Wednesday, November 04, 2009

mi ofrenda


Over the weekend I built an ofrenda, a shrine to my dead, littered with their pictures, artifacts and fresh flowers. Laid over a wooly black shawl from Chamula, incredulously trimmed with pink embroidery and pompoms that I found while shopping with Kathryn in that Mayan Highlands village. That she found, actually, because she asked the shopkeeper in her native dialect “are you sure you have nothing better in the back?” Kathryn’s picture was on my ofrenda too.

The ofrenda has become my annual, solitary ritual. No one in this place I live in knows my dead, so no one comes to visit and tell their stories so that our dead, dropping by, might catch up with their living. I suppose I could change that, and maybe I should, by inviting a few friends over next year. As it is, I build my ofrenda alone and I remember the ones I love. The ones I miss. There are tears but they’re the friendly tears of holding one long gone closely to fill up the hole they made when they left me.

I light the candles -- this year there were two. One held by the rough clay incensario that was used to bless my and mr. hoo's wedding ceremony in San Cristobal de las Casas. The other was in rock crystal -- a Steuben starburst-shaped candle holder that belonged to my Grama Schufmann during her life in Queens. I set out a glass of water because the dead, I’m told, are always thirsty, and I set out some food because you’re supposed to; because the apples were crisp and the pomegranate was a bright gorgeous red.

There were leaves to rake that afternoon, on the day of the dead, and because I didn’t want to leave the candles burning I blew them out before I stepped outside, promising to light them again when I returned. An ash blew off the candle wick and lofted into the water glass like a floating candle on the Ganges. The wick glowed red.

I raked my fallen leaves, piling them into tall crispy drifts in the gutter where the big trucks will soon churn by to take them away.

When I returned inside I found the candle I extinguished had spontaneously re-ignited from the remnant ember. It burned gently, fiercely. Alive.


karigee said...

Oh, what a lovely tribute.

Deb said...

Beautiful. Any Frangos with those apples?

suttonhoo said...

dangit, Deb: I knew I forgot something. ;)

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