‘Tis the season in our family to celebrate Día de los Muertos/Day of the Dead. Time to honor loved ones who have passed. Time to lay out a trail of marigold petals for the spirits to follow back home and to the altar. Time to create the altar with photos, foods, drink, and treasures. Our house fills with calaveras (skulls), even more than the usual.
A time to remember loved ones and the gift of their presence in our lives. Photos of Noé’s parents, both of our grandparents, and dear friends who have passed grace the altar. Noé tells stories of his parents, who raised five children while working as migrant farm workers throughout the U.S. “No matter where we were working,” Noé says, “and a lot of times we lived in abandoned barns or buildings, Mom always made a home for us.” His stories of his parents always seem to end in laughter. Never much one for Halloween, Dia de los Muertos is an integral beat in the rhythms and structures of our our family.
Last night Noé and I returned from one of the best Halloweens I can remember – an evening with dear friends, passing out candy to the little ones, and the night ended with us sitting around a fire pit under the stars, the guitars came out, and we sang old songs, including Silver Wings, which is forever intertwined with singing around campfires after funerals during the years of the Cascabel ranch. I still cannot hear without tears. A song especially appropriate on the eve of Dia de los Muertos. We came home and I made the dough for the traditional pan de muerto (bread of the dead), which needs to be refrigerated overnight. I use Frida Kahlo’s recipe:
This morning over coffee, I shaped the dough into the small round balls, with bones of dough criss-crossing the top. Wynn, as she has for the past decade plus, decorated the breads.
In this time to remember loved ones who have passed, artist, author, and dear friend Ashley Wolff created stunning images of her beloved dog, Tula, and other loved animals who had passed. Ashley writes, “This year my Dia de los Muertos altar will be packed with color and light to honor my beloved dead.”
We’ve received unseasonal rains in the past few weeks. I can hardly believe that I look outside to still see all flowers blooming. This rose just bloomed yesterday. This will go on this year’s altar.
The sweet scent of vanilla and cinnamon of the freshly baked pan de muerto fills the house. Wyatt looked forward to the annual pan de muerto every year. He was raised with these Dia los los Muertos traditions and rituals of our family. He’s off to college now. We were lucky enough to see our favorite university student when he came home for a rock -climbing competition in two weeks ago. After finishing this piece, I’m going to wrap up a few of the pan de muerto to send off to him in his dorm.
Dia de los muertos—a time to celebrate and cherish life.