What a month it has been…camping, festivals, dear friends visiting my home and looking to put down roots in these sweet mountains. There’s been patterns woven, and circles coming ’round to completion. It makes me feel grounded, centered, and in tune with the world around me.
A part of being in tune with your world means walking in a balance between life and death. There is never one without the other; life feeds on life feeds on life, and all life feeds on death to continue…you cannot have one without the other, and it is not something to be feared, in my book.
Life is beautiful: I will be putting seeds into the earth tomorrow. Peas and carrots, an onion that sprouted in my cabinets, some potatoes that decided to grow in my pantry. I will watch these sprout but it will bring a difficult part for me…
Death is certain: Of those seedlings that grow, some will die by my own hands as I thin the eventual green haze of fresh sprouts. I will be squashing bugs whose crime is only that they live and want to consume the same leafy goodness that I wish to consume, and my only right is that I am larger.
Life is astounding: My yard is bringing up its own wild bounty: Yarrow, Violets, Dandelions, Sorrels, Heal-all, Clover, Plantain…last year’s green friends are coming back: Chamomile, Comfrey, Marigolds, Lavender, and my Shehan Family Iris!
Death is sustaining: Our neighbor’s yard is full of chickens, and a trio of goats who love to visit us at the fence to beg for scratch corn or tender honeysuckle vines. The chickens there will soon have a coop, but until then, are relatively at the mercy of local foxes, and we often find a mostly fox-consumed chicken carcass being pecked at by the other chickens. Never forget, these egg-givers are tiny, feathered dinosaurs!
Life is sweet: And so is a yard full of clover and sweet green grass for our own two chickens to nibble on. As of late, we’ve been letting them out of the pen to wander the yard for a bit while we clean out the coop and tend to our plants on the lower lot. They have been having delicious dust baths and scratching through our compost, turning it and eating bugs and clucking merrily!
Death is merciful: But the other day, as I stumbled down the hill to feed the chickens, feverish and barely awake, I noticed only one chicken freaking out as usual over her pending dinner. I let her out and peered into the coop to find the other biddie standing, puffed up and panting. She wouldn’t come out, but let me lift her out. I could tell she wasn’t in a good way but wasn’t sure what was wrong until I looked at her behind…without going into details, I can say that I knew quickly that the only cure I could give my poor egg-providing friend was a quick death.
I have fished and I have hunted squirrel. I have insisted upon knowing what it is to kill in order to consume – again, that balance between life and death. But never before had I caused a creature to die by my own hands that I did not intend to consume, or for the sake of mercy. It is far more difficult than one might imagine.
Life is Changing: More and more people are turning to the earth to provide for them, tilling their yards for garden space, picketing their city to allow urban chickens, and lacking that, supporting local farmers markets. I applaud the effort and want to remind people about rain barrels, and compost bins, and container gardening, and encourage folks to jump in and TRY new things…it’s the only way to learn.
Death is Change: Next time you throw something into your compost bin, think about HOW it breaks down…your useless, discarded food bits and lawn clippings feed the happy little bacteria that consume, defecate, and thereby create fertilizer for the food that you will eat. I will watch the plot of earth that covers the buried body of my chicken friend and see how bright the grass grows and watch her death feed the earth. I will throw squished bugs to the other chicken as I tend my plants, and watch her grow strong from their death.