Tag Archive | death

To Die

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Maine Woods

I died in 2011. I didn’t know it at the time, but that’s what happened. My death wasn’t physical, however, but rather psychological. This wasn’t the first time, nor would it be the last. It was, however, one of the more tremendous transitions through which I journeyed, albeit somewhat unaware of its full context. I was often confused and overwhelmed, and, although I did realize that I was going through a change, and wrote about it at length through journaling and creative manuscripts, there remained pieces missing from my cognizance.

Initially upon reflection, I thought it was due entirely to the physicality of menopause, a threshold I reached relatively early. I attributed this to a decades old premonition; in my mid-twenties, I was convinced that I was to die at fifty years old. I thought through the years that this would be a physical death; this felt inexorable. As I began to approach that age, however, it seemed logical that the death I’d foreseen all those years ago was the bridge of moving through The Change. But it has been far more than that.

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Sonoran Desert, Tucson

In 2011, I had left the home I’d made (haven), the friends I’d bonded with (community), and the career I’d been slowly building from scratch (purpose) for nearly twenty years. My husband was desperate for a change in climate and job, so we moved from Maine to Tucson, Arizona. I naively thought I could simply pick up where I’d left off, re-create and re-discover what I’d left behind; it wouldn’t be easy, but I felt I could manage. That wasn’t to be and nothing seemed to be coming together. During my four years in the Sonoran Desert, I crashed and burned and tried to rise from the flames; I wrote two memoirs about those psychological traumas: Minoan Messages (about the pilgrimage I made to Crete) and Desert Fire (about my struggle to face the monster in my mind). Writing these books was very beneficial, but I still seemed to fall short in recovering peace and equilibrium.

I retreated further and further into myself, attempting to find outlets that would provide a sense of haven, community, and purpose, but my husband realized before I did that we needed to move; he recognized that while he couldn’t fix two parts of my loss, at least he could participate in finding us a place to live where we both might feel at ease. This led us to my birth-state of Missouri and a property and landscape that quickly felt like a haven, a true home. Roots and re-birth. One piece resolved.

Tree House Dream Sideways

Home in the Ozarks, Missouri

The other two pieces have been slower to emerge. Community is a slow, often awkward or even grueling process for someone like me who has a deeply introverted nature; it doesn’t manifest in the same way that it might for people who are extroverted. Another challenge is that I’m living in a part of the country where the majority of people have a completely different perspective on spirituality, politics, society, and culture than I do. I’ve been compelled to explore these antithetical views in depth, though that process nearly overwhelmed me at times. Nevertheless, I’m finally, after nearly two years, beginning to feel the presence and comfort of a loosely connected web of community.

The third piece is purpose. This aspect for me, historically, has broadly been about giving back, caregiving, and healing other beings (humans as well as animals). In the past, I took a direct route by working with friends in animal rescue, by creating a petsitting business, and by studying natural health care and transforming what I learned into a business that offered classes and consultations. I was writing books as well, another life-long interest of mine, but that was a sideline to my direct offerings. In Tucson, I was shown an indirect way to share healing and transformation: through writing.

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Copperhead

This reflection upon direct and indirect offerings is what has shone the light upon the death of one manifestation of purpose and the rebirth of another. I am not the same person I was six years ago; that self is gone, died. Do I want to continue trying to wear that “dead and useless skin“? Not really. Like the snake, I’m ready to shed my old skin.

My mid-life purpose has now shifted into using the experiences of my past and reflections in the present to offer healing-through-writing into the future. I realize that death will come again in a new guise, but for now, I’ve been reborn.

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Reflections on Absence

IMG_3755The Day After Death is always strange with its aura of absence, of wondering whether I did the right thing, made the best choice. I’m never one hundred percent sure. Was it too soon or too late? Was it for them or me? Was our life together as mutually rewarding as it could be? I experience a lot of second-guessing and anxiety along with the simple, deep awareness of absence.

Responsibility and Resilience — to accept the former and trust that the latter will find its way into the cracks of a well-worn heart.

The Day Of Death is spent inside the process of being present for another soul’s transition, and after she has gone, there is this pause of emptiness and feeling lost, as if the world has stopped spinning and we are all suspended like a dream on a slender thread that could snap at any moment. But then the turning starts up again and I’m dizzy with the new unfamiliar absence.

I eat. I always do in times of stress, whether grief or joy, the extremes seem to require ingestion of the present experience which is mirrored by food and eating. When grieving, though, I often eat until I’m sick, until my body screams in protest and I slump in defeat, until the pain in my stomach challenges the pain in my heart, and I feel a sort of vacancy of breath. A form of suspension of belief.

But the Day After Death is different than the Day Of. For me, it’s not heavier but lighter, as if I am not tethered very securely and I am witness to all the emptyIMG_3754 space around me, as if the distance between objects has been magnified and what once took me three strides to reach appears to be a three-day journey. Sounds seem to come from far away and yet when they arrive are as claps of thunder, shattering.

