Stepping across the threshold from summer to fall, I am experiencing many sad goodbyes at our local Tower Grove Farmer’s Market. Here at the end of the growing season I know that I won’t be seeing many of these farmers until next spring. The time has come to say goodbye to the juiciest local peaches from Calhoun County Illinois, the figs from Ivan’s Fig farm, the super sweet yellow-fleshed Baby Doll watermelons, the heirloom slicing tomatoes, cucumbers and green beans and so much more. Coming home from market, my heart full of poignant endings, I am reminded of a post I wrote in this season 5 years ago. I am sharing it here (with a few minor revisions).
Abbi Spinner McBride wrote a chant that I love singing. Of course she has written lots of chants that I love, but this one is special to me. It has three-parts, so takes a few strong singers to get it going. When I heard it the first time I shuddered. The urgent, insistent opening line made me wonder, “Are we really going there?!” Those words, “Die, then be born; live then die, then be born…” were being sung with intense strength and will. It was as if those singers were saying, “YES! I invite this death! I run toward it with my arms wide open!” I was stunned. When the second part of the chant began, with its light-hearted and almost whimsical melody intoning again and again, “Die, and be reborn again!” a big part of me wanted to back away quietly and make a run for the hills. But I stayed, and of course I sang. As the parts layered in and the music swirled around me I began to laugh, and to cry, and to laugh again. I was invoking death. And rebirth. Right then and there, in my own life, again and again. How frightening and powerful it seemed then, and seems still now.
Why invoke death? As a perma-culturist I have learned a thing or two about death. Soil is made up of death. Healthy soil, able to grow nutritious vegetables and fruits that will sustain us, requires that things die. Lots and lots of things; animals and plants and billions of insects, trillions of microorganisms and more. Without death, soil would be lifeless. Funny thought, eh? So invoking death for the sake of the life of the soil doesn’t seem too far-fetched. But how does that pertain to my life?
My human experience is filled with opportunities. In the microcosm of a day and the larger experience of a year or a decade, I am faced with situations that challenge my edges. Whether I engage them or walk away, whether I fight or yield, no matter how I choose to respond, I have an opportunity to learn from them. If I stay aware then I get to harvest the gifts, reviewing what I have been through to identify the nuggets of wisdom and truth. But then what? This is where death happens. In order to make a true life-change I have to let go of attachment to what I was and trust that I will be renewed.
Butterfly transformations leave death behind. Death feeds the soil. In the big scheme of my life, I have experienced true path-altering transformations maybe only a dozen times or so; the sorts of transformations where, when I “awoke” on the other side, I almost didn’t recognize myself in the mirror.
The third part of the chant, “Like the Phoenix and the Grain King! Like the Sun God and the Moon Queen!” reminds me that this is a familiar pattern; a necessary path to evolution. I am not alone on the journey. And I am willing to walk this path knowing that the soil of my soul is fertile with the deaths of my past.
This post was written by Lucinda Sohn