On a recent walk in nature at Sugarite Canyon State Park, not far from The Mandala Center, I happened upon a place strewn with turkey feathers. The place was quite evidently the scene of an apparent tragedy where the turkey lost the fight. I say “apparent” because our human nature is to label death as a tragedy and in many cases that is how it feels when death visits us in our lives. I picked a handful of feathers as if I’d picked a bunch of flowers. Their softness and warmth against my hand was surprising and I ventured further into the bushes in the hopes of maybe finding a big feather blown in there by the wind. I found more than a feather – I found the turkey. Or rather what was left of it. Never having seen one up close I bent down to look at it and I marveled at the beautiful colors of its cloak and the intricacy of its feathers. Despite the abrupt end to its life the turkey looked peaceful and it caused me to think of the endless cycle of life and death that is so evident in nature. Having recently experienced a great personal loss I sat with my thoughts on life and death and with the aching beauty and mystery of life. The perfection of each feather I was stroking reminded me of everything that is good and beautiful in life and for a moment total peace embraced me. The power of nature to touch my soul is a gift I am tremendously grateful for.
Death may be the part of life we don’t easily make friends with but it is there nonetheless. A few weeks ago a friend and guest at The Mandala Center shared some of his thoughts on what he called “the weird animal” of grief with me and he also shared two poems that I found so forceful and compelling that I want to share them with all of you and especially with those of you who have been visited by loss and grief. I hope you find as much consolation in them as I did.
-Monica Ingamells, Operations Manager
Separation by W. S. Merwin
Your absence has gone through me
Like thread through a needle.
Everything I do is stitched with its color.
Sonnet XCIV by Pablo Neruda
If I die, survive me with such sheer force
that you waken the furies of the pallid and the cold,
from south to south lift your indelible eyes,
from sun to sun dream through your singing mouth.
I don’t want your laughter or your steps to waver,
I don’t want my heritage of joy to die.
Don’t call up my person. I am absent.
Live in my absence as if in a house.
Absence is a house so vast
that inside you will pass through its walls
and hang pictures on the air.
Absence is a house so transparent
that I, lifeless, will see you, living,
and if you suffer, my love, I will die again.