In keeping with my tradition of barely posting these days, I want to talk a little about mid-autumn, Samhain, the day that the veil between worlds is the thinnest, all Hallow’s Eve, Halloween.
And frankly, I don’t feel like celebrating. I haven’t decorated, and I’ve barely thought about my dumb dinner, and I haven’t connected with the incorporeal much. And you know, Scorpio energy isn’t fun energy — that’s Sagittarius, that’s Thanksgiving and getting ready for Christmas energy — but I appreciate Halloween even though I’m too old to go trick-or-treating. I like that the occult is showing up in home decor at Target and Michaels, because it feels like the world is safer in a way for occultists. And I suppose it has been, with the surge in popularity of astrology, tarot, divination, and other forms of non-patriarchal spirituality. Granted, all of Halloween’s usual decor has pagan origins – as does the usual decor of Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter – but Halloween is the most intentionally pagan indulgence that the normative culture here has.
But if you look at the astrological weather, it just doesn’t feel like a time for dancing: there are NO planets in fire right now. Chiron doesn’t count — Chiron in Aries isn’t getting any parties started.
Mars is in late Gemini, and that’s good for socializing…when it’s not retrograde. Mars retrograde in Gemini can turn in on itself, and people may be more interested in what’s on their own minds and sharing that in a previously unexplored way, or they may be more clannish than usual. Efforts to be more communicative and outgoing may result in coming on too strong or taking things the wrong way and not clearing the air.
And speaking of air: there’s nothing left in Libra to lighten the mood and break the ice. Venus is in Scorpio now, intense, laser-focused on desire and intimacy, conjunct the South Node in Scorpio, which is probably the worst combo for just going out and trusting that you’ll have a good time with no drama. It’s also making a wide-ish opposition to Uranus in Taurus, so changes to the kind of relationship you may take for granted because they’re steady and quiet could be a possibility – maybe you’ll get closer, maybe you’ll have a misunderstanding, or maybe you’ll just ghost them. There is always the possibility of realizing that this person is more important to you than you may have previously realized, or that your feelings are deeper or different than you previously thought, which is wonderful, except Uranus is still there — this feeling may not be permanent.
Jupiter retrograded back into Pisces, and it’s scooting backward into Neptune, so that desire is strong, the one to just chill out under a blanket, drink cocoa, watching nostalgic Halloween movies from your youth and eat candy while you wonder where all the fun in life went. And I think that’s fine – when you consider the astronomical cost of housing, if you have a place of your own, enjoy the fuck out of it! Considering that we are all very, very comfortable, and many of us can happily spend an entire day indoors and get everything we need but fresh air, sunshine, and a sense of community, it doesn’t feel so bad to stay in. There’s still a pandemic, covid is on the rise again, and the cost of everything is going up. Piscean hominess isn’t like Cancerian hominess, which is about comfort and protection, but rather about escape. And I like being home. I mean, I also like being in the woods and walking around various neighborhoods nearby, but when home is good, I really like being at home, and home is good right now.
I also recently found out my MBTI type: INFJ, and apparently, we like being at home.
But for the rest of you who aren’t INFJs, it’s okay to spend Halloween a little quietly or with an intimate group of people, in a graveyard, at midnight, stirring up the souls of the damned to do your bidding. Totally fine.
We need Halloween.
At least our culture needs Halloween. We need a time to indulge in the supernatural, to consider forces more powerful than ourselves, and to consider our mortality. We don’t really celebrate All Soul’s Day, and many of us don’t come from a culture that focuses on the dead because Protestants stole that experience from us — even Catholics generally have a culture of the dead. They have saints, they have ancestors, they believe in praying for the dead and asking the dead to pray for us. Life and death are part of a continuum of what is ultimately immortality, and even if that’s a holdover from their pagan roots, it respects the need to be connected to the departed. But even if we don’t come from a culture that maintains a relationship with the dead, we believe in ghosts, in reincarnation, in contacting The Other Side.
I am not in the mood to contact The Other Side right now. I have a big feast last year, and frankly, there’s too much going on right now to want to ask for the opinions of my WWII-fighting ancestors on how to best deal with American fascists. Tomorrow, I will have a dumb dinner for my people, but lately, I’ve just stayed mostly on this side of the veil because it’s harder to get into the proper mindset.
