Outhouses, Then and Now

I was first introduced to an outhouse at the tender age of 3. Having lived in a brown stone in Montreal, with all conveniences, I found it a bit confusing, when I moved to our new home, to have to be led through the attached wood shed to do my business.

Keep in mind, this was in the Eastern Townships of Quebec. Where, in the 50’s the winters were very cold and long. No wonder us Canadians grow up tough.

In design and functionality, outhouses, have not changed much over the the centuries. In the the 1600’s, it was not unusual to find them positioned on bridges spanning the river Thames. It is said that little children had to have adult accompaniment so they did not fall through and into the river. I never fell through, but I just about froze my a_ _ off.

Outhouse art has run the gauntlet of creativity.

Now to the crescent moon on the door. Folklore has it that the moon represents a female, and the sun a male. It seems that women looked after the dwelling better than men, – who were more prone to use Nature at their convenience.

Most outhouses are meant to be strictly functional in design. But there are some that I think could pass as front yard worthy.

Oops, I think we will move this one to the back yard!

The outdoor convenience has not changed a whole lot over the centuries, until just recently this transparent version popped up in Japan. Once you are inside, and lock the door, the glass becomes opaque, nobody can see in. The wonders of technology. I just wonder if it can be depended on to perform as planned every time. For now, for me, the tried and true with all it’s little critters to welcome me works just fine. Time will tell. Cheers.

The People Over the Hill.

Growing up as a preteen in the Eastern townships of Quebec in the 1950’s, I usually did not pay much attention to local story telling. It just did not interest me. I had adventures to keep me busy. However, this story is different. We had a connection. It would be easy to say that this story was not singularly sourced, but rather the voices of many over the years.

Now, the hill referred to in this story isn’t really a hill, but a mountain, in the Laurentians, I believe it was called Sugarloaf. As it turned out, most of the mountains were referred to in this manner, at least by the locals.

The family, which this tale is about were the Joneses. They didn’t always live over the hill, but in my village in a house that was next to ours. We could not be called neighbours at that time as we did not move until much later.Most of the time that house sat empty.  It was a house similar in build and layout to ours, except with bullet holes in the walls. And that is where all similarities end.

When I first heard about this family, I was 8 or 9. Most of the stories told about them was when they lived in that house, long before I was born. Apparently, so the story goes, they had a bit of a bad reputation, at least he did. Coupled with that, the house was haunted.

The husband, well, he had a number of bad habits. Brandishing a gun in front of his family, or anybody else who was foolish enough to be there. The other, a constant brew in his grip. As I said earlier, the house was allegedly home to many spirits, and he was ready for them. Gun in one hand, beer in the other.

At this time, as I am told, they were a family of 5.  Never knew his name, or I have just forgotten. Her name was Iola Jones and their oldest daughter was Iona, and that is all I can recall. As I said, when we moved into town in the late 40’s, they were long gone. Over the hill, with 27 children, as the story goes. “Contraceptives” were in short supply then. Of course, there was always Aspirin. (don’t ask me how that works, though I understand position is important). I assume, being God fearing people, they obviously took to heart the command “go forth and multiply”.

But I digress. The story gets a little muddled at this point. As I remember it, he, his wife, pregnant, and two older boys, were hunting in the woods. Oh yes, there was also a case of beer. He told Iola and one of his sons to go into the bush and try to scare game in his direction. The story goes that there was movement in the bush and he fired. Now, I’m thinking most people would wait and not fire until what caused the movement showed itself. Sober people, that is.

The family lost a mother and brother that day.

The other brother, almost a man, tried to wrestle the gun from his father. In the ensuing scuffle a shot was fired, and the boy saw that he had wounded his dad, and that there was way too much blood. Once he figured that his mom and brother were dead, he ran off, not to be located until many years later.

The father’s body was never found. The locals tell it that he died from his wounds, on the mountain, and the animals finished him off.

The story nearly ends there. I did have one more involvement with that house. One day, a new family moved in so my uncle and I went over to give them a hand. I saw bullet holes in the walls. Their last name was Jones.


