Imagine a candlelit table. A jack-o’-lantern sits at the center, his glowing grin flashing onto plates full of autumnal fare: treacle tarts, pumpkin rolls, butternut squash, stews, puddings, and a great roasted pumpkin.
Your hands are still sticky from an afternoon making peanut-butter and sunflower-seed ornaments as an offering for the spooks and birds to feast on.
This morning you went out to the woods carrying a bucket of nuts to help your forest friends who are nearing hibernation. On the way back you’ve gathered golden fern fronds and branches of glowing oak leaves to make a wreath to hang above your table for your Halloween feast. You walk back through the woods and whisper the names of friends, family, and animals past in the air while dropping berries from your pockets as offerings.
You’re home now, and the smell of autumn is fragrant in your hair. You bind your branches together with whatever you have on hand—twine, yarn, a ribbon from an old dress. Short of tapers, you flip over your wine glasses and place tea lights on top as a replacement. You get out your dusty winter box and hang twinkling lights about the room. You set out pictures of your family and loved ones and begin to cook.
Mashed sweet potatoes, kale massaged in garlic and pumpkin seed oil. The jack-o’-lantern you made earlier this week is brought in to join you. When you light it you whisper in a wish and look forward to watching it fly out into the world through the smoke with the hush of its candle.
Whether you’re alone or with family or friends, Halloween spirits fill the air, the cats lurk outside, and the owls hoot their spells, and you can’t help but feel all that is autumnal and magical while you eat and listen to the wind blowing through nearly bare branches.
You wipe your mouth and clear your plate. You set your jack-o’-lantern at your window for protection. You cuddle up with your familiar, a warm blanket, and you open your favorite eerie book or turn on your favorite Halloween movie. Tomorrow, on All Hallows’ Day, you’ll leave gifts of breads and tarts you made for your feast on the doorsteps of your neighbors. Your boots clacking on the pavement as leaves crunch underneath. You hear rustling in a bush behind you … the local feral black cat with a grin on his face. His eyes narrow in on yours, and with a flick of his tail you think to yourself that you just might be a witch. And that despite quarantine, despite the lack of trick or treat and parties … this might be the best Halloween of all.
Follow Guinevere von Sneeden on Instagram @guinevere.von.sneeden.