Samhain is a time of remembrance and reflection. It’s a chance to look back over the year to consider our harvests, whether they be of produce or the results of more figurative seeds we’ve sown. It’s a time to remember those who are no longer with us and a reminder that they haven’t truly left us. The tradition of the dumb supper is one way to focus our thoughts and let us hear those who the noise of our daily lives can drown out. Even in the silence, it can sometimes take the open-mindedness of our animal companions to show us the way.
In the Silence
Death was silent. It could sweep in under the rustling of poplar leaves on a windless day or lurk in the darkness of those endless hours before dawn. It was quiet now even as the spirits roamed restless.
Flickering candles sent long shadows over the kitchen as if giving those wandering spirits form. The sweet, earthy aroma of frankincense and myrrh invited them in.
Gena breathed deep, centering herself. The inhale drew in the spices of the apple pie on the cooling rack. Megan’s favorite fried chicken already waited on a platter.
Beyond the kitchen, winds whipped through the naked oak that stood as a sentinel over the back porch. It was as barren as a forgotten grave yet would sprout to new life by Beltane.
It wasn’t any less powerful now, if only for the memories it brought. She and Megan had spent many hot summer days sitting together in its shade. Gena could still feel the warmth of Megan’s fingers entwined with hers.
Some afternoons, they were joined by her grandma who’d sit rocking on the creaky porch swing, sipping her sweet tea. She’d talk of everything from their county’s history to the joyful adventures of a misspent youth.
Gena had never been sure how many of her stories were true. It hadn’t mattered, they’d loved listening all the same.
One early evening, Grandma had shared what should have been the most unbelievable tale of them all. Yet, somehow, the story of the night her family had called the spirits to dinner had resonated with Gena more than any.
It had led her and Megan to the craft. Now she prayed to the Goddess that a similar meal served in silence would lead Megan back to her.
Gena startled as a shadow swept down in front of her. Her heart still raced when she realized it was only Bast. She stroked the cat with a shaking hand.
There was nothing to fear. Though the spirits roamed tonight, the circle was already cast. None could enter here uninvited. As she focused her breathing, she could again feel the warmth of the light wrap around her like a mother’s embrace.
Even Bast was silent as Gena placed a slice of pie in front of the empty chair. The cat hadn’t made a sound since Megan had transitioned from this life. Gena, on the other hand, had done everything possible to avoid the quiet that Megan used to fill. She should have known better.
Everything happened in the spaces between.
The truth was in the silent moments between people speaking. It was in the stillness of the night between the hum of the refrigerator and the drip of the faucet. Only then, when the physical world hushed to silence could the spirits beneath be heard.
Gena tried to listen for them now as she sat, but could only hear her own unsteady breaths and the creak of the chair beneath her. The room around her became even more unfocused with a flood of memories.
Flour dusted aprons and sprinkled over Megan’s freckles as they baked a pie for the first time. Leaves crackled beneath their feet as they walked the apple orchard hand in hand.
Every moment. Every touch. It all fell to silence.
Her gaze became lost in the pooling hot wax at the base of the nearest candle wick. Even that fell out of focus before she heard the sign.
Bast purred. It was deep and content, a low rumble like only Megan had been able to coax out of her. The cat circled the empty seat, rubbing against something unseen in front of the chair legs.
Gena strained her ears to hear the laughter she’d lost. She strained her eyes in the darkness to see what Bast saw.
Her breath caught in her throat when coolness settled over her hand, seeping between her fingers and warming her heart. All the emptiness she’d felt this past year was filled in an instant by the comfort of the silence.
is a writer, freelance artist and farmer on Whidbey Island where she lives with her family and menagerie of critters. As a farmer living alongside woodlands, she’s especially aware of the shifting seasons and the magic each one brings.