It rained again last night. That is to be expected though, being here as we are on the West Coast of British Columbia, just long enough to pay no attention to it. It did not bring any threat, just puddles. Since moving to this new part of town, some of the roads are finished, some are not. And this is where the puddles come into play. Our part of the development was where one phase ended; and the next phase was just ruffed in. The pavement ended in front of our house. The rest of the road, well, you could use it, but the construction traffic rendered it pretty rough, leaving behind ruts and potholes. Hence the puddles.

As we finished breakfast, I noticed that the rained had just about stopped. Still too wet, my wife and I took our coffees out to the enclosed porch and watched the sun push the clouds away. That’s when I noticed Charley. Charley is our neighbours boy from across the road. I think he found the biggest puddle, and he was having a great time running through and jumping into it. Good for him that he had his rubber boots on, the thing was, that was all he was wearing.

Charley was different, and special. But not without his problems and unique needs. My wife and I and a few of the neighbours, were familiar with these needs, having lived beside them for a while. Charley and his Mom and Dad moved into town about the same time we did. In fact, they were one of our first neighbours. We noticed right away that there was something different with Charley. It was not unusual for him to be found trying to hide in his front yard, generally the result of a confrontation that could be heard by all. After a period of raised voices, resistance to his mother’s pleas, tears, on both sides, usually followed by a hug, he would be persuaded to go back inside. We would give a sigh of relief and resume our usual activities. Support not required.

With his Dad being in the armed forces, and stationed in Esquimalt, he was not always around to help when this happened. But we were, and our presence seemed to be all that was needed to ensure that no harm came to anyone. Now, to put things into perspective, Charley is a full blown teenager, and if you did not know about him, you would think that he was not too different from any other 16 year old. We were all friends with Charley. Maybe better put, he was friends with all of us. It was common place for him to show up at your door, with all his clothes on, and sometimes at mealtime, sit down at the table just like an invited guest, and partake of what was being offered. He was like that. He was always welcome. I sometimes wandered what meant more to him, the meal or the company. Though he was not likely to say much. And when he was finished, he would leave as quietly and mysteriously as he arrived. After a while we started referring to him as the mayor of Beatty Street. I think he liked that.

Bill Bradley is the new neighbour down the street. Nice fellow, volunteer fireman, member of rotary, and plays the bagpipes. Seems he was hosting a BBQ for the band next weekend in his back yard, and he invited all his neighbours, including Charley and his family. I had to really wonder though if they would come. You see, they had this thing about music in their religion. It was not allowed. The same for dancing. But the invite was out there, we would just have to wait and see.

When we wandered into Bill’s back yard, the band was already there. Eight pipers, three drummers, and this guy with a long fancy spear. The way I have seen them toss that thing about, I know now why they put him at the front. I was informed later that it was referred to as a mace. A ceremonial thing and not meant to harm anyone. Several of the pipers were warming up when they realized it would be too loud for people in the rather smallish back yard. Luckily living on the outskirts of town, they had access to a field next to the back yard. Off they went, practised several pieces, and we could still talk and be heard, and enjoy the music.

Then Charley and his family arrived. His father was able to make it and an older sister that we don’t see too often as she was away at college. The guys in the field regrouped, commenced to play a real slow tune, almost a lament that none of us payed much attention to, except Charley. He was half way across the field before most of us new it. The guys were still playing not noticing that they had a singular audience. By this time the rest of the family had walked out to join him; we just watched not really knowing what was going to transpire.

We could tell that Charley was excited with his new found discovery. But what happened next was totally unexpected. Charley was beside himself with excitement. He could not stand still. It was all that mom and dad could do to keep him in check while he danced around one of the pipers and kept pointing at the bagpipe, uttering some sounds, and every now and then pushing on the bladder so that it made a rude honk. We could see that the piper was talking to Charley, but they were too far away to be heard. Whatever was going on got Charley excited as he grabbed his Mom and Dad and pulled them along behind the pipers as they struck up a familiar march tune, and then commenced to march around the field, into the back yard, headed for the street, picking up marchers as they went.

When we got home later that evening, I asked my wife, what exactly did we witness today? Something very special happened out there. I wanted to know more.

