Tag Archives: Halloween

In Memoriam…

Fifteen years ago… has it really been 15? The world lost a bright spirit, but I suspect he might linger and visit…

Danny Potter was a monumental person. I do not say that metaphorically. I mean it. He was, in his health, 6’4″ and weighed quite a few hundred pounds. The double-headed dragon torque that he always wore around his wrist was loose on my bicep, and I speculate I could have worn it as a collar torque. But the biggest part of Danny was the heart.

Danny never met a stranger. He was a beloved brother, uncle, son, and friend. He had an unmeasurable intellect that he fed on a constant diet of literature and history. However, he devoted his time and his care to work with those at the very opposite end of that spectrum at the Green Valley institute for intellectually disabled. And they loved him (and he them) as much as we all did.

Danny was a poet and a druidic scholar in the true sense of the word. He was the teller of stories and a great listener who absorbed information like a sponge. He remained always curious. He was a great lover of history, especially of the Appalachian and Northeast Tennessee area where he lived and grew. He was a proud member of Clan Colquhoun (no, it’s not pronounced precisely as it looks… it’s Cul-hoon). He celebrated his Scottish heritage and founded a Celtic Festival that ran for many years with displays, music, and historical reenactment. Danny did much (if not all) of the work himself, signing on vendors, displays, and musical acts. (After his passing, it took a committee to do what he did single-handedly for so long).

Danny’s house was quite literally filled with books. They filled the den from floor to ceiling all around the room. Many evenings, I sat on couch or floor (depending on the number of us visiting) talking about topics that could range from archeology to zoology and all points in between, but mostly… tales of the mystical and fantastic and stories of the hills. Danny loved this season. He saw Samhain in the old Celtic sense of a new year and a thin veil and a time of marvelous opportunity.

Danny had a way of pulling people together. He could find something beautiful or valuable in every soul he touched. Recently his nephew and I were talking about how Danny’s web continues, even 15 years later, to draw us together and remind us of the connections we share. It seems that he will always be nudging me in the shoulder to keep that web spinning and shining.

He was gone too soon. At only 50 years, the world lost his physical presence. However, Danny never expected us to grieve him. He expected us to celebrate. In 2003, Danny left this plane, the time as close to midnight October 31-November 1 as could be determined. At his memorial service, his wishes were read.  He told all of us not to grieve the body that he was ready to leave and had served it’s purpose. He reminded us that he might visit from time to time, and he asked that at this time of year, we  put out two fingers of Scotch as a rememberance…. “Remember, I have very large fingers.”

And thus, my post, these 15 years later… Every year, my husband and I place two fingers of Scotch out on the back porch before midnight on Halloween… for Danny… It is always gone in the morning.

I will always miss my friend, but I like to think that I do my best to live as he would have wanted me to do, making connections, seeing beauty in each day and each soul that enters that web that Danny continues to spin for me. I see him in the people who loved and continue to love him. I hear him remind me to look around me for that which is good and true, and to always stay curious…

In memory of Danny Potter, 1953-2003.


a beautiful vintage mirror in a dark room

A shadowy glimpse from the corner of my eye

In every reflection I pass by

I feel you lurking, following me

But there is nothing when I turn to see

Present in the dark of night

You disappear with any light

I know that you are always there

That shadowed visage, I feel your stare

I spied you just at my shoulder…

I fear you growing bolder

Behind me I beg you to stay

What are you doing when I look away?

I fear one day you’ll break free

Ignoring any sensible plea

Embracing malice with unholy glee

The monster just there, inside of me…

When the Frost is on the Punkin’…


“The frost is on the punkin’ and the fodder’s in the shock…”

~James Whitcomb Riley

The mornings have a crispness that heralds the shortened days and chill of winter, but the sun still holds warmth of the aging summer that softens the transition and holds off winter’s grasp for just a while. The blue of the sky is clear and particular to the autumn; it’s a color that is not present at any other time of the year.

Even for an inveterate sun-worshipper such as me, the fall of the year holds something very special. There is something mystical and magic about the fogs that creep along the ground and crawl out of meadows and fields to cross roadways and paths. The smell of campfires, bonfires, and burning leaves on the cool evening air calls to mind the sounds of laughter and chill up the spine from ghost stories told around the fire. The flashing lights of fireflies give way to the sparks rising into the cold night air with the smoke.

I am not a big fan of colder temperatures, and I am certainly not a fan of less sunlight. However, I have to admit that there is something about the autumn that makes me happy.

I think that it is a lot of memory is stored up in the sensory experience of this season we call the fall of the year. The science involved refers to the olfactory bulb and the temporal lobe and hippocampus being all there nestled together, but the truth is that there is just a lot of really fun stuff that happens during this time of the year. The smell of bonfires and leaves burning mixed with the sweet smell of hay just put in the barns and even the scent of curing tobacco hanging from the rafters… these are all smells strongly associated with my childhood and memories of my family, now many of whom are now absent from my life, departing in greater numbers in the last decade to leave very few of us to carry on traditions and remember.

I still revel in listening to ghost stories around a fire while drinking warm cocoa or possibly hot cider. There is a thrill that goes up my spine with a really good spooky tale or a haunted house, wood, or corn maze; and I love the fog that creeps across the low fields and meadows like something out of one of those stories. I love the sun hitting the side of the mountains and illuminating the flames of color off-set by the deep greens of the evergreen conifers native to the southern United States.

Maybe it is true, what they say about the veil being thin at this time of year. It always seems that those people I miss are more frequently in my thoughts. Their memories pop up at various times, sparked by some trigger of my senses. I miss them more. I find myself wanting to share my observations and thoughts and plans. I feel their ghosts around me, but I still feel the gaping absence as well. It is as if I turn my head quickly enough, I can see one of them looking over my shoulder now as I type… but like Orpheus, the shade is gone when I cast my glance behind me.

It is a romantic time. It is a time when the chill in the air and the hint of a goblin coming to get you is an excuse to cuddle closer and sneak off to darkened alcoves. It is a time for laughter, fun, and friends. It is the opportunity to dress up and be someone else entirely for a night (or possibly more often, depending on your social engagements). It is a time for carving jack-o-lanterns and roasting pumpkin seeds and baking and indulging in a few traditional superstitions… just because it is fun to remember.

It is time to make wishes and see omens in nature and visions in the firelight. It is time to heed the owl’s warning and ask for wisdom in dreams. It is time to remember. It is time to reflect. It is time to revel in this “in between” season as the earth relinquishes the warmth of the sun and turns herself back to the darkness and cold until the days grow longer again.

And because James Whitcomb Riley’s are the words and dialect that always come to mind during this time of year, I’ll leave you with a snippet of another of his verses:

An’ little Orphant Annie says, when the blaze is blue,
An’ the lamp-wick sputters, an’ the wind goes woo-oo!
An’ you hear the crickets quit, an’ the moon is gray,
An’ the lightnin’-bugs in dew is all squenched away,–
You better mind yer parunts, an’ yer teachurs fond an’ dear,
An’ churish them ‘at loves you, an’ dry the orphant’s tear,
An’ he’p the pore an’ needy ones ‘at clusters all about,
Er the Gobble-uns ‘ll git you
Ef you