The absence creates expanded space yet I don’t feel alone — it has the effect of bringing me closer to the infinite Oneness that is all of us, our entire Universe that is uncrowded and possibility stretches into Ever After until we begin again.

Within the space that is holding the absence of body, there is a stronger presence of Spirit. I inhale the curious blend of absence and presence, and peace envelopes me in a pink cloud of cotton candy. Time becomes irrelevant, and, when I button both ears closed, silence descends.

Silence doesn’t bother me nor does it make me feel alone, whether in the woods, on a mountain, or out walking in the desert. The absence of human construct and noise is a balm to my mind and senses.

IMG_3753Proposal. A brief venture into the desert today, to be away from the cover of home, car, or buildings — exposure. To walk away, into the desert of revealment and the withdrawal of protection or ability to hide. To, just for a few minutes, be in the absence of cover instead of the absence being inside me.

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Yesterday, Guinevere, a sweetheart of a cat, died (with the kind assistance of a vet who makes home visits). Two months ago, Pooka the amazing Corgi died (also with assistance). Guinevere was the 14th cat I’ve lost, and Pooka was the 7th dog. It never gets easier, and can be especially hard when more than one loss occurs within a short period of time, but I wouldn’t change a thing — I’m deeply grateful for every single one of the precious creatures who has graced my life. I’m truly blessed.

“We who choose to surround ourselves with liveseven more temporary than our own live within a fragile circle; easily and often breached. Yet, still we would live no other way.”  – Irving Townsend

Stimulus

A coolness has swept over the spring desert leaving traces of mountain currents dwelling in the corners of wall and eave. Open windows welcome with wide smiles the laughter of zephyrs taking a spin around the dusty edges of books stirring them to fling themselves open and reveal new worlds. The fan overhead twirls gently, encouraging the exchange of breath…in, out, in, out…

In the courtyard, even the morning sun has a less fiery breath upon shoulders and feet when it is dancing among the heights of feathered clouds on a journey to make nostrils quiver and eyes blink rapidly from unfamiliar scents and sensational stimulus. Morning is hours ago though I saw it peek into my room from the tall pane that, arching, had also framed the moon in her growing fullness, her fecundity spreading upon the ground like tendrils of silver roots unseen by daytime vision.

Canine eyes squint facing the sun, while I in my crumpled hat face away from its intensity, my eyes in broad-brimmed droopy-straw shadow while bare arms and legs pinken ever so slightly. Oranges bob, being harvested by birds then gnats and ants that journey far from home for the pale inner flesh.

I randomly select a poem by Emily Dickinson through which to continue my reflection …

The stimulus, beyond the grave

His countenance to see,

Supports me like imperial drams

Afforded royally.

Memorial Area in Maine

Through the portal emerges:

From the shadows and the light, they support my journey, these spirits of animals who were always near, moving me forward in good community. They always led and nudged me, helping me find or keep my footing. When lost, they curl around me like invisible quilt of patchwork lives, each piece out of time and space now able to weave itself anywhere so that I can catch my own falling star and put it back where sit needs to be. Their energy ever near, ever clear, transparent yet stronger than any top bridge built across a ravine daunting and scary; they hold my heart and hand, wrapped around me like a band of shadow’s indigo. I know. They are here. Companions, ancestors, lovers and opponents who would support or toss away my dreams in a long line of effort so that I could find my inner design, the pattern of soul frequency that is uniquely me.

We all have those who go before we do, known by touch or just by essence; they support us and we treasure them, their precious gifts. Sometimes unrealized in life, only fully becoming in the space that is shimmering around us. I cannot see them twinkle in the bright glare of day, but, ahhhh…when when shadow falls I see them all for they are the shades of reflection and wisdom, of the young womb or wonder that plays in the dark chasing lightening-bugs and receiving bits of powder-fine dirt into every crevice of barefoot play. Seems only yesterday, they and I were one among earth and stars, one dust, one expanse of ocean depth giggling on the surface in foamy waves teasing each other to see who could reach the grotto first and fill the tidal pool with new life.

The face of encouragement is both smooth and wrinkled, bearded and furred, feathered and twining around rough trunks stable and serene. Whose face do you see? Whose countenance fills you up and stimulates your presence into grace?

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Thus far, I could go in myriad directions with every single poem of Emily Dickinson—they are touching on all levels, through metaphor or reality events. No one will ever decipher her essence of meaning in them, not for sure, because we cannot ask her for her truth within them. We can only impose our own perceptions upon them. Can we know her heart depths in them? Is it necessary to? No. She left a legacy of portals through which we can step to explore ourselves, and, yes, play with her explorations of self … though without confirmation. Maybe this is part of why her poems sing to me—they are open-ended, open-souled mystery. Did Emily ever dream that she might be “the stimulus beyond the grave”?