Saturday, November 1, 2008


Today is a holiday in Italy: Ognissanti or All Saints.

I learned about this holiday last year, when my neighbor Rosanna was making a beautiful flower bouquet to take to the cementery. I thought then that I would like to partake in this particular memorial, it took me a year to do it.

Back home in Southern California, I had the opportunity of participating in Dia de los Muertos or Day of the Death at Self Help Graphics -a printmaking studio in East LA. I enjoyed the altares, and the sweet treats, and I appreciated the playfulness with which death came around during these festivities.

I have to confess that I am attracted to all rituals celebrating the end of this life as we know it. It must be my Catholic upbringing, or just plain old morbid sensibility. I just find them incredibly beautiful.

With this mindset was that I went down to the town's cemetery in the early afternoon. The rain that has been our permanent companion for the last week had stopped its dancing and pounding, and the sun was breaking through the clouds long enough to give me the chance to take some pictures.

I took my camera, and went to work. Little did I know that every single person in town was going to make their way to the cemetery after lunch. I felt out of place, like an uninvited guest. I was respectful of the people paying their respects, so I avoided taking pictures of them. I took some shy shots of the place, then I hid my camera and looked.

I saw a community larger than our place and time, I saw families connecting through their common history. I would not describe this as a joyful event, but as a communal event, like so many things Italian. Friends remembering old gone friends, great-grandparents telling stories of their parents, children bringing flowers to unknown relatives.

The majority of the visitors would clean the graves, carefully picking up death flowers, all the while talking with themselves long monologues of memories, and news.

Every single person came carrying flowers, mostly yellow. They were all wearing dark colors. I thought it a startling contrast, and I wonder if they see it: a dark background to the multicolored bursts of life.

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