Holy Cow I’ve been re-reading Sarah MacDonald’s Holy Cow, and considering her Buddhist studies, especially the idea that we should all sit down and think about death. Our own death. The death of loved ones. So I had it in my head at the beginning of this week that I might start thinking a bit about death, just to see what I learned.
Dying’s the Thing And here’s what happened this week: my Dad’s dad died, an acquaintance of mine lost a friend, a woman who comes to my classes told me about a funeral in her community, and the hawk returned to kill and eat another pigeon (original thoughts on that re-posted below).
So what do I take away from all this? The impermanence of life, the appreciation of the moment, the acknowledgement that we must live our lives to the fullest–it all seems so trite. There must be more. How about this? Our body is a temporary home. When we go, we leave all our possessions behind. Don’t go to your deathbed carrying unsaid truths. Still not enough.
We are all souls inside vessels that are impermanent, united by our impending death, so let’s treat every living being with compassion. This feels stronger. This feels like it comes from my heart centre. But I’m still not as deep as I know I can be on this. I feel there’s more to come. Any insights much appreciated.
The Courtyard The courtyard outside my apartment window—usually afloat on bird songs during the day—was eerily silent when I arrived home. I kicked off my boots and walked to the window.
A stealthy hawk, speckled brown and solidly built, had its steady eyes on the surroundings and its talons in a pigeon. The grey bird was still struggling, making desperate attempts to stand upright again, to loosen the claws digging into its wings. It failed. Within minutes the hawk began stripping the pigeon of its feathers and pulling apart its flesh.
This was the second time I’d seen a hawk outside my window, successful in its hunt.
Death Disturbing as it is, I remind myself that death is a part of natural life, and if hawks don’t kill they don’t eat. But why, I wondered, do the other birds come back? If they know the hawk hunts there, why do they return at all? And what is the lesson here, for me?
Learnings It dawned slow and steady: shit happens.
The birds know this. We can’t (I can’t) live our lives afraid of what might happen. We have to go on, living, laughing, loving, singing—being present—or we’re not living at all. And what’s the point in that?