My hope for tomorrow, which I have off and will be taking alone, is a lot of magickal work, but I’m trying to psyche myself up for it when I have a puzzle partially done on the coffee table, a new blanket, a movie I want to see on Prime, enough food for the next few weeks, a Spotify subscription, a weather prediction for rain, and no car to worry about since mine is still in the shop.
What I’ve been doing lately…
Earlier this month, someone backed into my car while I was driving through the parking lot at work. Minimal damage to me and my car, but body work is expensive. The costs are covered, but it takes a while to get into the shop and get it done. I had the option of getting a rental car, but after The Drunk Lady set fire to a dumpster across the alley and almost sent a neighboring building up, I decided to see what not being responsible for a car was like.
I haven’t been without access to a vehicle since I was in Korea, which was 12 years ago. And yes – I have been to Itaewon many times, and I can see how a stampede like that could happen and cause so much death and destruction. It’s an old neighborhood, and no neighborhood is ever engineered for stampedes. I never really warmed up to being there at night because of how crowded it could get, and this was around the time I was starting to accept about myself that I never really liked that kind of fun and what I thought was FOMO was more of a fear of being weird, because I didn’t actually want to be included.
And sadly, I have lost touch with my friends in Korea, so I don’t know if they’re safe.
Mars conjunct the IC
We’re in a housing crisis. Housing is not affordable anymore, and home ownership is now out of reach for many, and especially for a single person like me, the idea of even buying a condo may not be possible because even if you have the down payment and can afford the mortgage and taxes, the other costs may push the home out of your price range. Among housing costs and living costs rising, wages stagnating, and the debt of school loans which can essentially be like a mortgage payment, there’s lots of people who will be stuck renting homes from those who can afford to own them, but at some point, housing costs have to come down, because who will own and maintain all the single-family housing everyone would be renting? What zoning laws will allow all those single-family homes to be turned into townhouse complexes or apartment buildings? The fact remains that someone is buying these houses and living in them, and someone is moving out of these homes, and eventually, there won’t be buyers for these overpriced ordinary domiciles.
I’m biding my time.
I always thought that when Mars transited into my 4th house – as it recently has – that I would move. I have been looking at other places, casually, but I am not in a position to move or to buy. I’ve explored other neighborhoods in Chicago, and I’ve considered where else in the country I have wanted to live, but I can say that I haven’t done any of that. Granted, if I moved every time Mars was in my 4th house, I’d be moving almost every year. My assumption is that I’m more likely to move when Mars is in my 4th house.
Something I have done lately, that I haven’t really done before, is consider my childhood home. I lived in a beautiful part of the country but in a not-so-great town in a pretty not-so-great house. It was a fixer-upper my parents never really fixed up, but it wasn’t just that it needed new floors and wall treatments, but the entire house was built strangely. People who came over would say that the house made them feel anxious, and it wasn’t just because of the clutter, the cigarette smoke, and the fact that there were so many of us crammed into it: it was the way the house was designed to be an uninviting structure that closes itself off from the world.
I get nostalgic this time of year because it’s a time when the Finger Lakes really shines. All the seasons are experienced madly and intensely, and while the area may be buried in snow in the winter, sweltering hot even on the lakes in the summer, and wet and bipolar in the spring, autumn has it’s own magic. Sure, the weather can go from hot to snowing, and you know you grew up in the Finger Lakes if your Mom made your Halloween costume to fit over your wintercoat/snowsuit, but autumn was splendor. There’s fewer things as sublime as seeing the trees in all their colors on the rolling hills reflected off the lake, of vineyards and apple orchards where picking your own apples was just something you did to have apples for the fall and winter and not a ridiculously expensive outing trying to be a tiny, aw-shucks amusement park. There was apples, grapes, wine, maple syrup, and squash, and it was all local. Crunchy leaves everywhere, and crisp nights with clear skies and stars – stars I’ve forgotten to look for because I don’t see them in New York, or Seoul, or Chicago.