Music has been a part of my life since I can remember. As a young boy of 7 or 8, I would sit in front of our flour model radio, ear glued to the huge speaker and take in the Saturday afternoon opera on the CBC. I couldn’t handle the whole offering, probably much to the relief of the old folks, but that is where it all started. Later in life there would be piano lessens, choirs, school bands, and many records, tapes, and CD’s. With the exception of a few categories, all music was welcomed.

Music has that ability to run your emotions from zero to sixty in the blink of an eye. It can instantly flood you with tears, send shivers up and down your spine or send you to la-la land. I know, I have been there.

That thought brings me back to Charley. As I noted earlier, music was not in his home. Music therapy has been employed for many years now, being especially effective in young children. Music therapy is effective for reducing stress, common negative side effects, such as emotional and behavioural problems. And for those involved, it has had very far reaching effects, on both sides of the music.

Charley’s parents did not pursue the option. Music was not allowed in the house. Music was not in the life.

As it happened, Charley’s Father was transferred to Edmonton later that same year. We never saw the family again.

Several years later news filtered back that Charley, sadly, was into drugs, no longer living at home. That was the last bit that we heard about Charley, until one day I ran into a retired army buddy of his Dad’s. I asked him about the family, especially Charley. Charley had committed suicide.




The Plow – A Puzzlement.


As humans, we go about our day to day living with nary a second thought as to what we encounter. Sights and sounds are familiar, real, tangible, common place, validated by their familiarity, hardly questioned. We rely on science to back up our experiences. Sometimes, this is not always so. Sometimes we are thrown a curve. We are caught off guard and baffled by a mystery. Common logic fails us as to an explanation. Those truths that sit comfortably in our brain are blown away; they fail us. The incident that follows falls into that domain.

