I mentioned in my last post that lately, there has been a lot of death and loss around us, be it physical, emotional, or material death. Between loosing loved ones, possessions (at times, all of them), old ideas, old selves, everything seems in a flux right now.
The first few months of this year were all about birth, then some sort of watershed came and there has been a lot of the opposite. I don't know if it's because the Year Of The Horse, the forward momentum pushing those on the edge of things onwards, causing carelessness and enabling odd circumstance.
Maybe it's nothing new, just the same old cycle repeating itself. Or perhaps, I'm still not used to it, I'm still struggling to fathom exactly how this works, how people and things and ideas, come in and out of the circle, stay awhile, move beyond the horizon. They are, after all, the most natural parts of life, birth and death, they occur to someone everyday, and sometimes to the same people (but let's not dwell on that) and yet there's something strange and magical about them, the two short moments on the edge. That seems the perfect metaphor for life really, how its whole, long mundane existence, is determined that which we know nothing about at its beginning and end.
There was this long moment in my life when death and birth were in no way a part of it. The years I lived in the city at the end of my teens and through my twenties. It's not so unusual really, in this day and age, to lead a life where no one you know dies, or is born. Our grandparents were mostly gone, almost none of my peer group were having children. Living in a world where everyone is young, doing the same thing, living the same life, seemed normal, even though, of course, it is completely odd.
Now that I live in a community where I'm constantly faced with different stages of life; birth, coming of age, finding yourself, finding a mate, mid-life, aging, growing old and dying, it seems unthinkable to not be exposed to the experience of people of all ages all the time. It seems like the natural way we should live, close to both ends of life and everything in between, always aware of the fact that something new is about to happen and someone else is coming up behind us. There's a strange satisfaction to it, as sense of continuation that I imagine, perhaps folks with kids sometimes feel.
But I wasn't going to wax lyrical on life and death. I don't exactly know why everything I write these days turns into a pseudo-new-age-y ramble on the basics of life. I guess that's just where my thoughts are at right now. Maybe it's the season of rebirth, reassessing everything, looking at the mundane facts of life in a little different light.
There are a few things I haven't told you about over the past few months, mostly because I haven't wanted to dwell on it, or because, well, I simply forgot, in the hustle and bustle of daily life.
For one thing, my chickens died. We had had Smoky, Toasty, Dusty, Rusalka and Emeralda for a long time in a chicken's life, three years. It's always odd when fowls die, because you're not supposed to mourn for them. They're a farm animal, livestock. The hardiness in the face of a livestock animal's death is considered a toughness test in 21st century homesteading. We seem to imagine that our great grandparents, or the imaginary real farmers of an earlier time, didn't flinch when they had to chop of the head of a rooster, or end the life of pig. That imbuing all animals with the personality and emotion we afford our pets, is somehow a sign of weakness. I think that's bullshit. The reason why I like the term "animal husbandry", is that it implies a connection with that animal, a commitment to its well-being, a commitment to a swift death and maybe even a commitment to love it while its alive. Maybe it's my religious bent, or maybe it's an over-sensitivity, but it seems to me that everything deserves to have its death mourned.
I think this is particularly the case if the relationship you have with your animals is the agreement that in the end you will have to kill them, or if they die because of some failure in "husbandry" on your part. Our chickens, for instance, died because we failed to adequately check to make sure the roof on the coop was weasel proof.
Those five chickens had a happy life up until the point they died. That's a point of pride to me. They had good food, room to roam, they were cared for and as free as a domestic animal can be. I'm hoping to provide the next twelve the same. They run around the yard trying to catch bugs with erratic flight patterns, as though they've always done so. They know how to make and give themselves a dust bath, they don't have to be taught anything, or read any books on how to live.
On sunday we watched a baby goat be born, open its eyes and try to stand up. The birth was hard, the baby, Calypso, was huge, the mama goat mewling in pain, the people delivering her pulling with all their might, fearing that the kid would die, or the mother. Within hours it was walking around on its own wobbly little legs. Presumed dead, now very much alive.