And I remember the big ash tree in our backyard. The tree was so big that we really couldn’t use our backyard for games because it was smack in the middle. We couldn’t use our front yard for games because it was a bad neighborhood that was getting worse with each passing year. There was a very large L-shaped driveway out back that was dangerous to run on with slippery leaves everywhere — it was actually attached to the driveway of the building next door, because at one time, they belonged to the same business, and at one time, the person who owned the house ran several businesses out of the house.
And I think this is why he renovated the house the way he did, because it’s not a normal house. The house used to be the barn of the building next door that used to be a funeral parlor. The barn was renovated into a small house, and then added on, and then renovated in unusual ways.
First, the house has no curb appeal, as there there is no front door or front entrance, but rather a side door with a side porch that my father made into a partially-done enclosed porch, which is not insulated and doesn’t have flooring or drywall. It could easily be knocked down and a proper porch put in place. I crunch the numbers in my head. But the house would still have no curb appeal because the house is literally turned away from the street and faces the neighbor’s house, so the door and the foyer would need to be moved to the front of the house, and we’d have to see what zoning says about that. A front porch may help keep people from going down the wrong driveway thinking our driveway belongs to the house next door.
I crunch the numbers.
When you enter our house, the first thing you’re greeted by is a small and dark foyer, maybe big enough for two people. The wood paneling and lack of a clean light doesn’t help. At some point, the previous owner must have put up wood paneling himself, because he did a terrible job – it’s uneven and warped – and it’s all over the downstairs in both the living room and the dining room. It can’t simply be painted or wallpapered over because of the unevenness, so it has to come down. I crunch the numbers. But the reason for the tiny, claustrophobic foyer is because the staircase that once separate the dining room from the living room was closed off and rerouted to dining room likely to keep customers from going upstairs in the home.
When he rerouted the bottom of the staircase to the dining room, he also routed the basement door from the dining room to the down stairs bathroom, which means you not only have to go into the bath room to go into the basement, there’s this whole area of unusable space in the bathroom because one section of the bathroom is dedicated to housing the staircase to the basement.
There’s no room for cabinets, shelves, or a vanity even though the downstairs bathroom is rather large. The basement stairs would have to be routed back out of the dining room, and the downstairs bathroom renovated or reduced in size, with area given back to other rooms, as a bathroom doesn’t need it’s own foyer which this one has for some reason.
I crunch the numbers.
If the staircase was open, at least on one side, the dining room or the living room would seem bigger – or, if the foyer was expanded from a get-the-fuck-out box to a hallway with the downstairs bathroom at the end, the dining room would be a little smaller, but still functional?
The dining room is a normal room, with a small room off to the side. It may have been a larger room, perhaps an office, before the bathroom was expanded for the basement stairs. It could be expanded again, because it has served as a tiny office and a tiny bedroom, but the room is too small to really work as either and too impractical to use as a bedroom or office because it’s adjacent to the most high-traffic area of the house.
Or maybe the room only exists because the bathroom had to be expanded to accommodate the cellar stairs, and that little impractical room could come out entirely and be a nook for a china cabinet or a buffet for the dining room, or perhaps a play area for the kids?
I crunch the numbers.
The living room was obviously a smaller parlor with an addition added onto it – you can see where there was once a wall on either side of the room. Structurally, it’s not bad, although it’s narrow and the set up is currently backward – there are two walls where there could be cable and an a television stand, but the living room isn’t oriented that way; it’s oriented toward a corner where an oversized, Finger hut entertainment center stands diagonally across the wall, blocking the baseboards on that side of the room, and everyone sits in chairs facing windows but turning to the side. The main things would be replacing the ceilings, the wood paneling, and the burnt orange carpet, but if this house has a porch, the room will need to have an adjacent foyer and porch built.
I crunch the numbers.
The kitchen is large, with counters running along two walls and lots of cabinet and counter space, perhaps more kitchen and counter space than is actually necessary in a house like that. Some of that counter space and cabinet area can be taken out so a breakfast nook, an island, or dinette set could be put in and set far enough away from the entrances so that people don’t have to walk around the table to get in and out of the room. This will also allow us to put baseboards against another wall so it’s not so cold in there in the winter. I crunch the numbers.
