October is, in our part of the world, a meditation on death. The woods blaze with color before turning brown and leaving trees leafless, still alive but not looking it.
Grasses, bushes, flowers also loose the gleam of lush green.
The harvest is in and, even for those who don’t garden or farm, I think there’s a sense that it’s time to tie up loose ends. A sense that dangerous cold is drawing near and, if nothing else, one ought to get the grill and lawn furniture under cover.
It’s the time of year our culture turns its attention to the spooky: ghosts, goblins, witches, werewolves, vampires and mummies. Headless horsemen and black cats, broken mirrors and other superstitions. In short, anything otherworldly or creepiest of all, undead.
Getting in the mood, this October I watched the Pixar-Disney animated fantasy “Coco.” The film is set during the Mexican Day of the Dead, which begins Oct. 31 and ends Nov. 2. It’s a time to remember family and friends who have died.
The plot is fabulous. Twelve-year-old Miguel wants nothing more than to play guitar, but music is forbidden in his family. His great-great-grandfather left the family for his songwriting career. And transformed by heartbreak, Miguel’s great-great-grandmother banned all music from he house and started a shoemaking business.
By the magic of Día de Muertos, Miguel finds himself in the Land of the Dead. Very much alive and determined to return to the Land of the Living before the holiday is over, he must find his estranged great-great-grandfather and get his blessing. Along the way, he deepens his knowledge of the family’s history and discovers a few secrets to bring back to the Land of the Living.
One of my favorite things about the movie: Although it’s all about dead people, it’s not scary at all. It’s about history, ancestry and remembrance.
The film tapped into the idea that our dead ancestors have rich stories that continue to influence the lives of their descendants — even if those ideas come as stories passed on through generations.
There’s also the notion that if we find out more about the struggles of our ancestors, there may be some kind of intergenerational healing we can bring in our lifetime.
It’s a lot to read into a kids movie, I know. But after my own dad died this year, the themes resonated strongly.
In the future, I hope to use this season to delve into my family’s history and to discover more about my ancestors. Not that one needs a season — but if you’re going to do it, might as well do so while the veil is said to be thin.
As always, feel free to reach out at any time, with a response to this editorial column or any other topic: firstname.lastname@example.org.