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“The only wisdom we can hope to acquire
Is the wisdom of humility: humility is endless.
The houses are all gone under the sea.
The dancers are all gone under the hill.” ~ TS Eliot

“I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round -- apart from the veneration due to its sacred name and origin, if anything belonging to it can be apart from that -- as a good time: a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time: the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on their journeys.” ~ Charles Dickens

“Has this fellow no feeling of his business, that he sings at grave-making?” ~ Hamlet

“The meaning of life is that it ends.” ~ anon.

Life is short. And time flies on transient wings. We all go under the hill, together as fellow-passengers. This is what I know of life. And it is precious and if we strive towards humility then we can make the speeding days be filled with gratitude and wonder. It does not burden us to lift others, it does not lessen us to make more of others. We can have our tribe, our closest heart’s loves, but we must also extend our compassion and empathy to the world at large – all living things will die. Even our beloved sun and planet.

These sentiments feel like bumper stickerisms because we’ve been trying for tens of thousands of years to speak to this knowledge, this experience, this humanizing collectivism. We want reassurance and guidance that we are acting appropriately to our lives and the lives of others.

There is comfort in acknowledging the shared experience of our lives. And the shared knowledge of our imminent deaths. Our dyings unite us in the question of what the meaning of our lives is and what it can be, should be. We are united, past, present, future with what we make of this strange consciousness. Our aliveness.

When we chose knowledge, death became part of that awareness. This knowledge must surely then denote a responsibility. To life.


I have tried to embrace this knowing. Cerebrally and visceraly.

Understanding that death is part and parcel of life is a struggle. It can make us feel alive, but it can also put us in a headlock, cutting off all oxygen to the brain, panicking us. Take care, great care with what makes you feel alive.

(We are fellow travelers, friend. Alone but not alone at all. There is comfort to be found in this shared journey.)

I am caretaker to a human skull. It is a deeply profound stewardship. This encumbrance is a kind of gift. If you will. The subjection of my life to this other, now deceased, life and in its turn, the skull holds me in thralldom. Symbol and container of philosophical, spiritual, existential and wholly physical struggle.

The memento mori should not paralyze but rather remind so that we can act with mindfulness. And joy.

Bring joy. To all things, bring joy.

I woke in the earliest parts of this morning from a dreamscape that was part of my childhood - my maternal grandfather's front yard. The year when my father was in Vietnam and my mother had moved into her parents home (a suburban ranch-style they had retired to, not the Boston Irish tenament building she had grown up in) to wait for my father's return home. She took her three small children and a newborn. This was the year that my grandmother died unexpectedly and my aunt succumbed to her battle with cancer. This was the year I was taught how to look for four-leaf clovers and was told about the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

In the dream it is Autumn and my grandfather has forbidden us children to jump in the huge mounds of raked leaves because he is systematically lighting each pile on fire. We are bundled for the weather and following him around the yard. All up and down the wide broad street are small smoky fires in front yards where the neighbours are burning their own leaves and yard waste. I am asking my grandfather why he is burning the leaves. (We had been taught to fear fire. It was just recently that I learned my uncle did not lose his fingers by "playing with matches" but rather lost them in the the war.) My grandfather has stopped and is leaning on a pitchfork giving me his full attention. In the dream I realize he is about to impart something very, very important. But in the way of dreams, it is suddenly a beautiful Spring morning and I am overcome with a feeling of suffused warmth and hope. The sunlight is pouring on me and I am tingling with joy. The sun is filtering through green leaves. I try to move and at that point am made aware of my situation. I AM THE LEAVES.


( 58 comments — Leave a comment )
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Nov. 21st, 2016 06:18 pm (UTC)

I enjoyed this. Nice way to end!

Nov. 21st, 2016 06:22 pm (UTC)
Thank you! My dreams are always intimately tied to my writing. I wrote the first part yesterday, let it sit to gel a bit, and woke from that dream today.
Nov. 21st, 2016 08:03 pm (UTC)
I loved this so much! It is a great way to start the Idol year. Technically, I suppose, it is an essay, but it so strongly a meditation, and such a well-done one. The quotes were great and on point -- where did you find the Dickens' excerpt? I was particularly struck by the section near the end where you juxtapose the death of your grandmother and aunt with being taught to look for four leaf clovers and the pot of gold, both good luck symbols. The ending was wonderful and very evocative. Great!
Nov. 22nd, 2016 04:32 pm (UTC)
Thank you, G! I'm feeling very essayish as of late. Not something I've explored much of outside of uni - challenging!

The Dicken's is actually out of A Christmas Carol! I love that novella and own 7 film versions as well!

The ending was a surprise. My dreams have been intense the past few months and I'm making an effort to spend some time with them.
Nov. 21st, 2016 09:26 pm (UTC)
Your writing always takes my breath away. I think your particular talent is meditations, tbh, Love the photos, love the quotes (I think I know of that Dickens quote -- it sounds vaguely familiar), and especially the last part about your grandfather and realizing that yes, we are the leaves. Most of the time our egos won't let us realize that.
Nov. 22nd, 2016 05:54 pm (UTC)
Oh, hon, thank you!!! I'm feeling very meditative lately and trying to work that into a creative expression. I am a professional photographer by trade and I would love to be able to integrate more images.

Dickens quote from A Christmas Carol!

