Every August, I break wooden chopsticks into sections and insert them into an eggplant and a cucumber, four each. I fold bright strips of paper into zigzags and attach them to twisted rice straw rope, arranged alongside young bamboo fronds. We place nashi pears on the altar and light incense, then ring a bronze bell. The cucumber is a horse, to convey my ancestors safely and swiftly here from the other world. And the eggplant is a cow, to carry them back slowly after their visit is over, because we wish they could linger. During this time of year, Obon, the boundary between this world and the next is easily permeable, and by performing these rites, by chanting and praying and completing actions in a preordained order, we are easing the spirits’ transition. As This story is from Kinfolk Issue Thirty-Eight Buy Now Related Stories Arts & Culture Issue 38 Set Intention How to distinguish ritual from routine. Arts & Culture Issue 38 Forever Friends New rituals for old friendships. Arts & Culture Issue 38 Show Respect On appreciation, not appropriation. Arts & Culture Issue 38 Go Online Etiquette for making rituals digital. Arts & Culture Issue 38 Move On How to retire a ritual. Arts & Culture Issue 19 Going Incognito We all secretly wonder what mischief we’d make if invisible: When our identity is hidden, everything seems possible.