El Dia de los Muertos

We are getting ready to celebrate our loved ones who have passed and welcome the souls of our dead.
We are not afraid of the spirits of the dead.
At this time of year the veil between the worlds is very thin.
 The dead are our friends and family, our ancestors, who gave us life.
We call them our "beloved dead."

This is a photo of Bob, Chad's dad, holding August when Gus was a couple days old.  This photo is always on our Day of the Dead alter.  We miss you Papa Bob!

Here are the skeleton figures I made, about ten years ago, of my Grandma and Grandpa Nielsen.  We have photos all over the alter of them too.

We try to collect one figure each year, to add to our alter.  We try to find ones that represent us or our deceased. Kirsten gave me the pregnant woman with the heart on her belly, when I was pregnant with Jasper and I bought us the man and woman pushing baby in a pram when I was pregnant with him. 
Birth and death are two sides of the same thing.  Death is a natural part of life.  Death is a gift of change and growth.  Birth and death are both times of new beginnings.

I made this melon-holding skeleton figure many years ago.  I fancy it to be myself.  I hope to have melon wherever I go!

Hunters, healers and helpers.  These remind us that our lives are gifts given to us by other living beings.  Because all food is a gift of a life, it is sacred.  We treat food with respect and leave offerings, ofrendas, of our deceased's favorites on the alter during this time.

Masculine energy. 

Feminine energy!

These are our sugar skulls from last year.  For the past few years I have been taking the kids to the big Dia de Muertos celebration at Seattle Center, where we made these.  They have great art activities, food, dancing, face painting, etc.  This years Mexican rememberance to remember our departed will be held Oct. 30 and 31.  Get there if you can!  It's free and fantastic!
This nun Catrina and her sister witch(below) were purchased in Nogales when my dad took me there during my first visit to his condo in Tucson.  We crossed the border to buy booze, smokes, trinkets and to feast at La Roca.  I scored on these tall, delicate ceramic figures and carried them all the way home to Seattle in my arms!
It's hard to see but she has an owl sitting on her shoulder.  The paper marigold flower she is holding is one that we made last year at the Seattle Center celebration.  And the pumpkin at her feet is one I needle felted a couple years ago.

Celebrating the Day of the Dead is a joyous occassion, not morbid.  We have a feast on All Souls Day, Nov. 2, and we tell stories of our beloved dead.  We laugh and we cry when we recount the good things we miss about the people we loved.  It's good for my kids to hear the stories and see us honoring our elders who have gone ahead and remembering the young ones who went too soon. 

We have many pictures of my cousin Michael who died in a head on collision car accident in 2003.  He was a radiant young man, full of life,happy and charismatic.  He loved to ride motorcross and he was good at it.  We miss him.
We have many photos of Chad's dad, Papa Bob, who left this world in 2000.  It took me a while too not be angry at him for leaving us but now I am able to celebrate him and tell my children about what a eccentric, crazy, pagan lovin, hippie he was!  We actually still see him, quite often, in the flight of an eagle, when the warm sun kisses our cheeks, in the babbling of a river.  We still miss him though.
We have many photos of my grandparents.  Both Gma and Gpa Nielsen, my dad's parents, and Gpa McAlpin, my mom's dad.  My kids like to hear stories I recount to them of growing up surrounded by my loving grandparents.  I spent time every month with my dad's folks and it's one reason I am no longer sad my parents were divorced.  If they hadn't been, I would not have spent a weekend every month with my dad, at my grandparents.  I cherish that time I had with them.  And my Gpa McAlpin always let me pick out horses for him to bet on at Long Acres.  My kids think this is so funny!
And we honor all our greats, and great greats, etc.  Our grandparents parents, and so on.  We put out all the photos we have and talk about how it might have been for them.  We wonder and we speculate.  We laugh with a bit of awe and feel blessed for what we have.  We love one another and remind each other that we have it so so good.  We celebrate and rejoice.  Life is good and we honor our beloved dead.  Rest in Peace, loved ones,