The Canadian Writers' Collective

Writing, and writerly tangents

Monday, October 29, 2007

Parading Shadows

By Tamara Lee

Exactly when Halloween became one of my favourite holidays as an adult, I cannot recall. Loving it as a child is perhaps a given, but there came a time over the past 15 years when I realised the value and human need to revere yet stare Death down and give him a little tickle. And that doing so, by celebrating the candy-gluttonous kid and the shadowy Other in ourselves, is as life-affirming as we can get.

Among my favourite annual events in Vancouver is The Parade of Lost Souls. Over on the dark side of town, East Vancouver, thousands of folks dress in their most imaginative costumes, embarking on or observing the community procession meant to honour the dead and the living, with lanterns, music and dancing.

Taking its cue from Day of the Dead and All Saint’s Day, this ghoulie-extravaganza offers a little something at every turn, with even local houses and businesses taking part. There are spooky exhibits, musicians, fireworks, choreographed dance pieces, fire dancers and the Public Dream Society’s ever-present stilt walkers, this year dressed as enormous crows with incredible wingspans towering over the costumed crowds.**

Watching last night’s Parade, I was reminded of Maya Angelou’s beloved poem, “Life Doesn’t Frighten Me” and the children’s book using Angelou's poem and artwork by Jean-Michel Basquiat. I read the book as an adult and remember wishing I'd had it to comfort me during childhood.

Shadows on the wall
Noises down the hail
Life doesn’t frighten me at all
Bad dogs barking loud
Big ghosts in a cloud
Life doesn’t frighten me at all


Fear is not an emotion I tend to nurture, it has its own special ability to follow me around like a Linus-cloud, doing its own special damage. Nor do I tend to watch horror films, lest my dreams be marked by regular re-visitings of chainsaw-wielding maniacs. I prefer my horror funny and maybe even slightly benign.

So, when Halloween is upon us, I am ready to watch my fears and anxieties parade around me, and even mock my own private hells.

At one point during the evening, I stood amidst the crowd mesmerized by the spectacular over-sized crows, a bird I have a particular loathing for. Faces of ghouls and aliens and grim reapers passed me, but as I stared up those hateful crows, dipping and cawing and swooping over us, I was able to find something sensuous in them, something that superseded their ugliness.

I turned and walked along with them for a moment, then stepped aside to watch a mock funeral procession, complete with skeletons in a hansom cab full of red flowers, led by a black-suited man blowing a mournful trumpet.


Next week, my annual viewing of Tim Burton’s A Nightmare Before Christmas will help ease me into the Christmas twinkles and cheese-fest awaiting just 'round the corner. But this year Nightmare is being re-released...in glorious 3-D! Now that ought to help me keep all in perspective.

A Happy Halloween to you all!



**My camera's battery died this fateful night, so I am unable to share many photos of the event. These are the three I was able to resurrect. The first two are houses that have been costumed for the occassion; the last is obviously a band of ghastlies**

3 Comments:

Blogger Tricia Dower said...

The parade sounds like a great event, Tamara. And I love that poem by Maya Angelou. Our local ghouls were out last night -- lots of parties in town, it seemed. It was fun walking around town and seeing them all.

Mon Oct 29, 03:19:00 am GMT-4  
Blogger Andrew Tibbetts said...

Great post, Tamara. That Public Dreams Society sounds so cool. I love spectacle!

Mon Oct 29, 08:38:00 am GMT-4  
Blogger tamara said...

Hey, thanks, gang. It was a great spectacle, indeed.

Mon Oct 29, 11:16:00 pm GMT-4  

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