Dust to Dust

Saturday 23 February 2013

I recently wrote a how-to on Weekend Notes about raising backyard chooks.

It made me miss my chooks.  It's been a few weeks now since the fox got them.  A rather traumatising situation because it was pretty much my fault.  Instead of shutting them into their coop when it got dark, I had begun leaving it later and later, until I was going out and closing them in just before I went to bed at midnight or 1am.

One night the fox got to them before I did.  A (mercifully short) screaming sound sent me outside with my heart doing cliched things by being in my throat, and there was Selma gone, only her feathers left, and a poor Tristan lying shocked and dying in front of my eyes, on the inside of the coop near the door.

I shut him up in the coop.  I didn't know what else to do.  I didn't want the fox to come back for him.  A part of me was hoping that he was maybe just in shock, that if I came out the next morning he might have recovered somehow.  Most of me knew that it was not true.

I was so sad that I had neglected to look after these creatures.  I want to look after the world.  I cried the way you do when you're a kid, with a heaving chest that's so sore it's like someone has stabbed it with a knife.

Chook-Chook was still there the next morning, in the same spot.  And I wondered what to do with him.  Have you ever seen a dead body in real time?  When my Auntie Dawn died, I wanted to see her one last time to try to reconcile the fact that suddenly she was gone.  As if you can ever reconcile that by anything other than clock time, and even then not really.  She had been made up by the mortician and it just didn't really look like her anymore.  She wouldn't have needed to wear that particular shade of foundation if she was alive with blood rushing through her cheeks.  But it was good to see her one last time.

I saw my grandma too.  In terms of People You Want to Die Like, Grandma and Grandpa were both superstars.  She died on her birthday.  The carer at the nursing home brought her in a bunch of flowers somebody delivered.  She looked at them, said "Oh, how lovely," and then died.  I mean, how awesome, Grandma.  Seventeen years earlier, Grandpa had been out riding his bike to the shop, came back, had a bath, then died. 

In terms of People You Want to Die Like, I totally want to learn how to die as a process the way that Auntie Dawn did.  She was accepting.  Partly I think because she missed her husband and wanted to go be with him, and she was tired.  People might say that you should fight in those circumstances.  To rage, rage, against the dying of the light.  That you have to be brave and fight.  But surely it's braver to turn and face the unknown.  For the light is in the darkness too, and for all we know, death is an entryway back into the light we left when we came here.

I think that sort of view is partly the reason why a few days later after the chooks died, I was able to go outside and open up the coop door, and leave it open.  After all, the fox needed to eat too.  And Tristan wasn't there anymore, any more than Auntie Dawn, Grandma or Grandpa were when the whatever-it-was had left, and their bodies were truly like shells.

I do like to think that they are somewhere.  That they have gone back to that Source from which they came from.  But in a slight twist on the Buddhist, I like to think that this Source has grown bigger and more beautiful since before people were here, because the souls of every person and creature who has ever been born on the earth return to it, enlarging it.  The Source has been giving birth to itself, making itself bigger and more amazing than even the perfection it already was before.  With everyone home.

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