THERE’S STILL-LIFE IN THE OLE GIRL YET - The Day I Stalked Death: with my camera
Updated: Nov 21, 2020
In case you've never seen this dance with shadow & the Elements:
I’ve had a rotten last 18 hours. So how did I console myself?
I went into the forest and took beautiful pictures of Death.
Yep, I just spent several hours seeking out and marveling at the power of Destruction. Decomposition. Rot. There were even places that smelled of unseen things dying.
Yuck. Love it.
If you’re unaware of my devotion to the Dynamic Underworld Duo (see below), then now’s a good chance to discover that. There have been long stretches of my life in which I was nabbed by the ankle and snatched down there, unable to escape. If you've been around long enough, I’m sure you can relate.
Well, during what I had vowed was only going to be another visit to the Great Below, I miraculously fell in love with the joint, and hence with Them, so now I choose to eat my pomegranate seeds just like I choose to prance in the apple blossoms and sunlight, flinging flower petals and shooting glitter out my ass.
I like dichotomy.
I also like this particular tree on one of my favorite nature walks.
A lot of other people do, too. She gets a lot of attention. Right now while I don’t, because…pandemic…I like to snuggle up to her. I have no pets, roommates, or live-in family, so it's one of the only chances I get to vibe with another living creature.
And there IS still life in her.
This is one of the things that fascinates me most about this particular barky being--these tiny signs that she's still in there, tenaciously clinging to Life. She is the Muse who inspired this entire project today. It started with our customary purr-fest. Some days I'm emptier than others. Today was one of those. Other days, I have a whole lot to give back.
Sometimes I hug, relishing in being heart-to-heart. Today, it was my aching spine that needed her touch. I stood leaning against her in the warmth of the sunlight and the breeze for some time. We had quite the conversation there about tenacity and longevity and about that Tower Card with its abrupt lightning strikes.
Then I was given The Mandate. “Oi. This is what you’re doing today. Just so you know.”
Ahhhh, I see. Sneaky. Trixxy. But not false.
There’s always a reason when things don’t go my way. Like this afternoon when I was supposed to meet my mom on our thrice-weekly walkies. Snafus ensued and before I knew it, we were tapping out, deciding that today was a day for solitary artist dates, not for elbow rubs and strolling side-by-distanced-side.
Once I had snapped those first few shots, I understood why. I sent mom a little pic of our favorite spot by the stream. The rocks there create a calming burble by which to bask, sigh, zone, rejuvenate. Last time we were there together, one of her buddies (The Local Cranes) was in attendance, putting on a lovely show.
“Alas,” I texted her, a long-distance artist-ping. “No crane. No mommy. But pretty, nevertheless.”
I strolled on.
Not long after, the metallic crash of a gong reverberated through the forest, followed by the gravelly growl: “MOM…has left you a message. BWONNNNNNG…”
I turned off my ringer.
Apparently her day also brightened in light of her artist date, because she did have the crane-love over at Lake Bella Vista, and posted some humor to her Insta, which always makes her happy. Makes me happy, too.
In classic Sag fashion, I decided to take the path never travelled today and discovered an entire campground that’s sprung up along this newish trail. That warmed my heart further.
So did all the friendly waves of the trail maintenance crew whenever they passed. Their smiles bore that extra little sparkle that told me I was glowing today. I hear that, when I’m the radiant version of myself, I’m quite pleasant to look at. They were, too, these beautiful, rugged men.
Rugged beauty was apparently the order of the day, because that’s all I could see, once I accepted my mission. The jagged lines of broken branches and splintered trunks jutting up against the sky. Lightning-seared gouges through bark. Fallen trees rotting in the stream or drawing picturesque arches over the dirt path for mountain bikers and daring hikers.
Clumps of shriveled leaves, the browning of once-vibrant foliage, and my favorite--the conglomeration of crinkly brown-into-gold-into-the-green that has, thus far, refused to let go of this year’s life.
Sorta like a lot of us right now.
