There has been tragedy, both here in Canada, and in the US this week, and there has been a profound loss in our community again - too many this year. At the begining of the month, a dear friend's daughter succumbed to breast cancer. She was only 35 years old.
The ancestor altar is full.
This isn't a new experience for us. And it won't be the last of it. This is the cost of being human. Loving people that may move out of this realm before we are ready to see them leave. Building community and "safe" places, and structures, that can crumble right in front of us. We forget sometimes that impermanence isn't something to fight. It is what we are.
I've just come in from turning over the vegetable gardens, and readying them for their long Winter's rest. They were fruitful. But there were also greens that didn't survive the summer. A few plants bloomed too late to grow anything worth harvesting. Some rushed out of the earth too early this past Spring and were frost-bitten. For every abundant crop, there was a flower or an herb that didn't quite become the lush plant I had hoped for. The pruning shears were merciless.
Having a garden is one of the best lessons of (almost daily) impermanence I know of. As much as I thanked the earth today, and raked in compost and offerings, and as grateful as I was to have had a good harvest, there was still a feeling of loss. I will never get this growing season back. I can't jump back to June, and tie up the tomatoes in a better fashion so they might have more sun, or fertilize the squash to ensure a more robust harvest. The growing season is over.
I am processing the impermanence all around me in the best way I know how. With my hands in the dirt a few last times, holding my loved ones a little closer, ever crawling back to my ancestors, the land, my magic.
Byron Ballard says it better, in her post on "Tower Time" and "Going to Ground":
"We work ourselves into a frenzy of grief and guilt and spiritual activity. We open ourselves to the sorrow and anger, and filter it as best we can. We meet for coffee, and walks, and we talk for hours on the phone. Gentling the community in its outrage, cushioning it from outright despair. We are blown about by the winds and waves of all that assails us and sometimes the only place to go for succor, for comfort is away from the computer and the phone and the endless cups of coffee. To the garden, to the woods, to the earth."
The riverside I know and love is gone. The earth movers came, to make way for the big machines that will roll in to fix the crumbling bridges. The mullein is gone. The tansy, the goldenrod I let be this year, so it would come back more fully next season. Milkweed, cinquefoil, wild mustards, horsetail, and burdock have vanished. The wild roses and raspberries, and the high bush cranberries and Oregon grape that grew along the both sides of the walking path - all gone.
But nature has a way of taking back what we steal from it. The few shrubs, trees and green life left at the edge of the destruction will spread this coming Spring. The plants will seed and the wind will spread them far and wide again. The land will outlive the earth movers. The only impermanence is us.
"And we city Witches need to commune with the spirits of our places, with the “uncivilized world of nature” in our cities if we hope to know the names, powers, and dwelling spaces of our local spirits."
Do you know your land, your local spirits? Do they show you the impermanence in the seasons, in the washing away of land in floods and storms, or the crumbling of old buildings under climbing vines and trees?
We can all of us, rural and urban dwellers, go back to the land in our own way, and commune with the spirits of our places. Let's go there. I suspect our dead will come too.