Sunday, February 22, 2009
Matters of Life and Death
There's a new dead deer on the ice. Moreau Park naturalists must have dragged it there, to serve as a feeding station for area carnivores, especially bald eagles. (The park keeps a count of these wintering raptors.) I'll be trying to creep up on this scene in the days to come, hoping to actually lay eyes on some of the animals whose tracks and/or wingprints I've been finding in the snow all winter. But it's not easy to creep up on anything in snowshoes: CRUNCH!!! CRUNCH!!! CRUNCH!!! It's snowing like crazy today, so maybe the new soft stuff will muffle my footsteps a little.
I'm sure there will be some people who won't like to look at this photo. And I agree, it's kind of sad. I see those little teats on her belly and wonder if she was pregnant (this is a doe, isn't it?). By the injuries I can see, I'd guess she was hit by a car. At least that seems a quicker way to go than being run down by coyotes or slowly starving to death this long snowy winter. And now she'll be food for other creatures skirting the edge of starvation. As so we all are (or will be): food for somebody else. When I start to feel bad about Nature's bloodier side, I stop and think about all the lives -- animal, vegetable, microbiotic -- that have died to sustain my life all these many decades. The count must be in the billions. Trillions. Gazillions!
When I ponder what will be done with my corpse, I think it's a shame how state laws make it difficult to return our bodies to Nature, requiring chemicals, caskets, vaults, and other cemetery regulations. Even cremation requires a rigid container and causes pollution with smoke and burning fuel. There are some green cemeteries I've heard of, where you can be laid directly in the earth, wrapped in a simple shroud of cotton or linen. Then, as the soil is filled in around you, a tree is planted over you, and that tree will be your grave marker. Native grasses and wildflowers fill the spaces between the graves and only the paths are mowed. Now that's the way I'd like to be laid to rest. Unfortunately, the closest green cemetery is several hundred miles away from my home. So barring that, I'd almost rather be laid out on the river ice for all the coyotes and eagles to feast on. Although my surviving family members probably wouldn't approve.
No, I'm not depressed, really I'm not. During all my years with Hospice, death was my daily companion, and I early learned to come to terms with it. Sooner or later, we all gotta go. Others' lives depend on it. And it is Ash Wednesday this week : "Remember that you are dust, and unto dust you shall return." For the moment, though, I'm really glad to be alive, in this beautiful world so full of life that even death will be subsumed by it.