I love October—my favorite of all the months, and yet she is unpredictable, inconsistent, ornery.
Sometimes she arrives all at once—we wake up to trees of crimson and gold, the smell of burning wood and spiced drinks on the wind, tasty things stewing and baking. Overnight it’s October everywhere; we feel it in our bones. The dead come calling, and it’s Halloween for weeks. The nights are deliciously haunted, and we gather together for wine and whispers and witchy things that remind us of the magic of childhood autumns.
Sometimes October is slow to arrive, just hints of color here and there, the gradual bundling of layers—first a scarf, then a sweater, maybe mittens without fingers. Summer hangs on, and Halloween feels far away, and winter farther still. We look down at our bare feet crunching orange leaves in the grass, our legs in shorts, our hands in mittens. There’s a disconnect, a teasing, a hesitation—is October coming or isn’t she? Sometimes we ignore her, lulled into a false sense of never-ending summer. Sometimes we choose to look for October in unexpected places, we work a little harder, maybe find roads never before taken.
Just over a week to go, and I’m still not sure about this year’s October. Perhaps our perception of October is as much influenced by what’s going on inside of us, as what is happening around us. Maybe that’s why she seems fickle? Maybe October reflects back to us who we are as we head into the cold darkness of winter?
You’ve heard it haven’t you? The sigh under your bed just as you lie down. The scratching on the window that stirs you from sleep?
Come closer to the computer. Lower your voice and look over your shoulder.
You know those bumps in the night? Those creaks on the stairs when you’re in bed with the dog and no one else is home? Those misplaced keys and glasses, or randomly spilled milk on the counter? The flash in the shadows that looks like cat eyes, but you don’t have a cat? Something brushes against your foot when you step down onto the rug to get a drink of water in the middle of the night. Something tugs at your sweater when you sit down to watch the television.
You wonder for a moment, then shake it off to dreams that linger, or spicy food before bed, or dust in your eyes, or maybe the wind.
But that’s not it, and you secretly know that there’s more to life and to your home than what you see.
You have a house spirit, and he or she wants your attention.
You can choose to ignore the signs, but they seldom stop. In fact, they get louder, stronger, and more persistent.
So, what can you do?
The house spirit, like a neglected friend, wants a little communication, a little whimsy, a little sacrifice.
Of course, there are traditional ways: leaving out a small offering of milk, meade, or vodka (depending on your ancestry), singing folksongs, keeping a clean kitchen, leaving a special broom beside the hearth, sharing books for All Hallow’s Read. But be forewarned, modern house spirits can be more demanding.
Lucky for you, the kind folks at the Night Garden have provided you with a way to do all three!
They have created the October Challenge to encourage you to create Art inspired by a house spirit. This can be a drawing, a doll, a story, a poem, a recipe, a blanket, any creative response that you can imagine! (Need more ideas, see this blog entry.)
And the sacrifice? Well, you can definitely submit Art without making any donation, but perhaps you can spare a little money to help the Bengals? This special breed is often adopted by overzealous owners, then given up when they realize that you get a lot of cat and quite a bit of tiger-attitude in these darlings. Have I mentioned that house spirits LOVE Bengals? They do.
To recap, participate in the Night Garden challenge and you:
1. VERY LIKELY APPEASE YOUR HOUSE SPIRIT
2.) Become a part of an online community of awesome artists
3.) Get published online, on thenightgarden.net site, alongside professional writers and artists like Christopher Lincoln and Nathalie Boisard-Beudin! That’s some mighty fine company.
4.) Help Bengals: a breed of cat formed by the cross of a domestic feline and an Asian Leopard Cat. These cats are often adopted by overzealous owners, then given up when they realize that you get a lot of cat and quite a bit of tiger-attitude in these darlings.
I’m packing packing packing. Tomorrow we move into Casa del Lobos. There’s too much to write tonight, so I promise more once we’re a bit settled. Having many adventures. Meeting dear new friends, missing some beloved old friends.
Right now, the Oak Park apartment is a mountain range of boxes, and my children are playing pretend vampire family:
Liam: More blood, I’m soooo hungry!
Maya: Oh, baby, you’ve already drank too much blood today. Time to practice flying.
Lana: Blood! Blood! Blood!
Maya: Lana, I’m going to drink you so that you become a vampire too. Rock-a-Bye, baby blood sucker. Drink some blood.
Liam: How do I turn into a bat again?
Maya: Look, let me draw you a picture. Pretend the blood is dripping down my cheek like this. And I have sharp teeth.
Liam: Does it hurt? Will I have a boo boo?
Maya: We’re magical, we don’t bleed. I can sew you back together. It only hurts a little.