On December 27, 2014, a tragedy occurred on a stretch of the Coquihalla Highway between Merritt and Hope, British Columbia. The incident was covered by some of the local papers, making front page news. It seems a transport truck lost control on a snow covered curve, and crossed the median into oncoming traffic. A snow plow, as part of that oncoming traffic swerved to avoid a crash, but ended up going through the guard rail and down a steep embankment to rocks below. Two township employees were killed. The transport truck driver suffered only minor injuries.
Fast forward to this past Christmas. It has become the custom for my wife and I to travel to Kamloops from Vancouver Island to spend this time with her sisters and their family. We left early in the morning, as the six hour trip involves a two hour ferry ride from Vancouver Island to the mainland. At this time of year, travelling the Coquihalla is an exercise in preparation. It requires a full tank of gas, water, snacks, blankets and winter attire. Anything less is asking for trouble and just plain dumb. As it turned out, it was smooth sailing all the way.
A few words about the Coquihalla highway itself. The first section of the highway between Hope and Merritt was opened in 1986, and was the third major highway connecting the British Columbia coast with the interior. Named after the Coquihalla River, it means “Stingy Container” in the language of the Stó:Lō tribe. Rising to 4081 feet above sea level, it is a route filled with both beauty and danger. In winter it can become a bit of a challenge as one is transported from green grass to white out conditions. Vehicles are required to have snow tires, and transports must carry chains. The big yellow signs put it quite bluntly, High Mountain Road, expect sudden weather changes.
The real story of our trip happened on our way back home. It was snowing, not heavily, just enough to keep one alert. Visibility was fair, and didn’t pose a great concern. It was the temperature that posed the problem. At a couple of degrees above freezing, the snow was wet. Great for making a snow man, but a red flag for drivers. Because of the water content of the snow, the slush on the road has the ability to render a vehicle uncontrollable. Which is exactly what happened to the pickup ahead of us, off in the snow bank, going nowhere.
I am not normally a person who stops to assist, not wanting to put myself in danger, but the driver was trying to move snow by kicking at it and that said to me, stop, and help. Also, the driver, an elderly gentleman, was inadequately dressed.for the season. I pulled off the highway, as far as I could, flashers on, making sure that I did not end up in the same situation.
He was grateful that we had stopped, albeit a bit embarrassed by his predicament. He soon revealed that he did not have a snow shovel; and a back condition which greatly restricted his lifting ability. On top of that he said that his wife suffered from anxiety attacks, and he was concerned about leaving her alone in the cab. They appeared to be in their 70’s, and totally ill prepared to handle the situation. My wife then joined us, and I suggested that she keep them company in the cab while I got to work and moved some snow. With that taken care of, I had my first real chance to assess the situation.
It did not take a lot of time to figure out just what I was looking at. A pickup mired in a snow bank, just me with a shovel, and a lot of hard packed snow to move. I grabbed the shovel from our car and started to break up the snow in front of the truck. It was hard work as the snow had compressed to a rock like condition. Now I am not a religious person, and I was not looking to the heavens for divine intervention, but, at that moment a plow making it’s way towards me gave me hope.
A crazy thought went through my head. Stepping out from in front of the pickup, I waved my arms and shovel at them. Slowing to a stop behind the pickup, the fellow riding shotgun rolled down his window. I asked if they could drop their blade as close to the front of the truck as possible, thus clearing the way to get back on the highway. The solution seemed simple enough, but would they? After the two had a quick exchange of words, they agreed to the request. Thinking I might want to post this moment on social media, I took a quick picture of the two and moved back out of the way. They pulled up a bit forward of the pickup, slowly lowered the blade to about six inches of the front, and were on their way, mystically blending in with the rising mist from other vehicles.
With their departure I anticipated that my job should be fairly simple. After poking around for a bit, and hoping that I had moved enough snow to free it, I asked him to give it a try. It was equipped with 4 wheel drive but the back end, being lighter, wanted to pull into the snow bank. Back to more shovelling, and then my weight on the tailgate worked to break them free. Thinking back now, not once did I notice that cars and trucks were travelling by just feet from our position.
With the truck freed, my wife hopped out; I had actually forgot that she was still in there! She got back in our car while I suggested to the husband and his wife that they stop in Hope. I gave him the name of a restaurant just off the highway and said we would meet them there. The snow had eased off by this time, but the roads were still very slushy.
The drive to Hope was uneventful, and my wife told me about their conversation in the cab. As it turned out, the couple in the truck were returning to Maple Ridge from Merritt. They had been attending a funeral for a previous neighbour who had moved to Merritt to be with his children. His wife had passed on, he was lonely and not in the greatest of health, hence the move. This was their second such trip in 4 years. The first one was to attend the funeral of their neighbours son. He had been like a son to them, having looked after him on a number of occasions.
We caught up to their truck just before Hope and followed them to the restaurant. Though popular and always busy, we soon found ourselves settled into a cozy booth. An order for coffee and a light lunch, which they insisted on paying for, was placed. I was pleased to see that his wife looked a little less upset now that the ordeal was over. We had a very pleasant lunch, and conversation flowed easily. It was easy to see the tension melting away.
Realizing that they had not seen the pictures of the plow operators, I hauled out my phone. The looks on their faces told me that something was not right. His wife let out a gasp, paled, and put a hand to her mouth, looking away. Her husband, not moving, just starred at the picture. Once they had settled down somewhat, her husband spoke. It seems that one of the men in the photo was of their neighbours son, Ben, who was killed when the plow he was operating was forced off the road trying to avoid a collision with an on coming semi trailer.
The date, December 27, 2014. Today’s date was December 27, 2018.


Shortly after we got home, and still trying to unravel just what happened, I did some searching through the Merritt Herald. This is, in part, what I found.

It is with great sadness that the family of Benjamin Shappiro, age 38, announce his tragic passing on December 27, 2014 while employed for the county. The father of two children, Adam Shappiro and July-Ann Shappiro. He leaves behind his wife, of 16 years, Roberta. He predeceases his parents, John Shappiro and Mary Shappiro, nee Bech, both of Maple Ridge, British Columbia.


A Post from the Past.


Browsing through my stats, I noticed that I had published 76 posts in just over 2 years. Not worthy of a medal, but at the same time not too bad for a rookie. It has been fun and a challenge. I thought for this post I would go back to my very first one and reflect on the words and subject chosen.

