October is coming and with it are ghosts and goblins and witches and scary skeletons. Not that any of those things cause me to be frightened. I don’t believe in the first three and when I see a skeleton I think of doctors, hospitals, science. It’s fascinating to see the structure of our bones that protect our organs and allow us to move about when joined with muscles and ligaments. I’ll never quite understand why the bones of human anatomy are part of the lore of monsters and horror.
I am always in awe of the human body. It is amazing how all of the parts work together when they are healthy and in alignment. I have a particular affinity to bones because mine are afflicted with the disease of osteoporosis which makes them weaker and more likely to break. I’ve been fighting for decades to keep them from deteriorating and my success has been limited. It is within the construction of my bones that my greatest fear lies. I worry that one day they will force me into a state of immobility. I dread the idea of being wheelchair bound like three of my aunts ultimately became.
I am jealous of those who stand tall and whose skeletons are rock solid. Mine is thin and riddled with holes. Now there is a noticeable bow on my back and I worry that I may break a hip or fracture my spine, things that happened to my aunts over time. LIke me they were active incredibly healthy women save for the silent disease eating away at their bones, making them thin and weak. They did not have the knowledge of osteoporosis that I have. Nor did they have the kind of medications that I have used to both grow bones and slow down their process of deterioration. In that regard I know that I am quite fortunate, but still my imagination sometimes runs wild and it is like being in a horror movie to watch my spine becoming disfigured.
I suppose that we all enjoy being independent, able to live as though we are forever young. I like to walk and used to like to run. I have no fear of climbing ladders or hiking up a mountain, and yet over time I have had to forego so many of the activities of my youth. I suppose that this is the inevitable march of time for each of us. Still, I suspect that many are like me in still being able to vividly recall dressing up for Halloween as a little witch or perhaps tossing a sheet over the head to be a ghost. Somehow in spite of the decades that pass we have moments when we feel as though we are still eight or nine years old. We close our eyes and suddenly we are kids again running joyfully and innocently from house to house with paper bags filled with candy treats. Oh, how nice it was to be so innocent and unaware of the the many challenges that we would one day face!
When I see a skeleton that is supposed to belong in a house of horrors I can only smile. It is almost a happy object for me. I have visions of a chorus line of skeletons dancing in unison. Their ghoulish grins delight me. They are fun, not frightening. Best of all they are whole and healthy and interesting. Each part serves a very specific purpose that allows us to perform tasks that make us unique among living things, particularly our hands.
Those phalanges are glorious. With them we create and we build. They help us make music and draw. We write with them and set our words and our stories in stone. We join them together in embraces and prayer. There is a magnificence in the simplicity and potential of our hands. To me they are the most beautiful aspect of our bodies even when they are wrinkled and careworn. Obviously they are more complex than just a collection of bones, but it is from that foundational structure that some of our most creative abilities flow. The hands along with our minds allow us to demonstrate the compassion of our hearts. What could be less scary?
Halloween comes the night before All Souls Day. While it seems to be a creepy celebration of the dead to me it is really about life. Done right it is fun and a way of acknowledging that none of us are immortal but all of us delight in having fun. On Halloween we laugh at our fear of death and turn that worry into a true focus on living our best lives. We face our mortality squarely in the eyes and decide to make it a matter of joy. We seize the day, enjoy the moment, thumb our noses at the seeming shortness of life. That makes those skeletons interesting, not scary at all.