“When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy. When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.”Kahlil Gibran (in “The Prophet”)
Happy day of love to you! On this Valentines Day 2006 it comes to me to write about death. Yay!
Um, Heidi? Could you find something a bit more, shall we say, uplifting? Something, say, more inspiring, more in tune with the celebration this day is supposed to be about?
Weird as it may sound, the subject of death has become rather exciting to me. I don’t mean that in any kind of a morbid way, really, and I can assure you I’m not suicidal and have not been for over a decade. But really I’ve given this death thing a lot of thought all my life, and in this past year or so I’ve come to see it much differently. In beginning to embrace the subject of death, I am feeling—ironically—much more alive.
The other day I had a client ask me, just as I was settling into working on her right shoulder, “so how is it you came upon Baba Yaga?” Now, not being too good at multitasking (i.e., chatting and massaging) I’m really not one to talk too much while I work, preferring to allow folks to enter their own inner place, being there but to facilitate their own healing process. But her question surprised me and I could tell by the way she asked that this client knew Baba Yaga. And so I told her, briefly, my story, which is really much more about how Baba Yaga came to me, first nudging me softly and then pretty much kicking me in the pants to pay her some attention… at first I tried to ignore, she being such an odd old hag and all, I thought. But when I finally gave in and decided to honor what she was about by calling what was then my little soup-making venture after her, well, she slowly started teaching me some things about life, things that I’d mostly been afraid to learn about, or even look at, for a long time.
She’s been tutoring me in Life. It’s been about learning how life is a cycle made up of birth-death-rebirth. It’s been about seeing that I, and really everything around me too, can always be found at some point in that cycle. In terms of that life cycle, it wasn’t the birth and rebirth part that were hard. No. It was the death, dark, night part. We are taught to love light but not dark. We are taught, even, that light is good and dark is evil. We are taught that birth is positive and death is, well, not a good thing, shall we say. We are taught that the known is good and that the unknown is to be avoided. Shadow has a bad rap, as does winter, as does grief and loss… getting the point?
But the Baba has stirred up some curiosity and curiosity is always a good thing. (Who cares if it killed the cat, the cat comes back anyway, right?) Wise old crone that she is, Baba Yaga has been teaching me to pay attention to all the places I might find expression of the birth-death-rebirth cycle in my life and around me. It’s a funny thing: once you start looking for something or become aware of something, well, there it is, all the time, seemingly everywhere. And so with this.
Once I started looking for the different expressions of the cycle of life, I began finding them all over and at some point night and day stopped being such diametrically opposed things but simply expressions of various stages, each necessary for the other, simply variations in theme that make the whole so much richer. Likewise, the pulling away or the coming closer of a person and the question marks and uncertainties of relationship. Or the wide range of feelings on my feeling color-palette: joyous laughter followed sooner or later by weeping. Excitement followed by fear. Or the birth of my newest little beauty of a niece. Or the death of my father a few years ago. Or the nearing-death age of my grandmother in her 90’s.
One thing that has helped me not be so afraid of the endings and death part of life is this little imagery thing I do where I give Baba Yaga whatever matter I am afraid of losing or whatever matter is causing me pain, and I watch her put it in her giant mortar, so to speak, to grind up into the seasoning for the delicious broths she brews. Or sometimes after she grinds it up I watch her scatter it over the forest as she flies around in that same mortar and pestle. Who knows what kind of rich soup will come of it? Or what new growth will sprout from that particular death in the forest of my life?
And so, really, the way I’m seeing it death and love are really not such disparate topics at all and speaking of death and speaking of love, I’m reminded of the words of one of my all-time favorite poets (and I have many), Mary Oliver in her poem “When Death Comes”: When it’s over, I want to say: all my life / I was a bride married to amazement. / I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.
Isn’t that a lovely image? A bride married to amazement. A bridegroom taking the world into my arms. And really, however lonely I may feel or however dark and cold any given night, isn’t there always something to be amazed about? Have you noticed?
Oh, I send you the warmest and most loving of Valentine’s wishes tonight, and whether you are enjoying a lovely romantic candle-lit dinner with your sweetheart or warming up leftovers to eat in the company of the TV, you’d make my Valentine’s Day if you let me know what amazed you today or recently, or what or whom you love, or anything else about where you find yourself in the birth-death-rebirth cycle.