The backroom, as it’s called, is an extra room attached to the house. It has no real purpose – it’s not a mud room, or a laundry room, or a pantry. It’s just a room in the back that has served as a place for junk, with a closet and small room that’s the size of a pantry but has been used by my father for tinkering and for storing random things. Now it’s actually being used for storage. Strangely enough, this storage room has a window, making me wonder if it was an add-on: at one time, someone ran a beauty shop out of the back room, and where the sinks and dryers were are now our washer and dryer, which is what most of the room is for. It’s also a place where a pull out sofa was kept for a while, and it may still be there. I imagine taking the laundry area and walling it off because who needs a washer and dryer out in the open? I’d take down the storage room wall that separates it from the laundry and let that be a pantry/laundry room so the window makes some sense. The rest of the backroom would become a proper mudroom, as there is already a coat closet. I crunch the numbers.
The backstairs need to be redone. The garage needs new windows and a new roof. I crunch the numbers.
The upstairs makes a little more sense, but even that was makeshift. The stairs creak and grown as you walk up them, and the carpet has long been worn off. There’s a pipe running along side the wall in the upstairs hallway – and to me, having exposed plumbing just chilling in your upstairs hallways, making noise when the toilet flushes, would be a no for me when buying a house. Some of the rooms have been renovated, but some of them need work – the old laminate flooring needs to go, the walls need to be patched up properly, and the drafty windows taken out. The size of the rooms don’t make sense either – on one side, there is a bedroom big enough for two children to share, and next to that, a room that’s about 50 square feet that’s not big enough for a bedroom but it is also too big to be a closet. I’m not sure why they didn’t move the wall over; my guess is that they wanted to fit three children in the area and not just two? One of the rooms has foam wall panels, and I think the reason why was because the kids who lived in the house before used to kick and punch holes in the walls. The foam panels have to go. I crunch the numbers.
The upstairs bathroom has structural problems, and not all of them were created by the previous owner. For reasons unknown to me, either the bathroom exhaust fan doesn’t work, or the place it’s located — which is away from the shower — isn’t strong enough to suck up all the moisture. Also, for some reason, we weren’t allowed to open the privacy window in the bathroom, so we never got in the habit of letting steam out that way. Also, the bathrooms were the only rooms available to us in which we had some semblance of privacy, so we tended to stay in there as long as possible (but I think I remember on the last visit home that all the bedroom doors have doorknobs now). With so many people bathing, the walls are always spotted with black mold, and the walls will have to come down. The built in bathroom shelves are missing where the plumbing is, and the shelving has to be replaced.
The bathtub and the sink are both lavender. While that’s not a crime, it’s hard to resell a house with weird colored bathroom fixtures. The tub and sink can be sold on etsy as vintage items, and that will help offset the cost of replacing the bathroom exhaust fan and the drywall and the ceiling. I crunch the numbers.
Maybe we should replace the baseboards with a more efficient type of heating? The old drafty sliding windows much be replaced, and if there’s an indoor porch, it should be insulated; maybe wrapping the porch around the front and just leaving the side enclosed as a kind of Florida room, even though it’s north-facing? Because even better for a Florida Room would be where the backroom is, or part of it, because it’s East-facing, and it’s private. I crunch the numbers.
And then I think about the metal clothesline poles that are stuck in the pavement of the driveway but aren’t usable because they’re right next to a tall privet bush, and the cost of removing them, and then redoing the entire driveway, and trying to figure out if they need to have space to park six cars behind what is essentially a three-bedroom home in a modest neighborhood, because if we can reclaim some of the yard from the driveway, someone could put in a garden or a patio. I crunch the numbers.
And the ash tree will have to go. For a family, having a giant dying tree in the middle of the yard you expect your kids to run around in isn’t a selling point, and sitting so close to the house, the roots definitely get in the plumbing. It needs to come down in a controlled way before a storm knocks it down on the roof.
