The highs and lows of Autumn: Hooray for Halloween!

Author Sarah Linn as a child poses with pumpkins and her brothers.
Author Sarah Linn as a child poses with pumpkins and her brothers.

Late October in my native Pacific Northwest is a dark, depressing time of year -- a season of icy showers, tree-toppling winds and giant piles of soggy leaves clogging storm gutters.

It’s the kind of weather that reduces jack-o’lanterns to moldy mush, and underdressed trick-or-treaters to flu patients. (Contrary to the companies that manufacture those skimpy costumes, Halloween in Oregon is an invitation to dress in layers – preferably water-proof ones.)

Yet, for all the times I’ve risked hypothermia while trudging up and down a darkened cul-de-sac, my love for Halloween has never diminished.

My affection for autumn undoubtedly dates to childhood, when each tedious bus ride home ended with me clutching a steaming cup of hot chocolate. Everything I disliked about school – the punishing pop quizzes, the endless assignments, the bullies – was forgiven within a few sips of that sweet, almost scalding liquid.

As an adult, I’ve learned to appreciate the many aspects of fall more fully.

Fall promises warm, mellow days and deliciously crisp nights, the perfect weather for football games, bonfires and quiet walks. During a light autumn shower, there’s nothing better than snuggling under the covers with an Agatha Christie murder-mystery.

The rainy season ushers in fall fashion: cozy coats, slim skirts, colorful woolen tights and knee-high boots -- the ideal outfit for splashing through puddles or crunching through dry leaves.

Wool, tweed and corduroy return to store shelves, and so do all of the season’s accessories. Who can resist pairing any outfit with a scarf, a leather handbag or a cute houndstooth cap?

Fall also means comfort food: roasted vegetables and rich, hearty stews, creamy casseroles, fresh-baked bread and apple pie made from scratch. And that’s just your typical American meal.

At Oktoberfest, Munich’s annual autumn celebration, my husband and I downed giant steins of beer and enormous platters of bratwurst, sauerkraut and potatoes. Having witnessed a beer hall crowd singing along to John Denver’s “Take Me Home, Country Roads;” I’m convinced that there’s no better way to salute the season.

As much I love autumn, however, Halloween holds the foremost place in my heart.

Much like its sister holiday, El Día de los Muertos, All Hallows Eve recognizes our connection to the spirit world.

As observed at my house, however, it’s a chance to carve pumpkins, deck the halls with spider webs and skeletons and watch scary movies. (Although I’m a bit of a wimp when it comes to horror movies, I’m willing to watch “A Nightmare on Elm Street” on Halloween – provided that all the lights are on and the doors locked.)

Halloween costumes take precedent over all other hobbies, and the last few weekends of October are booked solid with parties.

I realize that dressing up and bobbing for apples sounds childish to some. But I see Halloween as a holiday when we’re free to live out our fantasies, when we can celebrate both the safe and the scary.

Tonight, you’ll find me in my Princess Leia costume, navigating a room of ghouls, superheroes and zombies with a cup of punch in one hand and a fistful of fun-size Snickers in the other.

Happy Halloween!