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October 31, 2006
The people from NPR all sound like Boris Karloff this morning -- is this a Halloween prank on their part, or is the something wrong with the radio station's transmitter? Or maybe it's my computer -- I decide to check it on my Sinatra/Jobim CD. Hmmnn..."The Girl From Ipanema" seems to carry more than its usual quotient of wistfulness and none of its spritely qualities, and the two guys seem to be baritones now. I wonder if that's what happens to tenors in the afterlife.

Well, anything can happen on Halloween. This morning will be given over to bulb planting, lifting dahlias and miscellaneous cleanup tasks in the garden, as well as to flying the remaining witches from the redbud tree, replacing the fake spiders who have plunged from their perches around the front door and carving a pumpkin into a jack-o'-lantern.

I also long to bake cupcakes for the little ghosts and goblins who will brave the early darkness this afternoon. For at least twenty years, we've been warned not to give out homemade treats -- parents will think we've studded them with razor blades, and they'll throw them in the trash without letting their darlings take even one bite. I've about had it with this. I think I'll go ahead with the cupcakes and attach my business card to each one. I stand behind my work. A cake made by me is so much better than a couple of little stale candy bars in a sealed wrapper that they shouldn't even be mentioned in the same essay.

Because you and I remember how it used to be -- the homemade popcorn balls people gave out, the cookies, the little cakes. Hot cocoa at one house -- my memory is that it was cooler on Halloween night back then, and that we wore our pajamas under our costumes in order to stay warm, and so we needed the sweet, steaming liquid in our tummies, to warm us back up.

Oh, those slower times! Those unaccompanied treks in the dark, big brothers with a little sister in tow, around neighborhoods in which it never occurred to anyone, not in a million years, that we might not be safe! In those days nobody thought anything bad could happen; we are hard pressed, now, to imagine otherwise. Paranoid about The Bomb, we were relaxed about everything else; it carried the whole freight of our worry in its payload.

Halloween has always been talismanic against lurking evil. People have dressed up as the things we feared for millennia, lodging our preemptive strikes against them by borrowing their plumage and, in the borrowing, vitiating their spiritual power. They became laughable if we could wear their clothing, and we were not afraid.

Next year in the United States, Halloween will fall in the new expanded season of Daylight Savings Time; children will trick-or-treat in daylight. Certainly the razor blade checks will be easier. But I guess we'll have to do something else to begin the lifelong process of conquering our fear.
Mark your calendars:

Geranium Journeys at beautiful St. John's, Cold Spring Harbor, continue on November 9th for a brownbag lunch and discussion with Barbara Crafton and a lively ecumenical group. An easy train trip to Long Island from Penn Station, NYC. Email Ann Wenk at or Abby Pariser at

There is room in Barbara Crafton's monthly spiritual direction group at Health Care Chaplaincy at 307 East 60th Street in New York City. This is a small group that meets on the fourth Monday of each month for prayer, quiet talk, support and discernment. The next meeting is Monday, November 27th from 6:30-8:30.

St. Mark's, San Antonio, December 1-3. Barbara Crafton will lead a Saturday retreat and preach on Sunday, and also will visit fabulous VivaBooks for a reading.

May 27-31, 2007 Gardens and Grace: Soul Sanctuary, Quiet Delight
After a successful debut in 2006, this conference returns as an opportunity for prayer, creativity and healing in Kanuga's beautiful natural setting. Workshop leaders include the Rev. Philip Roderick, founder of the Quiet Garden Movement; Terry Hershey, speaker, storyteller and landscape designer; the Rev. Barbara Crafton, spiritual director and author; and Denise Inge, gardener and writer.
Don't miss a new Ways of the World, with economist Carol Stone, new hints and pictures in the Hodgepodge with Debbie Sharp Loeb and the funniest chest x-ray you are ever likely to read about in Deacon J's More or Less Church. Funny at first, that is; by the end of the essay, you're either in tears or in prayer. Or maybe both.
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