The Thinnest Veil

Provincetown Smallpox Cemetery, 30 October 2022. The graves are numbered and not named.

This morning, in an email I was reminded by the astrologer, Chani Nicholas, of today’s significance: 

In the Northern hemisphere, the days at the end of October and beginning of November have long signified celebration and reflection. Across cultures, traditions, and places, this is the time of year when the veil between worlds is believed to be thinned. When it becomes easier to contact and receive both messages and support from our loved ones who have passed on. 

October 31st, itself, is an astrologically significant day because it marks the midpoint between the September Equinox and the December Solstice. Known as a “cross-quarter day,” this halfway mark brings our attention to how the light has shifted. How the temperature is changing. And how our lives are impacted as a result.

Joe and I walked out to the old smallpox cemetery in the National Seashore yesterday. I had planned to go today, but it felt important to share the story with another person. Joe was open to the walk.

I’ve written about the cemetery several times in the past. It’s one of the sacred spaces in town. As Joe said when I told him the context of the graves, it’s a dark story. Having been with people at the end of their life, I always find it terrifying to think of those being nursed at the Pestilence House, perhaps knowing of the graves nearby. 

Today, the FBI announced that they’re determined the name of the Woman in the Dunes. Like a few of the souls interred at the smallpox cemetery, for the last 48 years her identity was lost to us. And yet, we remembered her. And that’s the least I can do for those buried in the woods. I can remember their humanity  — including their aspirations, hopes, loves, and fears — was the same as mine.

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