Monday, October 31, 2016

Samhain 2016

It's Samhain (SAH-wen) time again, the old Celtic New Year that was later "Christianized" into Halloween. Now we pass from the light half of the year into the dark half. Now the earth goes fallow and prepares for the sleep of Winter. It's a time of transition, a time when dividing lines dissolve and those who have passed on can come to visit, and the living can in turn visit those passed on. We give honor to our ancestors and memorialize our loved ones who have passed on. And we feast on the products of the harvest, and preserve as much of it as we can. Grain becomes flour, barley becomes beer, meat is smoked or dried, grapes become wine and other fruits become brandy, and vegetables are canned or pickled. We get ready for Winter!

And as I do every Samhain, I'll post some favorite videos to liven up the virtual celebration. This first one is an old favorite, an animation project from the 1980s that was featured on PBS, set to Camille Saint-Saëns' tone poem "Danse Macabre".

This next one is another old favorite, Canadian musician Loreena McKennitt's "All Souls Night", one of her best-known songs, written as her tribute to Samhain. I usually post a video of her performance of this one from her concert in the Alhambra, but that one seems to have disappeared from YouTube. That's okay, this cut from the original album is just as beautiful!

One more video. Nowadays on Halloween the kiddies dress up in costumes and go from house to house eliciting goodies from the residents by shouting "Trick or treat!" This comes from the old Samhain and early All Hallows Eve custom of going from house to house in groups (adults and children all!) begging for goodies (in those days small cakes and fruit) that represent the harvest. You didn't get that for free; you had to sing for it. One of the goodies given out back then was a small, spiced oat cake embedded with dried fruit called a soul cake. "The cakes, often simply referred to as souls, are given out to soulers (mainly consisting of children and the poor) who go from door to door during the days of Allhallowtide singing and saying prayers "for the souls of the givers and their friends". The practice in England dates to the medieval period, and was continued there until the 1930s, by both Protestant and Catholic Christians. The practice of giving and eating soul cakes continues in some countries today, and it is seen as the origin of the practice of trick-or-treating." (Quoted from Wikipedia)  This song, "A-Souling", is an old song collected by a folklorist in 1891, which traces back to medieval times and is sung by the soulers going from house to house. Pagan singer/musicologist Kirsten Lawrence was struck that the beginning notes were the same as the mediaeval plainchant Dies Irae, "Day of Judgment", calling the people to repent and pray for the dead. It seemed plausible that the tune could be a folk corruption of the chant as children and beggars asked for cakes in return for praying for the dead. This version of "A-Souling" is performed by the New Zealand group Lothlórien and is my personal favorite! (You'll need to click this link because YouTube seems to have disabled embedding for this video.)

So a Blessed Samhain and a Happy Halloween to all!

Photos, graphics, and text © 2016 by A. Roy Hilbinger 

Sunday, October 30, 2016

October Gazebo

“Fall has always been my favorite season. The time when everything bursts with its last beauty, as if nature had been saving up all year for the grand finale.”
– Lauren DeStefano

The gazebo across the street dressed in all its October finery
© 2016 by A. Roy Hilbinger 

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Saturday in the Park

"Now Autumn's fire burns slowly along the woods and day by day the dead leaves fall and melt."
– William Allingham

I decided today was a good day to walk the whole of the Dykeman Spring Nature Park. The weather is perfect for this time of year and the sun was partially obscured by light clouds, so it wasn't too bright. Lots to look at while the leaves fall from the trees and things start to look a bit more bare.

A pair of Mallards floating on the creek
This Muscovy drake (a domestic breed) has been hanging around the duck ponds for over a week. The last two times I was there he rushed me and tried to bite me; luckily this time of year I wear jeans and big heavy knee-high socks, so his biting got him nowhere. Today I had my hiking stick with me, and either he's mellowed out or the hiking stick said "Don't even try it!" to him; he just sat under this tree and kept a wary eye on me.
Walking on the Upland Trail on the way to the meadow
Looking west over the upland meadow from its highest point
Autumn trees on the upland meadow
A flock of Eastern Bluebirds were flying about the fringes of the meadow. This was the best shot I could get.
Back down in the wetland on the way home, approaching the red bridge over the creek
The view from the bridge
© 2016 by A. Roy Hilbinger

Thursday, October 27, 2016

A Damp Autumn Morning

It's been raining off and on today, a typically cold Autumn rain. So I put on my rubber boots and went walking along King St. to catch Shippensburg on a damp Autumn morning.

© 2016 by A. Roy Hilbinger 

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Autumnal Sunshine

“I cannot endure to waste anything so precious as autumnal sunshine by staying in the house."
– Nathaniel Hawthorne 

Autumn is truly kicking in now, It was cold last night and we had our first hard frost. We also had some very high winds over the weekend, so a lot of the brilliant leaves I showed you last week are now on the ground and the branches that held them are bare. But there's still a lot of green waiting to change color, so the visual drama isn't over yet!

Coming out of the tunnel under the railroad tracks on the Dykeman Walking Trail
A view of the north duck pond in the Dykeman Spring Nature Park
This view on the upland meadow would make an ideal setting for an Andrew Wyeth painting
Approaching the eastern end of the upland meadow
© 2016 by A. Roy Hilbinger 

Friday, October 21, 2016

This Time of the Year

I love being outdoors hiking the countryside, and I especially love doing that this time of the year. I love the feel of my feet in my hiking boots and the feel of the tops snugging my ankles. I love the cooler temperatures. I love the tannin smell of the fallen leaves in the air, especially when that smell becomes stronger when walking in the woods. I love the often moodily overcast skies so characteristic of the season. And most of all I love the colors. As Albert Camus said, "Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower." I walked through the Dykeman Spring Nature Park this morning and collected this visual poem to Autumn, my favorite season.

Along the Dykeman Walking Trail
Entering the nature park on the Dykeman Walking Trail
Virginia Creeper climbing a tree along the Dykeman Walking Trail
An autumnal view of the Dykeman Spring wetland
And an autumnal view of the upland meadow
© 2016 by A. Roy Hilbinger 

Sunday, October 16, 2016


I was down in Maryland this weekend attending a family wedding and I was afraid I might not get the chance t take my weekly walk in the park for this week. But we got back early enough this afternoon that I was able to take the walk, and the first thing I noticed is that the autumnal colors are starting to appear. Hooray!

© 2016 by A. Roy Hilbinger 

Sunday, October 09, 2016

Autumn Color Begins

"Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower."
– Albert Camus

On this week's walk in the Dykeman Spring Nature Park I finally saw some signs of Fall color in the leaves, as well as some berries and Fall flowers. Come take a look!

Cottonwood leaves on the Dykeman Walking Trail
Honeysuckle berries along the trail
A sure sign of Autumn - White Wood Asters
Nature's stained glass - sunlight shining through red Virginia Creeper leaves
© 2016 by A. Roy Hilbinger 

Monday, October 03, 2016

This Week's Walk in the Park

Walking through the Dykeman Spring Nature Park on the way to the grocery store again today. We finally had some rain last week and through the weekend, and things have greened up some, but there's still no real leaf color change as yet. Still, there are scenes worth capturing, and these are the ones my wandering lens caught on today's walk.

Reflections in the north duck pond
English Ivy climbing a tree along the Upland Trail on the way to the meadow
A Variegated Fritillary butterfly on Boneset along the Meadow Trail
A Clouded Sulphur butterfly along the Meadow Trail
© 2016 by A. Roy Hilbinger