It was titled New Beginnings, somewhat a heavy start, but yet a very personal one; a bit of a rant/outpouring, a painful bunch of words, I was angry, hurt and confused. But words that seemed necessary at the time. However, it did end on a very positive note, one that is still true to this day.

The words I chose to express my emotions back then are just a snapshot of my state of mind at that moment. I like to think if I were to write on that today it would look quite different. And well it should, or I haven’t learned anything.

To go back and review previous posts is a trip down blogging lane. To see the words chosen and wonder why you wrote them that way may never get answered. It’s done, it’s out there. No regrets. Reflecting back on a number of my blogs, that could be said of many of them.

I suppose as we stumble gracefully into our senior years, we tend to wander back more often to what was. Memories good and bad, and why not. It is time to shift gears. Memories can fill your heart with joy, or your eyes with tears. But that is OK, we are equipped to handle it. I am not in a hurry; I haven’t got all day, I have the rest of my life.

Living Statues of Puerto Vallarta. No. 12

With Semana Santa (Easter Celebrations) in full swing in Puerto Vallarta, the Malecon is full of vacationing Mexican families, and a diversity of the weird and wonderful sights that are always a part of the celebrations. For those who are willing to participate, there is a surprise at every turn, some very imagitive, some wild and scary .

My ventures there with Maggie over several days produced some very interesting encounters. Enjoy.




When You Come to the End………

This blog is about a musical instrument – not just any huff and puff wind thing, but the king of instruments, the pipe organ. Now before you think this is about a lot of boring facts and info, bear with me.

I fell in love with this beast back in the 70’s, when most others of my age were a gaga with heavy metal, I was smitten with the majesty, the sonics and shear size of this musical wonder. It was alive, it breathed! Not all have the where with all to master the pipe organ, it not only requires both hands but also both feet. Two prominent artists names that come to mind are Virgil Fox, and E. Power Biggs. But the one that afffected me the most was a showman by the name of Carlo Curley.

Carlo Curley was born in 1952 in the U.S.A., and died prematurely in 2012 in England. He was not your usual keyboard artist. He was indeed an organ master; he added humour and a level of flamboyancy that was not usually associated with the pipe organ. Along with a rather dry wit. In my mind he was the Victor Borge of the pipes. He was the consummate entertainer.

He was the first classical organist to perform at the White House for President Carter. He also played for several European heads of state and toured extensively, always in demand. Because of his unique style, he was nicknamed “The Pavarotti of the Organ”. He was the consummate performer. Always entertaining and having fun with his audience.

My personal experience with this gentleman was at a Toronto concert in 1982 at Roy Thomson Hall where he performed on the newly built Gabriel Kney organ. I was not disappointed.

For over two hours we were wowed by his playing and showmanship as he waded through such classic composers as Saint-Saen, Bach, Handel, Widor, Frank and Messiaen, at times becoming quite vocal and crying out to the audience, “yes” and “yea” after a rather laboured piece. But…. the best part of the evening was yet to happen..

During the concert the organ console and sometimes the pipes were illuminated, but for his encore the stage was darkened and only a soft spot fell across Carlo and the console. His choice of music, When you Come To the End of a perfect Day. And what a perfect selection to close the concert. After thundering his way up to this point, he chose to present this piece as light and airy, the notes just seemed to float out over the audience only to burst in a moment of emotion. All the while he was playing, the spot was slowly dimming and shrinking around him, until all that was left were his hands. As the last notes faded into the night,  so did the spot. For a few seconds there was not a sound to be heard from the audience, as if each one was scared to be the first to applaud and destroy the feeling of the moment. And then it came, and it thundered out in response. There was much dabbing of the eyes, not in sadness, but in a personal experience of joy and contentment and peace. The perfect end to a memorable moment; and that moment got me to thinking about when my final moment is near….

I came into this world with only a few lines of announcement in the newspaper, not on the front page, no trumpets sounding. And as the light fades around me, I think it is only fitting that I depart in the same manner, due to symmetry and other considerations. I will do my kicking and screaming now, not when my stay is nearly over and it is too late. I will pass on the spotlight, hoping only that those closest to me will be able to share in my being part of their lives. Some may applaud,  maybe some will dab an eye. Knowing this gives me a sense of security. I have a plan. The rest is out of my hands.


