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On leaving summer behind for more uncertain seasons
There was a goldfinch on the sidewalk the other morning. A sunburst of yellow feathers in a body already hollowing out, ants marching across the beak, a heart that had ceased to beat. I couldn’t stand the thought of it staying there long enough to be swept into a trashcan or trampled by a careless bike tire and so I carried it—more solid than I had imagined—into a hiding place beneath sticks and leaves. It had lived in trees, I reasoned, and deserved to rest at last beneath them too.
See also the baby squirrel in the park yesterday. Sleek, like a puppy, with black fuzz not quite fur and a tail that will never grow its bristles. Curled in repose beneath an oak tree, perhaps a victim of the recent apocalyptic storms that brought branches down and cracked giant trunks in half elsewhere in the park. It might have been sleeping if it so obviously wasn’t. I nudged a blanket of oak leaves and twigs over the little form with my heart in my throat in the hope that scant covering would protect it from the mower’s blades, the dog’s teeth, the prodding fingers of children. After enough time it’s not important what happens to the remains but I want every living thing to first have a chance to return the gift of its matter to the earth.
Or the spider who had done nothing wrong I washed down the drain today because I was busy, distracted. Careless in the way my life allows me to be at the expense of other lives. Guilt came over me out of the showerhead and stayed there a while.
Firmly in September now, we are truly leaving the seasons of life and growth and entering the seasons of death. It always takes me by surprise although it is not all to be feared. The crisping of the air, the smell of crushed leaves in red and gold and brown, the opulence of the harvest in the neighborhood gardens and orchards. The slight but perceptible quickening of pulse and pace as we adjust to some deeper sense of knowing that soon the warmth and ease of summer will be a memory. That the teeth of fall and winter will take more than we are prepared to give.
For as much as I think about death, for as much as I understand the beauty in its terror, I have made no peace with it. I don’t know if that makes me a hypocrite. I am rendered queasy by its biological manifestations and made mute by my fear of saying the wrong thing to those close to it. But I am trying not to turn away. I can’t shake the sense that I owe that, and probably a great deal more. I am trying to learn, as always, not to waste the opportunity laid before me.
Thanks, as always, for reading. I hope to talk to you soon.
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