Memento Mori

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The wonderful nature writer, Eva Saulitis, died today.  May the Goddess guard her.  May she find her way to the Summerlands.  May her friends and family know peace.

You can read her wonderful essay, Wild Darkness, here.

I hope that I can die so gracefully.  May it be so for you.

 

I know, I know. Dying of cancer in a bog would not look or sound pretty or peaceful. Hidden from view in this dream scene is the suffering, is the agony. Is the needle, and the morphine pump, unavailable to the salmon, eyeless, its wordless mouth opening and closing, body swaying in its tattered, whitening skin.

I DON’T BY ANY MEANS think constantly about dying. My reality is dual: one foot firmly in the living stream, the other on the gory bank. Life has become vivid and immediate these last months. No years of Buddhist meditation got me to this place, just words on the phone: the cells were malignant. Later that day, after the crying, after the sitting mutely on the living room couch and staring out the window, Craig and I hauled a quilt into the backyard and lay down on the ground at the edge of the woods. We curled up, listening to wind in the birch leaves, the frenetic din of territorial birds, staking their claims. Spring sprung on while we dozed off. Staying in the present moment isn’t difficult when the alternative is dire: useless imaginings of what might or might not come to pass.

Every morning when I wake, my mind darts down the dying-of-cancer path, and I reel it back by reminding myself of a poem by the late Jane Kenyon, called “Otherwise.”

I got out of bed
on two strong legs.
It might have been
otherwise.

Kenyon died of cancer when she was about my age. She ends the poem: But one day, I know, / it will be otherwise. Her words in my mind, I talk myself home to the real. Right now, Eva, you are here, listening to gulls shrieking on the beach. Right now, your two legs, your two arms, your two lungs, your beating heart will carry you, under your own power, up the salmon stream, into the woods, where the blueberries are ripe. You will pick gallons to freeze, a bulwark against winter’s want, against a dearth of hope.

Picture found here.

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