In the remote countryside, there are places that still observe the old ways. It is only recently that we have begun to welcome visitors. But, that’s the way the world is, these days. Times change, like the weather.
In the summer, we have a holiday for hungry ghosts. It is not the Buddhist concept, though. Based on Shinto, this celebration is even older than Obon and Tanabata, but it’s also about love and death and meetings.
The streets are hung with strings of colored lights and lanterns. There is dancing and talking until the stars fade in the light before dawn. Houses are decorated. Favorite meals are prepared.
We await the stars–the summer triangle of Altair, Deneb and Vega, forming a gateway that opens. We beat great drums to chase away the dark clouds, and summon our loved ones back to this world.
The other world is different, they say. Time is slower, too. It takes a while to adjust. A year here is like a day there, a summer afternoon. For them, this reunion is like coming home from a day in the fields, as lights turn on in the evening.
And at last here they come, a parade at dusk, just in time for the first fireflies. Walking down the roadway, one by one, all the dead lovers, and husbands and wives. They have put on silk outfits, and bodies. They have dressed for the festival, just for us.
At first, they are so hungry for this world. Their eyes try to take it all in. They admire the lights and colors. They cannot eat and drink enough.
They miss the weight of their bodies, the feel of skin. These first reunions have such sweetness. There is much touching without words. What is there to say? Which one will speak first?
The night passes so quickly. No one has time for sleep. All too soon, the first birds sing as the light returns. Bodies entwined, untangle. Some are so reluctant to leave. You can imagine there are many tearful partings. Sometimes, even arguments.
But now it is time to go, before the sun rises. We accompany our loved ones to the edge of town. Same time, next year, we’ll be laughing together, we promise each other. There is much waving and backward glances. At last they turn and walk into the light of the new day. We watch them until they are out of sight before we go back to our lives.
But in time, our loves grow tired of this world, the constant coming and going. So much fuss! Too many new people to remember. Why get all dressed up? The bodies become too heavy, and the lights begin to hurt their eyes. The food is just too much. They grow lighter, more transparent, more distant. Our fingers go right through them, as they disappear at dawn.
About the Author:
In real life Voima Oy lives in Oak Park, IL on the western edge of Chicago, south of the expressway and the elevated train line.
She has written short forms for years–poetry, prose poems and very short stories. She loves the possibilities of twitter and flash fiction!
She also has a blog, Chicago Weather Watch, where she writes about life, nature and weather.