Musical accompaniment: Satie’s Gnossiennes, No. 1 - 5
Ode to Buoy 44008
As I sit here, before the fire, sipping brandy and smoking my pipe, listening to the winds of the hurricane blow against my house, and against my windows, and against my door, and down my chimney, causing the flames within the chamber to flicker, I am reminded that out there, within the teeth of the tempest, southeast of Nantucket, many miles offshore, upon the wild and raging seas, amongst the swells, rides Buoy 44008, alone, but resilient, stoic, relaying important data, such as wind speed, and direction, and air temperature, and water temperature, and barometric pressure, science against nature, unfazed by the storm, unraveled by the onslaught, unmoved by the beast, silently performing its duty, amongst the swells, upon the wild and raging seas, many miles offshore, southeast of Nantucket, within the teeth of the tempest, as I sit here, before the fire, sipping brandy, and smoking my pipe, listening to the winds of the hurricane blow against my house, and against my windows, and against my door, and down my chimney, causing the flames within the chamber to flicker, once again I am reminded that out there…
Sorry, folks, but that’s all I’ve got for this month, except to say Happy Halloween, and to reprint below excerpts from my very first article, published when I was 23 years old, entitled “All Hallow’s Eve” and which appeared in the Barnstable Patriot newspaper on October 31, 1985. (It’s a little rough around the edges, so be kind.)
Over the years the meaning of Halloween – the power of Halloween – has become lost inside of bags of candy and behind plastic masks. The real Halloween lies dormant, hidden beneath the fallen leaves, waiting to surface.
In the past this night received more respect. To our predecessors this eve held more significance. On this night the Druids believed that Saman, the lord of the dead, called his servants to rise from their graves and haunt the earth. In an effort to protect themselves from these spirits, the Druids lit large bonfires. Today, those bonfires have been replaced by meek candlelight. The flame exists, but the meaning is lost, clouded behind candy bars and lollypops.
Halloween has not truly accomplished its task until each of us is in some way frightened. It attempts to do this by capitalizing on our primeval fears. In recent years, though, we have set aside our primitive beliefs for we now consider ourselves to be educated beings.
But no matter how far we evolve, there will always be something in the far reaches of our educated minds which will bring us back to a time when we feared the moon itself. We cannot escape it, for deep down we are still animals. We will always be haunted. We will always know fear. That is why Halloween "spooks" us.
This particular night frightened our ancestors, and it will continue to frighten their descendants. As soon as the sun sets and All Hallow's Eve is upon us, witches, ghosts, and goblins awaken from their long sleep.
On this night there is no escaping it. We are afraid.
PS: Be sure to check out my book, Cape Odd, written with Jim Coogan, at a library near you. It’s full of strange tales you might enjoy while sitting before a fire upon a chilly November night.