Malecon Sculptures in Puerto Vallarta. No. 9

One of the major attractions in Puerto Vallarta is the Malecon. Originally constructed in 1936 and called Paseo de la Revolucion, then changed to Paseo Diaz Ordaz, and later just El Malecon, which is Spanish for “Esplanade along a Waterfront”. It runs along the water front on Banderas Bay for about 2k, and on the town side, it sports many stores, restaurants amphitheatre, and bars.

The lower picture was taken in the 1930’s, The top one as it looks today.


One of the main draws along its route are the sculptures, many of them whimsical and all created by Mexican artists.

Boy on the Seahorse, Caballito de Mar, by Rafael Zamarripa. 1976

Roundabout of the Sea, “La Rotunda Del Mar, by Alejandro Colunga, 1996.


Not too sure that this qualifies as a sculpture, but I couldn’t help not including it in my blog.

These creations are fun, and some of them allow interaction by sitting or climbing on them. This is just one example of the many attractions that are here in PV. Come on down, pay us a visit, we haven’t run out of sun yet. Cheers.

Cobblestone Streets of Puerto Vallarta. No. 8


Cobblestone streets of Puerto Vallarta lend to the charm of the historic city center. Although some would call them dangerous due in part to their uneven surface and ability to form potholes, the original use of cobblestones during the early days was quite practical.

Paving with cobblestones allowed a road to be heavily used all year long. It prevented the build-up of ruts often found in dirt roads. It had the additional advantage of not getting muddy in wet weather or dusty in dry weather. Shod horses or mules were also able to get better traction on stone cobbles. The natural materials or “cobbles,” a geological term, originally referred to any small stone having dimensions between 2.5 and 10 inches (6.4 and 25.4 cm) and rounded by the flow of water; essentially, a large pebble. Although the noise of riding over cobbles may seem annoying, it was actually considered good as it warned pedestrians of oncoming traffic….horse, mule or automobile!

Cobblestones are typically either set in sand or similar material, or are bound together with cement or asphalt. Cobblestones set in sand have the environmental advantage of being permeable paving and of moving rather than cracking with movements in the ground.

In Vallarta, the making or remaking of a cobblestone street begins with the leveling of the underlying dirt. Then comes sand. Next parallel lines of larger stones are laid in rows, sometimes with cement holding them in place. Rows are them filled in with the smaller stones. Finally, sand or cement is packed around all the stones and left to settle with gaps filled in as needed. Repair of potholes tends to be a mixture of stones, sand, cement, pulverized terra cotta, or asphalt. In the historic area, the original streets are required to remain in keeping with the original construction, the stones having come from either the Rio Cuale, beach, or nearby quarries.


Today, walking on cobblestones has been considered good exercise depending on the distance, frequency, surface and grade. Author Via Anderson in a recent article in the Vallarta Daily News (November 4, 2014) wrote, “Find and walk on the many cobblestone walks here (in Vallarta). Walking on cobblestones a few times daily with bare feet (preferred) or minimal shoes (to protect from debris) provides stimulation to the foot musculature that in turn adapts by becoming stronger and better able to handle these forces for longer periods of time…. and may be significant in reversing aging.”


A little back round on the origin of the word cobblestone is needed here.

The word ‘cobblestone ‘ derives from the English word ‘cob’, which means a small, round lumpen shape. Stones of a similar shape were taken from streams and rivers and referred to as cobbles. Eventually these stones were called cobble stones. Recorded history has all this happening around the beginning of the 15th century.

Later ‘cobble’ came to mean any rounded stone between 2.5″ and 10″ inches across. But, no real measurements were taken. The laying of the stones was all done by eye and fitted together like a jigsaw.

So lets go back a little further. Apparently the Romans were using this method of road construction as early as 250 B.C., where over 50,000 miles were layed down. More info can be found at steptoesyard.co.uk/history-cobbles.

This weeks photo challenge is The Road Taken
. During our stay in Puerto Vallarta we have had the opportunity to walk many of the cobblestone streets and roads; it has become part of our journey.

