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Friday, 31 October 2014

My Favourite Day of the Year - Hallowe'en!

I don't know what happened to the way people spell it, but I'm sticking with Hallowe'en. It's indicative of its origins as All Hallow's Evening. A few letters got taken out of 'evening' and so an apostrophe was used to replace them. That's true of all contractions, and so I don't see why it should be any different for Hallowe'en. Mind you, if they really wanted to be precise about it, I suppose it would be more like:
'hallow'e'en'
I guess it's a bit bulky to have four apostrophes though. Never mind the fact that a large number of people don't know the difference between there, their, and they're, so that many apostrophes in a single word would have been a nightmare. Imagine if we used an apostrophe for every single letter that was missing in our contractions! Of course, I will never for the life of me understand where the word "won't" came from. That's not a contraction of anything. We certainly don't say "wo not" if we say it straight out. It's supposed to mean "will not" and to me the contraction should then be "willn't" and that sounds silly even to my own ears. Maybe at one time that was used, along with words like "whilst" and such. Then again, I used that word recently - possibly in my last blog post, but I don't remember exactly.

Not that any of that has to do with Hallowe'en (there, I did it again), but that's a normal segue for me. I meander down strange and looping paths.

Having grown up with Trick-or-Treat as part of every year of my childhood, I was more than a little surprised to learn a few years ago that it's only popular in North America. The day itself is based on very, very old religious stuff, but the candy thing is all on this side of the world. In fact, I was even more surprised when I learned that Canada is the country that is apparently responsible for it as we know it today. The first real trick-or-treating supposedly began in Alberta of all places. Not the sort of area where you'd expect it, really, with the whole cowboy reputation they've got over there. Not that it's actually like that in a lot of places. Calgary may have its stampede, of which I heartily disapprove (I'm not fond of spurs being raked into animals myself), but for the most part Calgary and Edmonton are shiny urban cities. Lots of modern buildings and the like. I ought to know, seeing as I lived in Edmonton for far too long.

Oil refineries are the thing in Edmonton, and since the whole geography of the province is being destroyed by Stephen Harper and the oil sands being processed, I doubt very much that I'll ever be back there. Y'all thought the chemical spill in West Virginia was a big deal? You should see the spills they have there! In June of 2013 a pipeline leaked 9.5 million litres of industrial waste water. How does that compare to West Virginia? Well, their leak was 28,000 litres. Yeah. Alberta's was about 340 times the size. Killed off boreal forest (like the taiga in Russia), and affected about 103 acres of land. According to a database report obtained by Global News (a Canadian media company), there have been over 61,000 pipeline incidents in the last 37 years. But for some reason we want to put in the Keystone XL pipeline so Americans can have their oil. In fact, the vast majority of the politicians in my country's government have voted to press on with it. Not surprising, and the reason I will never vote liberal or conservative again - we have another major party in Canada, which is the NDP, or New Democrats, but we have a whole slew of smaller ones, too.

Okay, so I did a wild detour from the subject at hand, I know, but really there isn't all that much to say about Hallowe'en in and of itself. It's fun for kids, and it's a time of religious significance to anyone who celebrates and follows the earth-based religions. I've had friends who were Wiccan, Druid and Pagan. I studied the Wiccan religion at one time, myself. It was interesting, and is about 28,000 years older than Christianity, so I figured maybe it had a little more legitimacy than the more popular religions today, but I wasn't about to prance around skyclad (otherwise known as 'naked') to honour the Goddess, Diana. Of course, it all boiled down to the fact that I simply wasn't a follower or a believer in any of them. I'm a spiritual person in a lot of ways, but it comes down to morality more than it does any written texts - which is maybe a bit funny coming from someone who cherishes books so much. That kind of thing has to come from within, though. My whole spirituality is based on doing what I honestly believe is the right thing. Not that I'm always successful, but I do have a conscience that leads me. More than I can say for the zealots who are persecuting anyone who isn't of their personal faith.

So why is Hallowe'en my favourite day of the year? Well, it is a day that I do feel a spritual connection to, though maybe it's more the season. In my childhood and young adulthood, it was almost always the day that I experienced the first snowfall of the season. Maybe I'm 'misremembering' it, but that was how it seemed even then. I specifically remember some years where I was out walking in the wee hours (my night owl tendencies have been with me my entire life) and the first flakes would flutter down past my face. Now, I can't start getting all poetic because it just isn't my style. Sardonic would be a closer approximation if we had to put a label on it. I just loved the crisp air, the beautiful leaves of my home town (Huntsville, Ontario - a stunningly gorgeous place for seeing the fall colours), and the smell of woodsmoke on the air.

It was cold by then back in those days. Now we live in southern Ontario, and despite the fact that we're still in Canada we're actually farther south than most of the Canadian border. I don't like it. I miss the north. Global warming has had a hand in it, too. It's nowhere near as cold as it used to be, on average. We might get one cold year that would compare to an average year twenty years ago, but in general the winters are much warmer. Last year's polar vortex? According to The Weather Network it wasn't any colder than a regular winter a couple of decades ago, but suddenly schools were being closed because of the 'extreme temperatures.' Little do they remember!

I remember one winter in Huntsville that was so harsh, that even with a block heater and a battery blanket you were lucky if your car started. If you're from a warmer climate, you probably don't even know what block heaters and battery blankets are. Wikipedia's description of a block heater:
The most common type is an electric heating element in the cylinder block, connected through a power cord often routed through the vehicle's grille.
Battery blankets wrap around your battery, and plug in to keep the battery at a decent temperature. Our temperatures during one cold snap went down to minus 50 Celsius, which converts to minus 58 Fahrenheit. That was before the wind chill factor. It was minus 70 with the wind chill (minus 94 for my American readers). No, I'm really not kidding. It's not like we were living really far up north or anything either. Huntsville is nowhere near as far north as Edmonton is. In fact, it's also very far below most of the Canadian border if you care to look at a map. You might even have heard of it from when the 36th G8 summit was held there in 2010. Its global coordinates are 45° 20′ 0″ N, 79° 13′ 0″ W, whereas the large part of the Canadian border sits at around the 49th parallel, 4 degrees further north, which is actually quite the distance in global terms.

