Saturday, November 13, 2010

November 1, 2010
Day of The Dead
This morning I got up at 3 am to ride into the hills outside Oaxaca to witness the celebration that is the Day of theDead. You can't really describe this phenomenon--you can only accurately call it a phenomenon--because it is so pure, so intimate, so deeply spiritual it is without bounds and simply not capable of being quantified nor qualified.

We bounced around and over very bumpy,muddy, rutted roads, crossed a bridge and kept going. We bounced and jostled around some more in the sharp black air and some more then, and suddenly, came to a stop. Although we had mounted a fairly arduous journey with strategic preparation to be at the graveyard of this Zapotecan community for sunrise, we arrived at our destination with practically no preamble or introduction. Certainly no ramp up as we stepped in the black air and beheld a sea, a literal sea, of shining,laughing faces lit by a million candles and cuddled by clouds upon clouds upon clouds of orange marigolds and pink cocks comb. It was purely subjective as to whether we still were in this world or the next.
The band played joyous, rollicking music and people tended their dearly departed spirits with pure adoration and utter conviction in the pitch black of night . They sat and visited with each other; prayed; sang; danced; drank the mescal; laughed and waved at the white-skinned light-eyed visitors with expensive cameras sporting wide, fat lenses. Little children ran, played, chased and shouted to each other amid and amongthe dead of the night just before the sun came back; teenagers flirted slyly with each other under the watchful eyes of their grandmothers and their fathers and mothers chatted and laughed with passersby and visitors. It occurred to me again and again that the American Christian community that bemoans, grieves and wails death is quite possibly among the most uncivilized and primitive societies of all time.

Last evening we went over to Xoxocatlan to be with that community as they hauled in wheelbarrows full of supplies and lovingly tended the graves,
lighting candles, arranging flowers and making full preparations to venerate, celebrate and visit with their deceased. It was magic, but only the magic that comes with pure liturgy, pure devotion and bedrock faith. As the sun went down and the candles came up, I experienced an illumination that I doubt I'll
experience again. And then, this morning, again with practically no warning, the sun came up over the graveyard at Atzompa and suddenly it was all over. Band stopped playing and packed their equipment in vans, grandmothers trailing grandsons bearing chairs trudged out the gates for home and the marigolds were deadheaded and shredded on the graves.

The Night Magic is gone and the sun beats down in the courtyard now, flooding it with brilliant white light. But I have the memory of these people and their hearts locked securely
away in my own heart, for those dark days and dark nights when my own dearly beloved are so, so, so very far away…

On Assignment
Oaxaca City, Oaxaca MEXICO

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