks are tied on my garden gates with a passel of pumpkins on each side. Most of the pumpkins came freely from my garden, but two of them were from the five boys next door. We traded for a homemade loaf of bread. I imagine the bread did not even make it through half of their dinner time.

All old towns are wondrous creatures at Halloween. I sometimes wonder what keeps all of these traditions going year after year. We know how they all started The Irish and the Scots brought these European customs with them when they (we) immigrated in the 1800’s. Decorated pumpkins. Witches. All Hallows Eve.

We have our own traditions here (even without the house decorating, although I was thinking that the Park’s Department should bring that back, what do you think?) There is the Autumn hoe down at the park, the Fall Fest, the Trick-or-Treating hours. I am glad that I was a child before those rules were established. I grew up in Fort Wayne and we started the Trick-or-Treat scene at least a week ahead of time. We started early and ended late and took our last loot home on Halloween night in an old pillowcase. At least those are the stories I tell my kids about the good ole’ days. I remember spreading all of it out, sorting it by really great stuff, good stuff, OK stuff, and not so great. The Bun candy bars were in the really great stuff whereas apples and boxes of raisins were rock bottom.

On this night the storytelling at Pokagon State Park still stands as a tradition in the county. My friend, Steve, and I have been telling ghost stories for 18 years (I think, we need to ask Fred Wooley on that one) at the park. It is a ghostly night with luminaries, carved pumpkins and a roaring fire in the Pavilion. Everyone sits bundled up sharing popcorn and cider, compliments of the Inn. Children who came to some of the first storytellings are now bringing their children to this wonderful evening. Sometimes we are accompanied by bats or mice or even an occasional black cat walking through, but always there is a chill in the air.

The wind blows today as I write and rehearse those ghost stories for tonight. Some stories I pull out of the archives of my brain, others are born out of my imagination. I have blown the cobwebs out of my black cape and found both of my gloves for this haunting evening. It is good to know that some things don’t change and that for a few hours we can huddle together listening to cryptic tales that will not be at all scary tomorrow in the daylight.

I’ll come home late tonight and scuff through the leaves surrounding my garden gate, light my pumpkin and just be glad for traditions in my hometown.

Friday, October 26, 2007

The Hunter's Moon

Last night Aaron and Karen decided to try their hunting skills again (Karen already successfully got a deer with her bow and arrow, outsmarting her husband!) so the boys came for dinner and, shall I say, activities!

The leaves are plentiful now with piles and piles of butterscotch gold and toffee colors filling my gardens. We raked and jumped and raked and jumped and, well, you get the picture. Needless to say we ended up with no large piles of leaves by the time we went in, but a great time was had by all. Their eyes and faces were absolutely delighted with the leaf jumping. Matthew remembers it, but Jonah just barely remembers participating last year..it was lovely.

We came in to warm up, have a steaming bowl of fresh chili (compliments of Karen) and biscuits on their new Halloween plates. The sun was starting to go down in the West and I kept watching for the full moon to rise. I saw it peeking over my neighbor's house, grabbed the boys with hats and coats, apples and a paring knife and sat out on the stoop to watch the rising of the Hunter's Moon. I told Matthew...someday when today is a long time ago remember this moment. He calmly said...you mean when you are dead? Hmmm.....I guess so!

It was so beautiful. We ate apples and just couldn't stop staring at the beauty of the night. We finally came up, hung up more orange lights, resituated my witch manequin and played hide-and-go-seek. It was a wonderful evening.

Yes, an evening to remember when today is a long time ago!

Lou Ann

Lou Ann Homan-Saylor lives in Angola, Indiana which is nestled in the hills of Northern Indiana and spends her summers on the wind swept island of Ocracoke. You can find her gardening or writing late into the night under the light of her frayed scarlet lamp. She is a storyteller, a teacher, a writer, an actress and a collector of front porch stories.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

My Hometown...October 20, 2007

It is after midnight and I am driving through downtown Indianapolis. The city is lit up and it seems as if everyone is still out as the streets are crowded with cars. I do not know where they are going at this late hour. I am coming from the Hoosier Storytelling Festival, actually the 20th anniversary. I have told stories at all but one of the festivals. Every year we gather to celebrate stories and friendship. I love being part of this festival….telling stories…setting up chairs…hanging twinkle lights in the tents for the evening performances. My artsy friends in Indy continuously ask me about ‘home’ and ‘hearth’ in Northern Indiana. I am always proud and gush my way through accolades about my town. Alright, so I do romanticize it a bit, but why not? Charming. Quaint. These are the words I use. I talk about my small gardens and walking everywhere. They promise to visit this winter when the storytelling work slows down, and they will.

I remember that I am out of toothpaste and pull into a brightly lit CVS as the 1 a.m. hour approaches. I am almost out of my old Jeep when my cell phone rings. It is Tonya, my Florida daughter-in-law. I panic when I hear her voice at this wee hour of the morning. She assures me that everything is fine, although I find that hard to believe when she is calling me at 1 a.m. She wonders what I am doing. I tell her that I am just roaming the streets of Indianapolis heading toward my friend Ellen’s house. She doesn’t appear to be surprised or really even notice what I am saying.

