Last night was Dia De Los Muertos, a holy day that’s close to my heart. I’ve been celebrating Los Meurtos since my early twenties when I would drive the narrow roads of the Sierra Nevada foothills to the gold rush town of Hornitos. There, I would join a candle light procession from the historic main street to the cemetery on the hill. Prayers for the dead were recited, and we would honor Dona Candelaria De Sapien (1817-1903) who revived the celebration in Hornitos. Then, we’d walk to tiny Catherine Of Sienna Catholic Church for a mass for the departed followed by a reception in the little town
The Mission, San Francisco’s Latinx neighborhood, has a vibrant celebration for Los Muertos each year, but with the pandemic continuing to wreak havoc, I chose to stay home. Instead, I built an ofrenda with sugar skulls, and marigolds coddled in a Waterford vase that reminds me of my parents. I set candles upon the altar that I interwove with sage from a friend’s garden, and I placed photographs of my mom and dad, my friend Daniel, and my sweet old dog. I also included loved objects on the altar: a Torpedo IPA for my friend David with a memorial koozie from his celebration of life, purple iris for my mother, a tin of sardines for my father, cannabis for Doodles, and a cut glass dish of Zuke’s dog treats for Io the Jack Russell. Then, I lit the candles and stepped back, closed my eyes, and had a moment communing with the sacred.
These are tough days for people like me, folks who have a Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder diagnosis. COVID-19, the tumultuous election, and months of shelter-in-place have really worn me down. Resilience is not my strongest cognitive trait to begin with, and what little I have seems to be close to running dry. On this November 2nd, I’m trying to bolster my mood and ameliorate my anxiety with thankfulness for the opportunities my parents gave me. I am also trying to spend some time in the natural world; I took a sunset walk tonight at China Beach and soaked up the stunning views of the Golden Gate Bridge. Gratitude meditations and nature walks are both helpful tools for people with PTSD. So are rituals that anchor us into our lives.
I love the ritual of building an altar on Dia De Los Muertos. The pungent aroma of sage fills my house this evening as I honor my friends and family, and reconnect with a much loved tradition. The feeling of something sacred has helped me settle on this night where I will surely dream of those who’ve passed.