"It's as if a great bird lives inside the stone of our days and since no sculptor can free it, it has to wait for the elements to wear us down, till it is free to fly." Mark Nepo

Monday, April 19, 2010

Life and Death

The new growth of spring is so exuberant right now it's almost possible to forget that death exists. Life explodes into the air: Blossoms that were tight and protected yesterday are unfurled into bright shreds of color today. Pollen floats and collects everywhere. New Sword Ferns, no longer quite fiddleheads and not yet full fronds, look for all the world like tiny pelican heads tucked against green-feathered chests.

The air is thick with bird song, the drone of a single fat bumble bee, and moisture. A millipede, glossy black with yellow racing stripes, shines against grass that redefines green with each passing hour. Dogwood blooms glow like giant white stars against the gentle gray of today's sky.

I wander behind Toby along a trail so familiar to us both I know exactly where I'll see the single Corydalis bloom - pink fairy hats extended above soft fingers of green lace, and the small clump of Fawn Lilies. A single Trillium blossom, unusually large, is losing its pure white to the blush that means its season is already over. This is the beginning of a death, but so beautiful an untrained eye might believe it to be the beginning of a life.

A single Pintail Duck squawks his way up the river - he's a regular, his mate most likely sitting on eggs somewhere close by. Toby, like a bloodhound, tracks the deer whose hoofprints dot the soft soil, then gives chase when a rabbit veers across his path into the bushes–never successful, but always hopeful.

In the midst of this holiness I consider an erupting volcano, collapsed mines, countries ravaged by earthquakes - all miles and miles away, yet feeling in this moment as close as the bright yellow Wood Violets scattered at my feet.  What am I to do with the abundance of life surrounding me while there is so much suffering in the world? So much death.

I breathe in air that tastes a bit piney, and a bit sweet–redolent of Oregon Grape blossoms, and a bit tainted. As though something died far off in the bushes and the wind is just now mixing its scent into the complicated perfume of the day. This death is undeniable–no beauty to mask the shadow here.

With as much consciousness as I'm able to muster, I soak it all in–every bit of this glorious afternoon. I tuck it into the nooks and crannies of my cells and my heart, accumulated and bundled with ribbons of gratitude, then I shoot it all out into the sky as comfort and love to everyone for whom death has eclipsed the light for now.  I don't know what else to do but be fully present and then offer it all up. To be as fully alive as possible, knowing death waits for us all in one form or another.

photo from Flickr


Jessica Nelson said...

Wow, what a lovely, beautifully written post this is.
Death is all around us, true. It's hard to think about. These are big things, but there are even big things we don't know about, like the child next door who's molested every night, or whatever it might be.
I like what you said about offering it all up.

Gammary said...

wow...so much here. I'm so loving and missing Lewisville Park. I think about life and death and the whole concept of legacy. To bloom pure white, exhaust into purple and be consumed into the earth once again seems a lovely thought.


Carrie Wilson Link said...

So profound and beautiful. Thank you.

Tabitha Bird said...

Beautiful Deb! It is wonderful to be reading your words. Thank you for your email checking in. I am sending you one back shortly :)
Your words are an inspiration

Wanda said...

Loving your words right now.

She Writes said...

My goal is to live in the moment as fully as I can. I finally know they pass to quickly and sometimes in an abrupt form, as death surely is.

Pam said...

With the reverse seasons here Deb, and things bursting into life in your surroundings,here Autumn means the leaves are just turning colour. The seasons are comforting in their predictibility, not so life cycles sometimes as we struggle with loss knowing its inevitability, but difficult nevertheless.I also like what you said about offering it up.Such a lovely post.

Anonymous said...


The fullness and riches of spring are pretty intoxicating over here these days as well. It's the reminder to offer it all up that makes the difference.

Suzy said...

Gorgeous writing....just like you.

Love you


JOY said...

Such beauty in the world, and such terror, side by side sometimes, mirrored bookends holding humanity in place.

I love this post. I was walking with you, oooing and aahing at nature's beauty - you are a good guide. You make it clear for me that doing my part each day can be enough - a worship of vibrant life that energizes life collectively.

M said...

What amazingly, beautiful writing!! I could see in my mind's eye each of the plants as you described them and feel and smell the air surrounding you. When we take the time to see all of creation that surrounds us, it's easy to forget the pain and suffering that is also there. You balanced the two so perfectly in this post.

I love you


Janna Qualman said...

Deb, your post brings me to tears, because someone close to me is dying. My family is heartbroken.

But, you're right. There is still much beauty, and much to be thankful for. I did some walking outdoors today, in the fresh breeze and sunshine. I had a feeling of peace, and I hope it sticks around.

patti said...

LOVE your new look and your poignant words. This is a lift me up yet let me think blog.

Thank you, Deb.


T. Anne said...

What a gorgeous post! I love how you soak it all in with every ounce of your being. So much to learn from that...

Anonymous said...

Too true. I'm only just learning to embrace the allness of life, not a word, I know. But life is all of that, life, death, beauty, ugliness, shocking cruelty and kindness. I'm learning to let go of "I'm this or that" and trying to just be how I am at the moment. I no longer feel guilty about changing my mind either.

Your sounded lovely. I found crocuses in the backyard last night, peeking out from under the leaf litter.

Anonymous said...

Your walk sounded lovely. My bad.

Amber said...

This is all we can do.

Have you seen the special PBS is running right now called The Buddah? I think you would really like it. So much of the Buddist ideas speak to just these feelings.I found it left me with a more peacefull feeling. And it is interesting history.

ox :)

fullsoulahead.com said...

This is beautiful.