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Dark and scary times

On the Bright Side

Usually this time of year I like to write about how I love October, the month of Halloween, especially because of all the dark and scary movies that are on television. I'm not necessarily a big fan of dressing up or decorating for the actual Halloween holiday itself, but I do enjoy seeing other people's scary yard art and gruesome costumes.

As far back as I can remember, I have always loved the telling of macabre tales and ghost stories through horror books and frightful movies and tellings around a campfire. Family lore, however, tells me that wasn't always so (the story goes that I was so scared of Captain Hook and the crocodile when my folks took me to the drive-in to see Peter Pan that I hid under the car seat and cried, but I have no conscious memory of that). All of my own personal memories as a kid involve loving being scared to death.

Of course, there are other reasons to love October – the little chill in the air, the leaves turning color, the every-now-and-then brisk breeze that turns into a surprise snowfall, baseball playoffs and football season, hayrides and bonfires – and while I do enjoy those things immensely, I usually also enjoy El Dia de la Muerta (the Day of the Dead) and Halloween-type celebrations. Dark and scary times, fright nights, a good adrenaline rush to get the heart going and the glands sweating.

This year is a little different though. There are still lots of horror movies on TV but not in the movie theaters. Spooky novels are being printed and read and enjoyed, but some of the celebrations themselves are either non-existent or a little subdued. I can't help but wonder if that might be because in some sense we've been experiencing the dark and scary times of October in real life, through most of 2020 so far.

I've always thought that it's pretty weird that fall election time comes right after Halloween. As if ghosts and goblins aren't scary enough for us, we have to be bombarded by the final onslaught of politicians and special interest groups telling us in a never-ending array of commercials how to vote on this-that-or-the-other issue, and this year in the couple of days between Halloween and Election Day, we set our clocks back so it gets dark an hour earlier. Grrrr.

But then this year seems particularly dark when it comes to politics and all things scary anyway. Who would have thought we would be living a Halloween-type nightmare from March through the fall (and probably beyond)?

The good news is that in a little over a week we will have the national election done with (whether or not we know the actual outcome yet) and that will at least take away some of the unknown elements we live with daily. Hopefully the outcome of the election will also bring about a settling down, a calming of daily worries, a time of more light and less anger, of more togetherness and less division, of more hope and less fear.

Meanwhile, on a brighter note, one of the most scariest times of some Octobers past has been that so few people actually get out and vote in November, and this October, thanks to early voting, record numbers of people are honoring their right and duty to vote, to have a say in what direction we want our country to go, what parts of our democracy we want to keep and what we want to throw out, and what we want our country to be like for each of us. This year's whole election will see millions and millions of people voting and making their voices heard, and that is not dark and scary at all.

Perhaps I like fictitious horror stories so much because they are fiction. Real life horror stories like we are witnessing now across our country are what is really scary. I love being able to put a book down if it becomes too much to bear, and I can't always put the TV away to stop the bad news coming from it daily.

Give me a nice dark and scary story by Edgar Allen Poe or Stephen King any day, and let the real life horrors become swallowed up by more kindness, more compassion, more empathy, more love. And let's be done with our dark and scary times at the end of this October.

© Marilda Mel White. Mel is a local photographer/writer and co-owner of Tehachapi Treasure Trove, and has been looking on the bright side for various publications since 1996 (and she's loved a good scary story since at least 1952 when she was 4 years old). She welcomes your comments at [email protected].