I wait for her to speak, to announce her presence and her cause. She does not mince words but bluntly states that fact that she is homesick. Homesick? I do not understand what she is saying. Homesick for what? Her words pour out like sweet, smooth honey. She is homesick for northern Indiana…for her roots…family…old friends. I listen in amazement. She is my Florida girl, for seven years with a lovely old remodeled bungalow just blocks from the St. Pete Beach. She represents our spring vacations when we are mired down with the frosty edges of winter. She and Adam have good jobs, make good money. Their life is envious to most as we watch from a distance.

I am caught so off guard by her statements that I become a bit speechless and let her ramble on until my cell phone dies and I sit in the CVS parking lot unable to reach her and pondering what this will mean.

After college my three sons set off with bags packed…literally the day after graduation. Two went to the East Coast, one to the West Coast with packed U-hauls. I think about their adventures. I can’t help but laugh and think they remind me of the three little pigs leaving home with bundle sticks and going out to make their fame and fortune. The odd part is that one at a time they are packing up their own new families and coming home. First Aaron and Karen from Atlanta, now Adam and Tonya from Florida.

I think of all the advice I need to share…Angola is not St. Pete or Atlanta or Portland. The jobs are not as plentiful or as monetarily rewarding…the weather is cold and snowy in the winter. My mind spins with all the reasons they should stay where they are, but the echo of her voice reaches me as I sit in the parking lot. We miss you. We miss family. We miss home.

Home. A small rural town where my Indy friends are so envious as I tell about my neighborhood….my book club…Fall Fest…walking to the movies, the coffee shop. A small rural town where you build in fifteen extra minutes when you shop because you will know everyone. A small rural town where my neighbors come for pot lucks and plow my snow when the winter winds blow. I am in love with my town. There, I have said it. Everyone knows it. I guess my kids know it as well.

I turn on the ignition and head towards Ellen’s house. I really want to go home, but that will come in a day or two as the Festival season comes to an end. I smile. It looks as though I will be setting two extra plates for our Sunday suppers come this winter.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Under the sun (and the tent)...

A few hours in the car...a little NPR..a little chatting with the kids on the cell phone, and I pull up to the Indiana History Center to begin the 20th anniversary year of the Hoosier Storytelling Festival.

I am a day or so late which can't be helped with school and theatre obligations, but none-the-less, I arrive with two minutes to spare to hear Bill Harley. He is professional and funny and we all end up singing to songs that we danced to as teen agers! Memories flood around me as I listen. I whisper to Ellen that we should go up on stage and dance..but no one else seems to be thinking that...so we don't.

I stay at Ellen's although she is too busy to chat with this festival...so many details..Her Dad makes my early morning coffee as I am up early...a habit I will never get rid of as I roam about the house watching the dawn's night sky with diamond stars.

My room is cozy with my own quilt and a new mattress from a Christmas a while back. The room is tucked under the front eaves, and I feel a bit like Little Orphant Annie...especially on these lovely Autumn days.

So three days under the tents...stories...friends...connections. It is family and home for me.

Lou Ann

Lou Ann Homan-Saylor lives in Angola, Indiana which is nestled in the hills of Northern Indiana and spends her summers on the wind swept island of Ocracoke. You can find her gardening or writing late into the night under the light of her frayed scarlet lamp. She is a storyteller, a teacher, a writer, an actress and a collector of front porch stories.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Once upon a Tuesday...

The sunlight filters ever so softly into the rectangular windows of The Backstage. I have truly learned to love this area. As I look around it is full of light and color and sound and scent. (Yes, I spray it with lavender water every morning!)

But, oh, the projects leave their toll on this room. Papers are flying in the breeze, costumes waylaid, crayons and watercolor brushes spill out of containers...cameras, journals, art work, spell bowl lists...four coffee cups with just enough coffee in the bottom to become the host of a great science fair experience.

I just returned home from the National Storytelling Festival. It was hot and dry which was quite a switch from year's past, but the stories were as wonderful as ever. We spent three days sitting under the big top of storytelling listening to tales that brought a laugh or a tear. It was wonderful to be with friends and acquaintances that I only meet once a year.

Philip was able to join me and share in the event as well. I always love having another shared experience with him. But, alas, on Sunday we both went home...in opposite directions.

As for now...tonight is my first writing circle at my house. I am looking forward to an evening with folks who love writing as much as I do!

Lou Ann

Lou Ann Homan-Saylor lives in Angola, Indiana which is nestled in the hills of Northern Indiana and spends her summers on the wind swept island of Ocracoke. You can find her gardening or writing late into the night under the light of her frayed scarlet lamp. She is a storyteller, a teacher, a writer, an actress and a collector of front porch stories.