Thursday, November 6, 2008

Through the Looking Glass

This week I have been studying the Cultural Arts of Mexico. As part of this unit we have been learning about Dia de Muertos-The Day of the Dead. This holiday is celebrated between October 31 and November 2. In Mexico and in Latino communities, children will dress up, similar to our Halloween, searching for candy, often shaped like skeletons. Families gather together (and according to my cleaning lady they always have tamales) and visit the cemeteries. Here there is music and picnics and the graves decorated with brightly colored flowers. One interesting aspect of this holiday is the ofrendas or alters created to honor the dead. As part of our unit this week I had the privilege of creating my own ofrenda to honor my father and grandfather.
This has been a unique experience as cultures have overlapped and time wrapped around itself. As I searched my home for those things that reminded me of my Dad, my eyes fell on the book Alice in Wonderland. Shortly before my Dad passed away, I asked him what his favorite book was and he told me Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass. I have always meant to read it but “I’m late, I’m late” has always been ringing in my ears. I only have one thing that belonged to my Dad; ironically it is a pocketwatch, which had belonged to his father. This past month I immersed myself in another book, Art and Physics by Leonard Shalin and I have tried to wrap my mind around a new paradigm for looking at time and space. Mr. Shalin quotes Lewis Carroll- who was a brilliant mathematician-as he tries to explain “The Law of Relativity.” Once again I feel prompted to read Alice in Wonderland.

As I created my ofrenda I would catch myself looking in the mirror and then at pictures of my father and grandfather and pictures of my children and somehow Einstein’s hypothesis of one eternal “now” seems to make more sense. And then the magical side of me wants to step into the mirror and hug my father and introduce him to my children, his grandchildren, who he never met. I would tell him how they have some of his quirks and talents and traits and tell him how proud he would be of them. Then I would tell him about blogging and the Internet and how you can even go to school on the Internet and if there ever was a magical looking glass it is my computer. My Dad loved computers but he missed the Internet. And, then, my Dad could begin to expound to me the mysteries of the universe that he now understands so much better than I. Then he could introduce me to my grandfather who was sailor and an artist and, from the stories I have been told, very kind. My ofrenda contains the traditional candles, water (the dead get thirsty you know) and a bowl of nuts. An ofrenda needs salt (my dad loved salty snacks) and fall flowers. But my ofrenda also contains a few of my own touches. The watch in the middle reminds me that time is relative and, in Einstein’s words, someday when I am sitting astride a beam of light yesterday, today and tomorrow will all be now.