The foliage that our white trash neighbors destroyed needs to be replaced. The fence our white trash neighbors puts up was uneven and about a foot from the property line – they put up that fence in 1996 – we’ll have to go to court for it, but I believe my parents own that strip of property due to adverse possession if they used it like it was their own. The bare patches in the back and front lawns need to be re-sod and fenced off to keep people from walking on them. The sidewalk around the house needs to be replaced – why is there even a sidewalk going around the entire house? This isn’t a business anymore, and people get confused and think they can take the sidewalk to the house next door. Best to pull it up, replace it with grass, and put up a fence sectioning off the front from the back entirely. And then, if we do that, and the ash tree is gone, then the yard will be sunnier and we can put in a deck, and with half the driveway gone, a garden? And because the house is facing the neighbor’s house, the yards are most side-yards and not front and back yards, so maybe just a Florida room where the backroom is and just a yard that’s not really a backyard or a front yard?
This house is so fucked up – why would anyone buy this house? It’s like the builder thought to himself “how can I make this house as unwelcoming and uncomfortable as possible?” and now I think I understand what drew my parents to this house because it wasn’t cost effective for them to buy it and keep it.
And the house doesn’t have a high value, in part due to how cobbled-together it is, but considering that everything needs to be modernized after the structure is fixed, it’s going to cost a lot of money to renovate it to make it marketable, perhaps more than it could be sold for, even in this market – it’s still worth a lot less than the other houses on the block, but none of us kids want to keep the house, much less live in it as adults, but split between six kids, even at today’s inflated price, it’s not that much money anyway after costs and fees, but for an extra 25%, is the cost worth it? Should we sell it as-is so someone can tear it down and start over?
Because even if they like owning the weird, antisocial house, they’re going to have to replace the ceilings, walls, and flooring due to decades of non-stop cigarette smoke and little to no cleaning, and that has to be factored into the costs.
And then I remember that I’m probably not going to inherit the house anyway, so it’s not my call.
But I still like to think about the way I could have molded my childhood home into something that felt more comfortable, something like a home, something that people didn’t look at and say “Do you actually live there? How do you even get in the house?” and something that didn’t feel so dark and depressing, and it always made other people anxious or exhausted to be there. In a market in which I’m currently priced out of buying property in Chicago, and perhaps anywhere close to it, and where even in my hometown where the average family makes $43,000 a year but houses are going for – on average – $100,000 for something that isn’t gutted and in need of major repairs. I crunch the numbers. This isn’t going to last, I think.
This can’t last.
I’m going to have to put my nesting energy into something I can control, cause I already checked with my ancestors – there’s no inheritance, no missing money for me, no land just waiting for it’s rightful owner to come along. No ancestral farms, no houses. There’s none of that left.
But maybe that’s okay, to be un-yoked to land you didn’t choose or purchase, because sometimes Mars energy means to move, to keep moving, and that’s what I’m doing with my car in the shop: moving all around my adopted hometown on foot, leaves crunching under my step, sun on my face and breeze in my hair, which are still mine, too, last time I checked in the mirror at those features I can’t escape that keep bringing me back home because I see them all – my mother’s side, my father’s side especially – staring back at me.
3 thoughts on “Happy Samhain!”
You have a really good memory for details; I’d forgotten a few of these details (like the exposed plumbing upstairs). Times I’ve gone to visit, I’ve noticed how all the other homes in the neighborhood are at least starting to look better, while our childhood home seems to be, in the words of Eddie Izzard, “slowly collapsing like a flan in a cupboard”.
I still to this day have nightmares of living in this house, that seem to be simultaneously claustrophobic and agoraphobic (as contradictory as it sounds). I know there’s a lot of trauma I’m working through that occurred in that house, but your analysis has helped me understand that the house itself probably played no small part in it.
Kind of like 108 Ocean Ave. in Amityville, but without the creepy quarter-pie-shaped attic windows.
There was a lot of empty, unusable space in the home, like most of the kitchen and the downstairs bathroom, that would contribute to agoraphobia. The layout doesn’t make sense, and living in clutter but not having any privacy definitely also can make it feel agoraphobic/claustrophobic, especially with all the echoing stomping because of the closed in staircase and the diningroom floor. I don’t necessarily think of our house being haunted, but it was definitely and still is creepy and unsettling.
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A relatively close second would be our grandparents’ house just up the road (the one in which we were usually welcome).