The other week, I was a bit shocked--and gained a whole new level of compassion for myself--once I listed out all the things that have happened in my life since 2:22 a.m. on New Year’s Day 2020 when I made the decision to shed this whole “Having Big Dreams & Goals” thing like the trees are shedding leaves. After all, whenever I set my mind to pursuing a big goal and dream, unless something comes along to change my mind about it, I fucking get what I set out to get.
And every time that’s ever happened with my major life trajectories, I have realized in short order: Wow. Yeah, that’s not at all what I thought I wanted. Apparently I have zero clues about what would make me truly happy.
So this year I said screw it.
At first that was disconcerting. I paddled my arms a little, glancing about, unsure what to do with myself. Eventually, I shrugged and asked, “Well? What do you want to do with your day? What would be the best and most inspiring use of your time?” Then I did it.
That was a really good skill to develop, considering what happened while I was stuck with my thumb up my butt in the Denver Airport for ten hours. While I awaited my return flight home from the Superstars writing conference, Colorado confirmed their first Covid-19 cases and my guts screamed, “Get home. Get groceries and supplies. NOW. This is actually going to be a big deal.”
And it was.
So here we are, nearly nine months later. Hades & Persephone snatched me by the wrist today--not by the throat for a trip Downstairs. This was an enjoyable stroll, arm-in-arm-in-arm between Them as They showed off this season’s gallery of Their artwork. Lookie there. And check that out. Isn’t that nifty?
In the way that there are only two certainties in Life: Change and Death.
Really, it's just Change. Even Death is an illusion, because everything that lives--even this planet and the stars--comes into existence by the rending and ripping and crushing and reorganizing out of something else's demise. Things that are not useful are shucked off like trash, just in time for something else to come along and say, "Wow, thanks! Just what I needed." (At least...that's the way it's supposed to work. Ahem...) 🤨
Our green friends, after all, exhale our oxygen and devour the waste-air of our breath. How nice of them. And us. Additionally, the Amazon Rainforest is fed by the long-dead carcasses and slime that once swam and oozed in a huge lake that is now called the Sahara Desert. The rainforest--with its actually quite crappy soil--loses almost the exact percentage of nutrients that the desert storms kick up and scatter across the ocean to supplement it. (For now. Ahem.) 🤨
I am reminded of that gorgeously rendered animation scene from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows about The Three Brothers. (Naturally, as I just finished the last movie yesterday. ’Tis the Season.) “…he then greeted Death as an old friend and went with him gladly…”
With so much death and destruction at every turn…with so many old, putrid, festering wounds bubbling up to the surface, straining, groaning, growling, and finally bursting open…with so much old rot being squeezed out of that which has fractured…
These things have been constant companions this year, ever on my mind.
One of our many vultures: gnarly, homely, majestic. Love 'em.
When I have an 18-hour clusterfuck of a day, what else am I gonna do?
--Take care of what I can take care of.
--Erect boundaries where I need to say, “NO.”
--Cry and rage when I need to cry and rage.
--Dance it out.
--Write it out.
--Kick, punch, decapitate, and obliterate obstacles in the air all around me.
--Seek out the natural, inherent beauty of Death on a day while I have the luxury of tasting it from this distance. Because I have no clue how long it’ll be before Thanatos decides to French kiss me again, or how deep that kiss will be.
So until His tongue dives soul-deep, I’ll still keep sending out shoots from the blackened parts of my trunk. I will let the healthy branches flower and leaf. And I will draw gorgeous, eerie silhouettes against the sky with all the skeletal parts of me.
THE KIND OF GEEKERY THAT BRINGS ME TO WONDER-FILLED TEARS:
Why I hug trees to tell them I love them, and to thank them for my life:
Superstars Writing Seminars - the conference I won a scholarship to last year. It's badass. It's all about the BIZ of being an author, whether tradition, self-published or otherwise, and it was amaaaazing!
CHOOSE YOUR OWN ADVENTURE
--UP NEXT: A POOPY POETRY INTERLUDE - Because it's a gray day and I just found this long-forgotten gem
--OR you can enjoy a different side of Hades & Persephone