The morning after

Last night felt almost like the Before Times, with herds of children roaming the streets, in some cases accompanied by attentive and even costumed parents, and in other cases roaming free and unfettered by adult supervision. This morning, the sidewalks are littered with stray candy wrappers, and lawns boast the crumpled remains of inflatable ghosts and monsters, ready to go into hibernation for another year.

Leaf litter

The day after a snowy Halloween, the ground is carpeted with sodden leaves and an occasional candy wrapper.

The scary state of Republican presidential politics

This past weekend, Newton held their annual window-painting contest, where area youngsters paint Halloween-themed images on the windows of local merchants. While the contest’s youngest participants typically stick to traditional icons such as witches and werewolves, older kids often paint witty images making punny allusions to current events, such as this depiction of Donald “Trump-kin” and Marco “Boo-bio” discussing the so-called death tax. Is a fanciful debate between a ghost and a toupee-wearing jack-o-lantern any scarier than the actual state of the Republican presidential campaign?

Two tombstones

This year J went all-out decorating our yard for Halloween, ordering a brimming box of tombstones, skeletons, zombie hands and other spooky accoutrements to transform our otherwise normal suburban yard into somewhere scary.

Tombstone with hands

As I mentioned last year, Halloween decorations are very popular in our neighborhood, and over the past few years there’s been a gradual upsurge in tombstones, ghosts, and witches as more and more of our neighbors have gotten into the habit of creeping out their yards for Halloween.

Graveyard skeleton

My favorite yard decorations are the so-called ground-breakers: skeletons who are in the process of rising up out of their tombs. Skeletons are intrinsically fascinating: we all have them, but we don’t normally see them. I like the idea of spending one holiday a year pretending our otherwise normal yards are haunted with history: not just skeletons in our closets, but old bones and forgotten souls underfoot at every step.

Tombstone with skeleton

When J moved into this house, he found a tombstone for a previous resident’s pet goldfish, so who knows what other bones were buried long before there were houses much less a suburb here. Isn’t every inch of earth haunted with some sort of story, some sort of history, or some silent assortment of souls?

Buried alive

This is my Day One contribution to NaBloPoMo, or National Blog Posting Month, a commitment to post every day during the month of November: thirty days, thirty posts.


The folks in our neighborhood go all out for Halloween, decorating their yards with spider webs, tombstones, and all manner of ghouls, witches, and goblins. It’s funny to see how even a few fake body parts or scattered skulls and skeletons can transform an otherwise normal yard in an otherwise quiet neighborhood into Something Spooky, or at least something eye-catching.

Rainbow skeletons

J and I have decided that decorating for Halloween is particularly popular in our neighborhood because Halloween is all-American in its inclusivity. Although originally a Christian feast day, All Hallows’ Eve has been both secularized and stripped of Christian overtones—or, more accurately, it has been papered over with pagan connotations—so there’s no outcry among conservatives about a presumed War on Halloween. We all have skeletons in our bodies if not our closets, and we all are going to die, eventually: this is universal. Decorating for Halloween advertises nothing about your religious affiliation or lack thereof; it simply adds a bit of weirdness and whimsy to a season we all know ends bleakly.

Skulls and skeleton

Yesterday, J suggested another reason for a recent upsurge in neighborhood Halloween decorations. Besides an unspoken desire to keep up with the Joneses—even J and I have succumbed, perching a trio of pumpkins on our porch and investing in a few Styrofoam tombstones for our yard—there seem to be more young kids in our neighborhood than there were when J first moved here, a wave of families with teens and young adults being gradually replaced by families with younger kids. So far tonight, more of our trick-or-treaters have been little ones shepherded by parents than tweens and teens wandering the streets alone. Maybe trick-or-treating isn’t as cool as it used to be, no longer as popular with kids more interested in Facebook and video games: maybe kids today simply grow up more quickly than they used to.


We’ve had nearly thirty children come to our door this trick-or-treat night, and we’ve told them they each can choose four small candy bars from an assorted bowl. The handful of tweens who rang the doorbell quickly grabbed random fistfuls of candy, said their thank-yous, and left, but the little folks are much more deliberate, carefully choosing candies while their parental chaperones help them count.

Haunted cemetery

One little cowboy carefully selected one candy bar, dropped it in his bag, then turned to go. “He can choose three more,” I explained to his dad, who simply smiled and said, “He’s already happy enough.”


Technically, this ghoulish fellow (one of an entire tree of dangling ghosts, skeletons, and beasties that appears in a neighbor’s yard this time every year) is well dressed, not well groomed. But semantics aside, you have to admit he’s a delightfully dapper dude.

This is my contribution to yesterday’s Photo Friday theme, Well Groomed. Happy Halloween, everyone!

Washington Cemetery

These days, my schedule doesn’t give me much time for dog-walks here in Keene. On Fridays through Mondays, Reggie and I walk in Newton, and on Tuesdays and Thursdays, I teach all day at Keene State. So Wednesday has become my default Walking Day, my one weekly chance to take a leisurely look at Keene on foot.

Sox-lovin' scarecrow

Inspired by Leslee’s Halloween post, today I set out to snap something appropriately seasonal. The homes in Newton have been decked with skeletons, mock tombstones, and witches for weeks, but for some reason I haven’t taken any pictures; it must be my lingering reticence to take pictures of other people’s lives.

This morning here in Keene, I didn’t find much that struck me as photo-worthy. Yes, there’s a funny Red-Sox-loving scarecrow on Water Street, and yes, downtown merchants have the usual pumpkins and black-hatted mannequins in their windows. But Halloween in Keene has always felt anticlimactic compared to the annual Pumpkin Festival that happens a week earlier; how can an occasional pumpkin or black cat compare with more than 20,000 lit jack-o’-lanterns? This year, for the first time since 2003, I missed the Pumpkin Festival by going to a Bruins game, so I’ve been feeling photographically deprived, my usually brimming October photo-archive feeling thin instead.

This morning as Reggie and I took our Wednesday walkabout, nothing jumped up and grabbed me; nothing screamed “photograph me, I’m worthy!” And then I saw the first of the morning’s alien eyes.

Alien Eyes alley

I suppose it’s appropriate I’d see on Halloween several examples of the gleaming, X-shaped window reflections I call “alien eyes.” If aliens have indeed descended to shine their intelligent eyes on earthlings, what better day to start one’s extraterrestrial investigation than a day devoted to the odd and unusual?

X marks the spot

Whereas in the past, I’ve seen alien eyes only on the sides of commercial buildings, this morning I saw examples on a handful of residential homes on Marlboro Street: a pretty plain Jane destination to travel across the universe for.

Residential alien eyes

Of course, the whole message of alien eyes–if said aliens came to this galaxy to impart a lesson–is that the supernatural nests in the natural just as the extraordinary imbues the ordinary. After seeing the first of this morning’s alien eyes downtown, I was on the lookout for them closer to home; after seeing the first one on a plain-sided house, I quickly spotted another across the street, then another next door.

Alien eyes in the shadows

This afternoon on the way from the laundromat to the post office and then gas station–this afternoon, in other words, on my way from one chore to another–I saw two witches, a wizard, a bride, and a couple of cats-in-the-hat strolling downtown streets. Wednesday is my one day for walking Keene streets, and Halloween is our one day for walking with the weird. The lesson of alien eyes, like that of Halloween, is that there is magic among us if only we have eyes to see.