Glad to hear the last part worked for you - it wasn't planned out but my dreams have been weighing heavily on me the past few weeks and I'm beginning to spend more time on/with them.
Nov. 21st, 2016 10:33 pm (UTC)
This is all incredibly beautiful. Especially this part:

The memento mori should not paralyze but rather remind so that we can act with mindfulness. And joy.

It makes me think of how no one's ever really gone; they live on in the memories of everyone who knew them. Acknowledge their physical passing but keep them alive in spiritual/mental form by remembering them and what they meant to you.

(I love that bird skull, by the way.)
Nov. 22nd, 2016 05:55 pm (UTC)
*smooch* Thank you!

Yes!!! That's the "ghost" that haunts us!

I love that wee birdy, too. He likes his eye socket nest!
Nov. 22nd, 2016 12:07 am (UTC)
Lovely <3
Nov. 22nd, 2016 04:35 pm (UTC)
Thank you, A. *kisses*
(Deleted comment)
Nov. 22nd, 2016 04:35 pm (UTC)
Thank you, G! Glad you liked my images. I collect the Tree of Knowledge as Death and that's my tattoo! I want to write more about the skull...but this wasn't the time. Hence his portrait with bird.

Fall is my favourite season but yes, absolutely tinged with endings.

Are you writing?
Nov. 23rd, 2016 12:51 am (UTC)
*shiver* I love this. It speaks to me... so well done! :)
Nov. 23rd, 2016 04:22 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much! I'm glad to hear you could relate!
Nov. 23rd, 2016 10:43 am (UTC)
I loved the end paragraphs, it felt like you are talking about death and rebirth. We(Indians) do believe that the soul is eternal and it's only the body that changes form. A great read! Loved the tattoo :)
Nov. 23rd, 2016 04:22 pm (UTC)
Thank you for these comments! Dreams and tattoos and contemplations! Glad you love my skeleton tree!

Your belief system is so profound and reassuring.

Nov. 23rd, 2016 06:56 pm (UTC)
I'm in love with the organic nature of this. And that tattoo makes me envious.
Nov. 23rd, 2016 09:59 pm (UTC)
Thanks, babe! I love this tattoo beyond belief.

Nov. 23rd, 2016 09:28 pm (UTC)
that's some niiiiiice ink! is it new?
Nov. 23rd, 2016 09:58 pm (UTC)
Thanks, B! My fave tattoo! No, this one is old. I actually haven't gotten any new ink in too many years now...I should rectify that! How's your piece coming along?
(no subject) - bitterlawngnome - Nov. 23rd, 2016 10:01 pm (UTC) - Expand
Nov. 24th, 2016 02:26 am (UTC)
The depth of your knowledge, and understanding, your ability to express it, revealing your truth and your wisdom with compassion, and because you are compassionate, with love and tenderness, is inspirational.

You not only have compassion for your readers, but for your subject, and yourself. That is so very rare in this world. So very precious. Your words, your thoughts, are gifts to us.

I love your dream sequences, E. They add such a rich and insightful postscript to the body of your work.

This is so beautiful. Thank you for sharing your heart with us.

Nov. 25th, 2016 10:56 pm (UTC)
*hugs* Oh, M, thank you for these kindnesses. I'm trying so very, very hard at the moment to find humility and embrace kindness. In the midst of the endings of things. It's not been easy. Writing this out made it better, though. And I was so thankful that the writing gave me that dream. It's been interesting for me to share two dreams with Idol...it changes a dream when it wants to be told and is told to many people.

Be well!
Nov. 24th, 2016 07:25 pm (UTC)
Brilliantly put. Love the telling of the dream, and OH the ending, superb.
Nov. 25th, 2016 08:27 pm (UTC)
Thank you, J!!! It's not an easy thing to contemplate...the dream softened it for me and I'm so glad I included it now!
Nov. 24th, 2016 07:35 pm (UTC)
Beautiful sentiments.

(We had been taught to fear fire. It was just recently that I learned my uncle did not lose his fingers by "playing with matches" but rather lost them in the the war.) I think this is wonderful snippet and could be a great detail in a fictional narrative :)
Nov. 25th, 2016 08:27 pm (UTC)

Heh, YOU always find the smallest line/word/thought which really was a sort of hidden vein. I LOVE THAT ABOUT YOUR READING!!! Yes, that anecdote is something kind of crazy, isn't it?!
Nov. 25th, 2016 04:20 am (UTC)
Well done! I especially loved the powerful ending. It got me meditating on the meaning of life and the importance of humility too.
Nov. 25th, 2016 08:24 pm (UTC)
Thank you! This comment really made my morning brighter!
Nov. 25th, 2016 12:38 pm (UTC)
Understanding that death is part and parcel of life is a struggle. It can make us feel alive, but it can also put us in a headlock, cutting off all oxygen to the brain, panicking us.

Then there are those of us who have reached their forties without acknowledging death at all. Because I'm lucky to have only lost peripheral figures like coworkers and grandparents I was never that close to.

What's funny about that denial is that I am pretty sure I know how I'm going to die. So you'd think I'd be all over it.
Nov. 25th, 2016 08:23 pm (UTC)
*hugs* It's wonderful to see your voice!!! Are you playing? I hope you and yours are well - including that amazing cast of characters you house inside your head!

There is definitely a shadow side to living half your life without really being touched by death....
(no subject) - i_17bingo - Nov. 25th, 2016 11:40 pm (UTC) - Expand
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( 58 comments — Leave a comment )