Friday, October 31, 2008

While I thought that I was learning how to live, I have been learning how to die. (Leonardo da Vinci)

Today is Samhain (pronounced Sow’ain), a pagan feast of the dead that has been commercialized beyond sugary recognition. However, the holiday remains an important marker on the pagan calendar as it marks the beginning of the new year, the cusp between life and death being at its thinnest. I believe that at this time it is important to take stock of what we have lost over the past year, and what we have gained. It is often easier to dwell on our losses since they are gone, no longer staring us in the face every day. For me this year has not been marked with many more losses than usual. Those who have passed over include the average number of lambs and calves and a few people I knew only distantly. We honor their memory this day and thank the powers that be for letting them touch our lives. Then there’s the big losses: Max and Iris, who, I believe, met death not reluctantly and knew an end to the pain of old age. We’ll continue to miss them and welcome them to the table of our Samhain feast.

But then come the gains. Without the loss of Max, we wouldn’t have Maxine to terrorize and enrich our lives. She barrels through the tall grass, nose to the ground, flops on her belly, panting, then darts out of the grass in sheer exuberance for life. We need that around here. I believe that Maxine found a place in the world where she was most needed, as we do tend to get caught up here on what we have lost, not realizing all that we’ve gained. I have my cow herd back after years of being shoved out of decision making and work. I have my choices back and whether my choices are good or bad they are mine. My screw ups and my successes are mine and no one will ever take that away from me again. We have ten incredibly healthy calves and a bright, sunny Samhain day. Global warming has given us that at least. When I still trick or treated it always rained. Dad remembered that it snowed when he still went.

I stood in the spot where an old dog of ours died many years ago. Huka had a great spirit for all that he was a bit slow. I took a moment to miss him and then let him move on. It’s impossible to stay melancholy for an old dog when Maxine is rolling around in the dip that marks where one died. She definitely has a way of bringing joy, as well as exasperation, to the world. She makes me even happier that I’ve graduated and have the time to spend with her. She makes me more appreciate this quiet time I’ve had to gather myself and reconnect with the world.

So on this Halloween, Samhain, All Souls, All Hallows, or whatever you call it, take a moment to consider the year’s losses as well as the gains. Take some time to remember and honor those who have gone before. And appreciate how death, of all sorts, can give rise to new birth and new beginnings. Blessed be.