Thursday, February 09, 2006

Death is everywhere and anywhere a part of everything

In the woods, there is death. No, really, shut up and just look around. There it is. See it now? It is everywhere and anywhere a part of everything. Don't turn away. Walk and look with me. See there the huddled piles of severed tree limbs, and there too, and there. That sound your footsteps are making is you treading on layers of rotting leaves, fallen. In your path you encounter the corpse of an uprooted tree, one of many you see today. I'm telling you, death is everywhere in the woods.

Why is it I hadn't seen it before in other places? Over the years I've walked through woods many many times and all I ever remember noticing was beauty, and all I remember feeling was the thrill of wandering in the presence of so much life. Is it the difference that winter makes? Or have I simply somehow only now truly looked?

Look here at this scene. I've taken a picture of it. A very large tree has died and fallen over across the path. Who knows how or when? Maybe yesterday? Maybe last week? Was it that wind storm that tore from it its life, suddenly? Or was it the silent creeping decay of old age or illness? Look closely at the picture. See that young, slender tree? It's not easy to tell, but you might notice that the older tree crashed dying onto her youthful kin, forcing it violently onto its side and wrenching most of its roots from the ground. I don't know if the little tree has died. Maybe. But if it hasn't, is there any doubt that it will forever know the presence of death? Long after the old tree's body has dissolved to ashes, will he not feel its weight holding him fast? Isn't death the reason why he will never be right again?

I wonder if that's what death does to us, the living: tears us from our roots, bears down on us, makes us broken. And could it be that the reason I hadn't noticed all this death before is that I've only just now been struck by it like this young tree by its dying mother? As people, we do so much to make us forget about death, to not see it. We file it away quietly in neat graves, speak about it in hushed, embarrassed tones in a moment or two of weakness. But maybe those of us who have seen it can never walk through the woods without finding it everywhere there too. I'll tell you this one secret: in our life - in all our lives - despite our struggle to look the other way, there is death. It is everywhere and anywhere a part of everything.