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Archive for March 29th, 2007

Owls and a funeral

Last night as I was putting fresh sheets on my bed I heard a great horned owl talking outside my window.   So I grabbed my binoculars and rushed outside to see if I could see where it was perched.

I waited, and soon the call came again.  Across the street, down on the corner there is a huge old maple tree.   Up on the very top of the crown, I could see a dark splotch that was not twigs, and focused my attention there.   It was not a great horned owl, it was two of them, and as I watched they preened each other, and talked in low intimate tones to each other.  

I ran in the house to get Jim, who watched them for a while.   Then the male flew away swiftly to the south, leaving the female.  I imagine he was off to fetch her a nice tidbit.  The cardinals have this behavior too.   The female waits while the male goes off to bring her food.   In my mind, this breeding behavior is important.  After all, if you are going to be sitting on eggs incubating them, it is crucial to know that your mate is a good provider.

The flickers do not perform this sort of ritual.   They raised babies in a dead tree right outside the kitchen window, and what they did was take turns incubating.   Whoever had the night watch was relieved about an hour after dawn.   After a couple of hours to forage and stretch wings, the watch would change again.

This morning we buried my friend’s son.   It was a very old fashioned funeral.  When the notification went out it was, “We are having a funeral.  Bring your shovel.”  He was in  a plain pine box, beautifully made by a woodworking friend.  

Anyone who wished to talk was welcome.  My friend asked me if I could give a reading.  After much agonizing and research, I edited some of Kahlil Gibran’s writing from The Prophet.

Then Almitra spoke, saying, We would ask now of Death.And he said: You would know the secret of death. But how shall you find it unless you seek it in the heart of life?

The owl whose night-bound eyes are blind unto the day cannot unveil the mystery of light. If you would indeed behold the spirit of death, open your heart wide unto the body of life. For life and death are one, even as the river and the sea are one.

What is it to die but to stand naked in the wind and to melt into the sun? And what is it to cease breathing but to free the breath from the restless tides that it may rise and expand and seek God unencumbered? Only when you drink from the river of silence shall you indeed sing. And when you have reached the mountain top, then you shall begin to climb. And when the earth shall claim your limbs, then shall you truly dance.

There are no graves here. These mountains and plains are a cradle and a stepping stone. You are not enclosed within your bodies, nor confined to houses or fields. That which is you dwells above the mountain and roves with the wind. It is a thing free, a spirit that envelops the earth and moves in ether.

Forget not that I shall come back to you. A little while and my longing shall gather dust and foam for another body. A little while, a moment of rest upon the wind, and another woman shall bear me. If in the twilight of memory we should meet once more, we shall speak again together and you shall sing to me a deeper song. And if our hands should meet in another dream, we shall build another tower in the sky.

We lowered him into the deep grave, and then many shovels made fairly short work of the pile of dirt that needed to go back in. 

It has been my observation over the years that it is much healthier for the living to participate in the actual burial of loved ones.   Leaving an embalmed body inside a coffin in an open grave for a back hoe to cover does not really provide the necessary closure.   I’ve been to both kinds of funerals, I prefer this sort, even if we did get sweaty and have dirt on our shoes when it was over. 

Now the healing can begin. 

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