One of my fondest childhood memories was sitting in the old Glenbyrne Theater in south
watching "Star Wars" over and over with my little sister. During the hot, sticky summer of 1977, Laura
and I would find our seats in the air conditioned theater, our skin breaking out in chills
of excitement every time we saw the enormous title burst onto the screen
simultaneous with the opening blast of John William's music.
We must have seen that movie, and the two sequels, at least ten times. Back then, we didn't have DVD's. Not many of us owned VCR's. So going to the movie theater and seeing the ultimate battle of good versus evil play out in front of us made for some exciting moments. In fact, during my first viewing of "The Empire Strikes Back," the theater started shuddering. I thought it was because of the scream of X-wing fighters roaring across the screen. But no.
Toledo registered an
earthquake that day....and boy, did we feel it.
Halloween has rolled around again, and while it's not all that earthshaking (unless you count the high drama involved with changing trick-or-treat schedules due to imminent rain), it does get me wondering about the original purpose for All Hallow's Eve. A precursor to one of my favorite times of the year, All Soul's Day, Halloween was a way of honoring the dead, the shadow, the dark side within us all. In centuries past, "soulers" went door to door singing and saying prayers for those who have passed. Nowadays, we've lost that tradition, although kids (and some adults) often dress up in shadowy versions of what death or the dark side might look like.
I'm not much for scary things. Clowns in particular are undeniably on my "stay away" list. Still, many of my friends love this time of year and decorate their homes with ghoulish decorations that both delight and deter many neighborhood kids. Me? I gave away all my Halloween decorations years ago.
Still, I do love to poke my dark side now and again to see what's lurking there.
Recently while teaching an Astrology class, I said to my students, "We're all born with light and shadow. Most of us tend to gravitate toward the light. Dark things scare us." I shrugged. "But what's shadow? Just something that we can't see until we shine a light on it. And believe me...whatever you don't work through in the light, will maneuver itself in your shadow and you'll be met with it again and again in relationships, in difficult choices, and in your life lessons."
"And by the way," I added with a wink. "Bright light always casts a shadow somewhere."
In some ways, I wasn't surprised at all that Darth Vader turned out to be Luke's father. That clandestine moment when the truth was revealed in the second "Star Wars" movie turned a lot of heads, but I remember thinking, "Yep...that sounds about right." And when Luke finally makes peace with his father at the end of "Return of the Jedi," he's really making peace with his totality. I had to wait through nearly two hours of mildly annoying Ewoks and gun fights to get to that very satisfying conclusion.
When I started writing my first novel in the mid-nineties, I soon realized the two main characters represented my own light and shadow. Interestingly enough, it's Michael, the dark side of me, that is my favorite to write. He's tough. Mouthy. Freedom seeking. Heartbroken. Struggling. And ultimately, he's working through his demons.
Tomorrow begins my favorite month of the year. Autumn colors and the changing weather suit me just fine. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. I love to dig out my sweaters and polar fleece. And always in November I tiptoe into my dark side to see what's waiting there.
Tomorrow I will begin writing a new novel that's been waiting in the darkened drawer of my desk for over a year. Once again I will resurrect Michael's character and let him provide a voice for my shadow. Once again I will shed a little light on that which is unknown, but will soon be bathed in luminosity.
This is the third novel in which Michael will have a starring role, and once again, I'm looking forward to what he'll reveal as the story unfolds. I just watched an old episode of "Northern Exposure," and Chris in the Morning had these wise words to say: "There's a dark side to each and every human soul. We wish we were Obi-Wan Kenobi, and for the most part we are, but there's a little Darth Vader in all of us. Thing is, this ain't no either-or proposition. We're talking about dialectics, the good and the bad merging into us. You can run but you can't hide. My experience? Face the darkness. Stare it down. Own it. As brother Nietzsche said, being human is a complicated gig. So give that ol' dark night of the soul a hug. Howl the eternal yes!"
May you and yours have a safe and happy All Hallow's Eve!
Here's a link to a haunting tune by one of my favorite artists, Loreena McKennit, singing "All Souls Night."