"I was, in fact, homesick for wildness, and when I found it I knew how intimately - how resonantly - I belonged there. We are charged with this - all of us. For the human spirit has a primal allegiance to wildness, to really live, to snatch the fruit and suck it, to spill the juice." - Jay Griffiths, Wild: an Elemental Journey

Monday, October 10, 2011

Wild Death

I began pondering mortality two weeks ago when my Uncle Bougie died (http://journeytowildness.blogspot.com/2011/10/wild-uncle-bougie.html).  I was talking about his death, and commenting on the fact that my grandfather died at this time of year just two years earlier, and my housemate said, "Yeah. Fall is a great time to die."

I was startled by this frank, unusual statement and inquired further into her meaning.  "Well, Fall is when many things on the Earth are dying or preparing to hibernate.  I've read that people or animals who are close to death often hang on until Fall so they can die with everything else.  When you die in Fall, the energies of the earth go with you.  It's a good time to die."  Both of my housemates are acupuncturists, so I am accustomed to hearing thought-provoking tidbits about the earth, the seasons, and the cycles of life from them.  Initially, I just thought, cool and left the conversation there in the kitchen.  But then, as the next couple of weeks unfolded, I began to see death everywhere.
  1. The next day at school, I found out that one of my students' dogs, whom I had been previously informed by her parents had been close to death for months now, had at last died.  
  2. A few days later, I traveled to New York state for my Uncle Bougie's funeral. . .
  3. As we were standing around the gravesite, waiting for the service to begin, we found out that Michael Mastraccio, another Italian relative in the same small town, had also died - just the night before.  
  4. Next week at school, I received news that one of our seventh grade girls would be absent from school for the next week because her grandmother, who had been seriously ill for months, had just died.
  5. The backpacking trip that I just returned from with my online meetup group had a last-minute change of plans because the leader's mother suddenly died two days before the trip.
As I was backpacking in West Virginia this weekend, I noticed that I was surrounded by death.  It was everywhere, and it was so. . . so - beautiful.

The brilliant colors that we associate with Fall are only possible because the leaves are dying.  Leaves are not made to stay green forever, and neither are people.  Eventually, we all change - several times - and die.  And while death brings sadness because those who are still part of life grieve the loss, it also brings gratitude, and even joy.

It is in the Fall when we often stop to actually look at the intricacies of a leaf, and a tree, and a forest.  We say, "Wow," with breathless awe, and travel long distances to gaze at the changing foliage.  It is after death when we often stop to actually consider the deceased.  We say, "He/she was so wonderful," with teary love, and travel long distances to remember together at funerals.  If there were no death, we might forget to stop and notice what was once alive.

So I am allowing myself to be taught by Fall.  I am being taught how to let go of what needs to die in my life, and how to be present with the grief that naturally follows.  And when the day comes, may I beautify the world with my death as I strive to do with my life, like the generous, dying leaves of Fall.

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