Time has shown us that life’s journey can be taken on a smooth or a rocky road. The course travelled depends on ones attitude, take on life, and how well we play with others. Do you approach life with a positive attitude, or do you let it beat you down; blaming others for your lot in life.

We only pass this way once, so why screw it up, hurting yourself and others close to you. Life is not fair or a walk in the park. We will fall on rough ground; we will make mistakes. It is how we deal with it that will make a difference – to yourself and others. I speak personally, I’ve been there.

Making  an effort to be positive, though not always attainable is the healthy choice. You will be rewarded, not overnight, not just when you would expect it, but over time your life will be enriched and also the lives of others close to you. According to Dale Carnegie, “attitude is everything”.

“Don’t sweat the small stuff”. If we choose to, and, the choice is ours, the effect can mire,and bog us down. If that path is taken, we carry the pain and bitterness around inside, and that can have a bad effect on those closest to you.

Look around you. Life is to be experienced, not just endured. As we weave our way around the potholes, it is important to keep a grip on what is honest and true. The world is still a beautiful place. Smile at it, laugh at it and embrace it. It will feel your “joie de vivre”, and smile back. Cheers.


Day of the Dead, A Celebration of Life. No. 7

Many cultural rituals and “celebrations” are misunderstood and shunned by those who do not participate. I have to admit that I fell into that category. Being in Mexico for four months, and being exposed to many strange figures around town, I became curious and needed to know the story and origin of a three day happening ( Oct 31, Nov 1, 2) called The Day of the Dead or Dia de Muertos.

A little history is needed here.

Day of the Dead, called Día de Muertos in Spanish, is a Mexican holiday that falls on November 1 and 2 of each year. On the Day of the Dead, the boundaries between life and death begin to blur. Men, women and children of all ages honor and celebrate their loved ones who have passed away, participating joyously in a festival that has roots nearly 4000 years old. The holiday has spread in recent years from Mexico to America and beyond. It is now celebrated by Mexicans, Mexican-Americans, and countless others, spawning a colorful and distinctive artistic tradition that continues to inspire.

“Part of our tradition in Mexico  is not to be scared of death and to smile at it. It is a celebration of our ancestors as they were when they were on the earth, alive. It was never a sad thing or a scary thing.”  Gennaro Garcia.

I have to wonder if viewing death as described by Gennaro, would give you a different take on life. Would you be a happier person? I pose that question based on what I have observed of the people here in Puerto Vallarta. They strike me as being a content and happy lot; many smiles and much laughter. This is not what I see at home. Just musing.

Frances Ann Day summarizes the three-day celebration, the Day of the Dead:

On October 31, All Hallows Eve, the children make a children’s altar to invite the angelitos (spirits of dead children) to come back for a visit. November 1 is All Saints Day, and the adult spirits will come to visit. November 2 is All Souls Day, when families go to the cemetery to decorate the graves and tombs of their relatives. The three-day fiesta is filled with marigolds, the flowers of the dead; muertos (the bread of the dead); sugar skulls; cardboard skeletons; tissue paper decorations; fruit and nuts; incense, and other traditional foods and decorations.
— Frances Ann Day, Latina and Latino Voices in Literature[14]

 The Catholic World Day of the Dead is celebrated throughout Mexico and the Catholic world… Italy, Spain, South America and the Philippines all celebrate All Souls and All Saints Day on November 1st and 2nd. Special Masses and perhaps cleaning of the cemetery tombs are part of the traditional activities… it’s only in Central and Southern Mexico where the colorful parties take place in the cemeteries and elaborate ofrenda altars are built in the homes to honor specific family members who have passed on. – See more at: http://www.mexicansugarskull.com/support/dodhistory.html#sthash.PT6EQPdT.dpuf

Even in death, people around the world are celebrating life. Unfortunately I will not be down here when this happens, but I hope that in the two months  I have left here that I will allow their zest for living to be a part of who I am. I want to take that home with me.


Art installations are a big part of the festivities in Mexico City.

Leanna Garfield – businessinsider.com