Terri Windling recently wrote a blog post which included Parker J. Palmer's thoughts on 'the admonition to 'keep death before one's eyes daily''. I started to write a comment but it became too much and so I returned, the prodigal blogger, to share with you my thoughts on death and enlightenment, through the medium of hens. (Did you miss me?)
There was a time when death was 'before my eyes daily'; I couldn't escape it. Perhaps it is a lack of courage in me, but when I lived with a moment-to-moment consciousness of my mortality and that of all the people I love; looking to the future became impossible. I literally couldn't plan, even a daytrip, even a meal. Life was difficult. And terrifying.
I think of that time when people talk of 'being in the moment': I just couldn't make it work in my actual practical life. I was like the chooks I cared for when I lived in a commune. One would suddenly flutter over the gate. She'd peck about for a bit, then notice how far she was from the others. Bocking in alarm, she'd hotfoot it to the gate and flap and fluster there indefinitely, living quite perfectly in the moment, having forgotten that with just a short run-up she could easily fly back over the gate, and not possessing the imagination to plan that in her future. Eventually I would walk pass and scoop her up, mutter some insulting words of endearment and chuck her back over. By the time she'd landed she'd have forgotten there even was a gate.
There is a real wisdom in letting go of the constant planning and organising and controlling the minutiae of our lives. I get that. And a lot of the past is best forgotten just to free up a bit of brain space for poetry and PINumbers.
But the years I spent at the gate, so close to death I saw it every time I blinked, they remind me to keep life, too, 'before my eyes daily'. I like to plan good meals for my girls, and it is a blessed relief to be able to imagine them older than they are now so we can plan many happy days together.