Temperatures like those will cause your engine block to crack. Even a lot of the antifreeze we use up here can be useless against that kind of cold. Some of the most expensive stuff will only guarantee protection down to about minus 36 or 37.

So, again...why is Hallowe'en my favourite day? I think the more I try to explain it, the less enticing it sounds, even to me. However, I do actually enjoy winter. Mostly because I'm indoors for almost all of it now. There's something so homey and inviting about thoughts of snow outside and perhaps hot chocolate inside, with a good book of course. Hallowe'en is the day when I can feel that coming. I've still got the warmth outside, with the beautiful leaves on all the maple trees, but it evokes the silence of winter. There I go waxing semi-poetic again, but winter is so obviously quiet and I do love my silence. Snow, whether on the ground or in the air, muffles a lot of the sounds we're subjected to in the city. The cars aren't as loud, unless they're crashing into one another on icy roads. People talking and yelling get muffled and absorbed. It's nature's soundproofing.

Maybe you wonder what's so appealing about silence, and quite frankly most people can't stand not having some sort of noise around them. They like having the TV on 'for company' apparently. Why do people need company so badly? Why don't they like to hear their own thoughts. I rather enjoy mine. (So much so, that I inflict those thoughts on everyone else, such as when I write my blog postings.) My best creativity comes from the wee hours, when people in my apartment building are mostly bedded down for the night, and I know it's not bloody likely anyone would have the nerve to knock on my door. No phone calls from people I don't wish to hear from - the people I do like hearing from know it's actually the best time to call me.

Silence is one reason I'm so entranced by ferrets. The only sounds they make are happy little chirps and squeaks (called dooking). They'll squeal when they're in serious trouble (like when one is being bitten by another one a little too hard), but generally the decibel level is very low. You'll never have neighbours complaining about the noise from them. Cats & dogs people will complain about, especially if you have a cat that goes into heat, or a dog that's always barking.

I do love the costume part of Hallowe'en, though, and some of the very few happy memories I have from childhood are based on the costumes I wore. I created a 'Ms. Pacman' costume one year. I had two big cardboard pieces that I cut into the right shape, and then wrapped yellow material around them with me in the middle. I even had little ghosts dangling in front of the mouth. No other kid had a costume even close to that. Most were wearing the pre-made pieces of crap they sell in the stores. No creativity and ingenuity - just money spent.

Of course, I was used to having to make and wear costumes. Or my grandmother made them for me. Figure skating required a lot of them. What people see on TV is only a tiny portion of what figure skaters do on the ice. Ice Capades will give you a larger perspective. We had a skating carnival every year, and quite often every one of us were in many different numbers. I had solos as well, and a few quick-changes (much like stage actors do). There were group numbers and duets that I had to perform in as well. Each had a different costume. I was a pink panther one time, a chicken another time, an owl, a rag doll, Pinocchio, Minnie Mouse, you name it. There were also competitions that required costumes. It was how I learned I was allergic to Noxema and Elastoplast bandages. So much make-up to take off with creams that turned my skin bright red with bumps all over it, and being Pinocchio required a long nose that used flesh-coloured first-aid tape to stick it to my face. It wasn't until the nose was peeled off that the rash became obvious.

I loved the costumes. I wasn't much for the 'win-this-competition-or-else' part of things, but the costumes were fun. This is the only time of year where I have a vague wish that I was more social face-to-face, so there would be a Hallowe'en party I could go to in costume, or I could host one where a few people might show up. I guess they have the public ones where you can buy a ticket, so that's an option I suppose.

I do have one really weird memory of a Hallowe'en that will stick with me for the rest of my life. It's one of those, "You haven't lived until..." moments. For me anyway. I wasn't actually in a costume, but I was dressed up 'to the nines' as they call it, which my friends laughingly said might as well have been a costume since it wasn't my normal wear. I was at a bar in my home town. One friend was a bouncer there at the time, and my other friend was also a bouncer part-time, but he wasn't working that night. Well, wouldn't you know it but that I got hit on. Here's the strange part. The guy who hit on me wasn't hitting on me for himself, but for his friend who wasn't quite brave enough to take on the risk himself. This friend who was taking the decisive action happened to be dressed as a woman. It was more than little surreal. Especially when it came out that they had apparently 'called dibs' on me. Uh, what? The whole thing was probably really insulting if I think about it, but I've never been able to do anything but laugh at the experience. I was hit on by a man...dressed as a woman...for his friend...who was too chicken to approach me himself...but he got 'dibs' on me. Again I say, uh, what?

In case you're wondering about my response to the above approach, it wasn't in the affirmative. I've got no interest in someone who won't approach me on their own. It's one thing if they met me through a friend, and didn't have a way to contact me. That's happened to me any number of times, and I'm okay with them asking the mutual friend to talk to me. How else are they going to reach me? I'm not always going to be interested, obviously, but I'm never mean about it if they're decent guys. I probably come off pretty blunt and harsh in my writing, but I honestly hate hurting or humiliating anyone. It takes guts to tell someone you're attracted to them.

So, those are the best of my Hallowe'en thoughts and memories. I hope everyone stays safe, happy and healthy for this really cool day. Happy Hallowe'en everyone!!