Living In the Dying Time
Take a deep breath. On the inhale, let that breath carry you all the way into your body. On the exhale let your body rest deeply into the embrace of gravity, that omnipresent magnetism with which Mother Earth enfolds us to her breast for the entirety of our journey as embodied Souls. Breathe deeply again.
What do you feel?
If you’re in the northern hemisphere of this great blue and green world, you may feel the burgeoning spring as I do. As the planet tilts on her axis to turn this part of her body towards the loving caress of the wildfire sun god with whom she always dances, the life that has been resting beneath winter’s deep blankets stirs and reaches towards that warmth, eros driving flourishing, driving the stretching up of stalks and the unfurling of petals, the pressing forth of tiny green bundles and the unfurling of the leaves they are meant to be. Sap is rising in warming trees – will it be a mast year for the nut makers? Hungry squirrels dart and cavort in those limbs, eagerly enjoying the wild dexterity of their lightning quick bodies. The flight of birds, from the smallest chittering songbird to the most imposing eagle, is a palpable joy as they soar in the open blue, songs sent forth to court lovers and court life to arrive to their breasts and wings, their nests and hearts.
Life is surging forth up here in the northlands while in the south it turns towards its rest. The great cycles are, for now, flowing as they are designed to do. Beautiful, rapturous, and profound.
I, of course, live now in a single place. Soon this body will up and away from this place to breathe deeply of other lands and skies for a while, but for now I lay my head down and lift it again every night and day in the company of the northwestern forests of the U.S. Here, within the tiny aura of my vision, I have noticed something deeply disturbing and profoundly sobering in the midst of all of this raucous burgeoning. It is an absence so startling, a silence so unsettling, and a stillness so incongruent with what I have known to be true and real in the past that it draws my whole attention.
A month into the flowering time I have not yet seen any honey bees in this great flowering city where I have spent the past nine months. Anywhere. Nor butterflies. Nor many other of the myriad other tiny miracles that are the pollinating ones.
The first time I noticed that was when I was rolling around in a field of wildflowers. I was in the middle of town in a beautiful park where myself and a host of other wild hearts dance every week on Sunday morning. It was a deliciously brilliant day and I was overflowing with joy as I ran from the dancing ground out across the field which was dotted with tiny white daisies, then threw myself into their little kingdom and began rolling around laughing in all that soft white and green. When I finally lay still on my back and was watching the gentle clouds roll by, that’s when I noticed. No buzzing. No humming. No shimmering undulations of tiny bodies. No sting for having interrupted anyone’s hard won meal of nectar.
That captivated my attention, and I began to watch for them. Walking through the neighborhoods as the gardens promenaded their racy invitations of scent and sweetness, sitting with my own tiny garden of perennials, pausing beneath a cascade of wisteria in another neighborhood. Everywhere I’ve watched for them, listened for them, scanned for them, called to them. And everywhere, so far, they are absent, their absence a cold spike in the warming softness of my heart in this most glorious spring.
I know there could be a thousand reasons for their absence. They could simply be late for a thousand to start off with: I’m not privy to all the details of their doings or their big picture, I just know they’re usually here by now. They could be elsewhere: I have heard of healthy gardens teeming with buzzing life and swarms being redirected in opportune and holy moments, so I know they aren’t completely gone, for which I am profoundly grateful. I have heard, too, of other places where they are also conspicuously absent. So many things are happening, and so many things are possible, always. Perhaps they will come: I just know that they aren’t here now, and it brings me close to something that weighs heavily in my whole Being even in the midst of days as fine and inspiring as these ones are.
It brings me close to the reality of living in the dying time.
This is not new territory for me, but it is a hard territory to stay present with. This could be the last flowering spring I ever see. I pray with the whole of my being that it’s not, but I turn towards the possibility and don’t flinch or haggle. I don’t run or lie to myself about it. I don’t rationalize so that I can feel better and get on with my day. I don’t pretend that it’s not so and I don’t intend for it to be so. I just recognize that it could be so, and I let that touch me all the way through. Let it soak into my vision and my voice. Let it arrive and give it a place to sit in the council of my Being.
It’s a cold burning feeling to really BE with. But to stay present in this way is one of the things that can transform one from a hapless colonist and homeless wanderer into a steward and true native even here at this late hour in our dance with this holy earth should one avail oneself of the invitation woven into the moment. Should one welcome the questions and “live your way into the answers” in a way that is aligned with Life.
In the absence of the bees and in the presence of so many other harrowing circumstances, these are some of the questions that arise for me:
What does it mean to live in the dying time? What does it offer to me, to us, and what does it ask in return? What is important when living in a moment of such profound and definitive magnitude as this one is? What really matters right now?
