Poznan, Poland – November 1, 2007
Reality is chiaroscuro. Darkness and light. Except for valiant efforts on the part of some shops and drinking establishments, Halloween passes unacknowledged in Poland. It is a pagan holiday, a celebration of shadows. November 1st, Wszystkich Świętych or All Saint’s Day, is a day of light. A time to remember those who have passed on.
The old cemetery is already lit up by the time I arrive. People mill about in silence. A painting of the Blessed Mother reigns over a pyre of flickering votive candles.
November is a brutal month in Poland. Night falls in the late afternoon, and even during the day, the world is obscured by a thick shroud of fog. The vapor penetrates deep into the bones and the mind. Every gesture, every thought, is burdensome. One instinctively withdraws into oneself.
I stroll down the lanes of the departed. Everyone, even the untended and overgrown, has at least one flame. No one is forgotten. I breathe in the smell of melted wax, deceased leaves, and chrysanthemums, a green and dusty smell, like the ashes of blossoms.
The flames are so strong that the fog has been forced to retreat. Tendrils hover in the shadows like bashful specters.
It is the cozy heat of hearth and home. For eternity.