I invite you to take these questions into your heart and give them a place to sit, and to welcome your own, then listen when they are answered. If you are listening from the heart of your being, it will be your Soul who answers. Take good notes.
When I ask these questions, I find myself in the country of initiation.
Because as we know, it’s not just the conspicuous absence of the bees that casts this scene as the dying time: there is a spectacular convergence of “end points” of an amazingly diverse array of crises happening simultaneously. The hierarchical, dominion-and-punishment oriented, human-centric, white-male-dominated social structure that treats all of life as a commodity and all of nature as an inanimate resource and dumping ground has come to it’s inevitable conclusion on all levels simultaneously. With the introduction of the CV outbreak and the subsequent torqueing of society and humanity on all levels for profit and centralized control, a strain has been put on a world that was already teetering on the brink of implosion to begin with, and that strain is now tearing the fibers of said world to shreds as surely as the pressure of a surging water that refuses to be contained presses against the wall of the dam that holds it, and ultimately obliterates it.
It is that serious, and it is that profound of a moment. I know you already know that, so now give yourself a moment to fully feel that, here in the circle of my Love: I am here with you. Feel through the denial, the rationalizing, the glossing over, whatever your flavor of avoidance is, and let it touch you all the way through. There’s power waiting to be found in the midst of all that avoidance, but the avoidance keeps you from it. Get present and access your power through really feeling what you feel when you allow yourself to truly see where we are.
This is initiation.
To live in the presence of death, and especially a death this vast, is to live close to the fundamental forces of creation that are the architects and the anima of all of manifest existence and experience. It is a path of power. This moment calls to what is deeper and more true in us to respond with a mirroring depth and honesty, which we do hold within us, but which we need to reclaim from societies savage banality if we are to actualize it within the temple of our own lives. It brings us out of the tiny mind and view of the individuated self that we are so ruthlessly caged in by societies endless pressing on our hearts, minds, bodies, and souls, and into the greater flow of the life of creation that streams through the medium of our hearts, minds, bodies, and souls.
Or, to be more accurate, it can do that if we let that happen. If we take the invitation and show up for the work of answering it.
And that is one of the deep questions of the moment: will we take the invitation and let the magnitude of this moment touch us, affect us, and transform us as fully as it may? And will we participate in this change in such a way that we change into something more beautiful and integrated than what we are now?
Are we ready and willing to be the people who can show up wholeheartedly and rooted deep in Soul to witness, honor, tend, and midwife the end of civilization as we know it and the burgeoning of what comes next in the great unfolding mythology of this wild, luscious, jewel of a planet and our own existence?
I know there are so, so many of us who are able to arrive in this way. Enough of us. I truly believe that there are enough of us, yet I wonder if the ones who are able get it, if we are willing to meet it, and if we truly understand. I also wonder simply if we will choose that, because that is part of the mystery of this moment: how will we choose? I believe that that piece is what is being revealed as this great mythology finds its shape and unfolding in the body of the universal story of Life and Being.
To truly live with this quality of attention is not an easy endeavor, and it is not an easy path. It is deep, and true, and hard: but it’s the hard that’s worthwhile. The path of denial and avoidance is the hard that isn’t worthwhile.
To truly stay, to truly see, and to truly respond is a path of initiation, and initiation, by necessity and by design, happens outside of our known capacity. It is not beyond our ultimate and essential capacity, but it is beyond what is known, what is familiar, what is safe, and what is easy. Initiation invites us towards the fulfillment of our greater possibilities as Beings by demanding that we come out of the known and into the territory of the mystery, walking tall and present into the terror and magnificence of it all. Initiation does not coddle, because it is only when we walk into that territory that we can be transformed by the forces of creation in the cauldron of unmitigated and direct contact with Life, which includes the most profound beauty, real death, and everything else. It is only when, as the caterpillar, we are willing to enshroud ourselves in the cocoon of direct contact with life, death, and creation, and submit therein, body and soul, to the complete dissolution of the old, finished form, that the life-giving levity and brilliance of the butterfly can be conjured from the surrendered material of what has been.
This is the fullness of Life. And this is the invitation of the moment.
Even though I have been watching, in the arc of society and civilization, the steady and seemingly inexorable march towards the deepest possible devastation of everything throughout the course of my life, there exists within me the unshakable knowing of an embodied and ensouled beauty ready to be born into flourishing life in this world, a beauty that is utterly transcendent while remaining entirely immanent, a beauty that is beyond what we have known so far, a beauty that is made of, and radiant with, true Magic. I have been plagued, for years at a time, in fear and fury over the absolute stupidity and violence of the human endeavor, but that knowing has never been dented: it is as shining and intact as the moment it was given into my Being between worlds and I walked through the portal back into Life in this one. It is the lighthouse of my being.
And for me it is the center point and the mentor of what it means to live in the dying time.
Because here’s the thing: I don’t believe this is the dying of the Earth herself, I believe this is the dying of the human world that we have made that is so entirely at odds with Life in every way. Society. Civilization. Industrial Capitalism. The paradigm of domination, punishment, manipulation, enslavement, and control of Life for profit and power. Disassociation from our essential nature and from the flowering Earth. The absolutely untenable way that humans have developed our way of life and our consciousness. All that shit is what’s dying, and it is a death whose time has come. It is a good death, though I feel it will be a hard death that will claw a lot of beauty into tatters on its way to the grave because the power mongers and the lords of profit just want their power and their profit, and so, so many of us have not been initiated yet, and will be meeting this storm like one who meets a hurricane with an umbrella.
But I believe that we will meet it. Perhaps tumbling and staggering, yet essentially beautifully, we will meet it, umbrellas and all. And that’s also the crux of what it’s about to live in the dying time: it’s about how we show up. How we relate, participate, and engage. How we feed life and how we tend death, how we navigate being so entirely beyond our known capacity, how we dance with these forces of creation, how we hold the paradox of the violence and the magnificence that this world is woven of while listening deeply enough to know how to respond in a way that fosters beauty, encourages transformation into a greater order of beauty, and embodies the deeper possibilities of our own evolving Souls that is so ready to emerge into passionate life in this gorgeous place that we call home.
To live well and beautifully in the dying time of the world we must run, laughing, through the fields of wild flowers and then fall to our knees wailing over the absence of the bees. We must breathe deeply into the burning of being beyond our capacity and listen for the singing of our Souls, then respond when we catch the tune. We must give of ourselves in service to Life and Beauty in the most powerful ways we can without trying to control the outcome of the situation or the extraordinary forces that are churning and grinding right now.
This is how we feed Gaia to do her work of becoming as she travels through her great initiation into her own next expression of being, and this is how we actually get initiated ourselves instead of just being torn apart in the storm of it all. By showing up and fully participating with our passion, our love, our attention to what’s sacred, our devotion to what’s true, and our alignment with Life itself. There must be a weaving of the wild, celebratory magnificence that is so intrinsic to our nature with the wild, wailing grief that is so essential to our Being as well, for beauty and devastation are woven bedfellows in this world and have been for a long time, and how those forces flow through the medium of our Selves and our lives is one of the many nourishments of the Mystery: it is one of our deepest tasks to learn to be with these paradoxical forces (and more) in a life-giving way throughout the course of our lives and for the benefit of Life, especially now when there is so much to tend and so much to surrender, now when there is so much to celebrate and so much to mourn.
So come now, and let us gather our hearts, our power, and our Love and truly feed Life with the magic of our uniquely human expressions : with laughter and tears, with long stretches of deep, completely present silence in both healthy places and ravaged places in ourselves, each other, and the living world, by touching the wounds of the world with Love and grief and honoring, with prayers laid down by the highway, with songs sung into the trees and into the clear-cuts, with bodies in front of bulldozers and smiles face-to-face with our beloveds and companions on this wild journey, with drums and horns weaving rapturous music while we dance around the maypole in the sunshine and then bury the ribbons in the ground with the prayer for the pollinators to come home if they’re coming and be blessed if they’re not, praying that Life may continue to dance in all her radiant beauty, and then devoting ourselves to hearing (or learning how to hear) the holy instructions about how to Love, how to Live, how to show up well and beautifully in a way that gives what we have to give to the world who gives us everything in this time when we need “to know that all that (we) do is sacred”, and that it all matters, for good or ill as we choose.
This is what living in the dying time asks of us. It asks of us to Love with the whole of our being in a way that is empowered and humble, to understand that we are both tiny and utterly essential pieces of the great story of life who is transforming from one thing into another in this tiny space that is ours to inhabit, and to live in a way that honors that for all that is here, all that has been, and all that is to come.
This is for the wild ones, for the ones loving our way through it, for the “brave and broken-hearted” who are here in this world with Love, passion, prayers, and innocent ignorance, and who are willing to be initiated and thereby to find our way home to Life, Beauty, and the Mystery in this most incredible moment in the life of creation.
May you be well nourished.