Death in Springtime

As predicted by our hyper-rainy ( and sorta snowy and haily) winter, the desert is  a-bloomin’!  Orgasms full of screaming color and spirit intoxicating scent are  mixing with ear-fulls of ecstatic bird songs and soft skin kissing breezes. The verdant body of our sonoran home is heaving and thrusting and exploding with orange poppies, sunshine-splashed brittle bush, and lemony desert marigolds. African daisies, peachy-hued globe mallow, purple larkspur and owl clover are dancing on mountains and street corners and pushing up through the cracks in sidewalks. These, along with countless other beauties whose names I know not, have busted through the desert floor and are dazzling us Phoenicians into a spring-fevered-stupor!

Along with all of this blooming, there’s lots of talk about rebirth and mother nature supporting our efforts to birth new ideas and making room for the new —  all the usual happy-happy-joy-joy springtime stuff….yay! Spring is my favorite season, I’m completely susceptible to the fever,  and I get absolutely drunk on the big G’s pro-bono compilation of sensory delights.  Hell, I actually picked wildflowers after a hike the other day, and so delighted and feverish was I that I soon found my sticky hands stuffing these lusty exotics into envelopes . I  sent one east to a lover from my past and one west to a lover from my future (?)… my current lover is a local, so he stuffs his head full of wildflowers as he wishes. I felt bouncy and inspired and maybe even a bit manic… cause … happy-happy-joy-joy!!!!

But this year along with all of this blooming-gooey- life-affirming stuff, I’m also being served up a rather hefty dose of  sobering darkness. My job is the number one place I get to practice accepting the inevitability of death. As a nurse who specializes in palliative care, I’m known to some colleagues as ‘The Angel of Death.’  I don’t mind, I’m good at holding space for this transition, it’s one of my gifts. But I do have expectations in springtime…I expect to keep my experience of Thanatos tidily tucked into the space of my work. Nice and neat, and in a controlled environment. After the day is done, I go home , take a bath, sit a while, and that’s it. Back to soaking in my beloved springtime…

But…

People I love are experiencing death…some literal,  and some wished for.  I’m talking big suffering. The kind of suffering that causes beautiful, smart, creative  young girls right on the cusp of womanhood  to take sharp objects and cut their soft- yet- firm flesh. She said to me…”  I feel so alone, and everyone keeps telling me I’m not, and it fucking pisses me off, because, YES I AM!!!” And I listen…and I tell her that I think she is right, and that she has experienced a great truth, one that most people deny. She told me she thinks it would be easier to be dead. I tell her that sometimes this feels true to me too. And my heart breaks…

The kind of suffering I’ve been witness to causes one of my best friends, who is also a mother to three precious little girls to cry as she is waking up from anesthesia. I ask her why she is crying, ‘I woke up,’ she says. Did you wake up during the surgery? ‘No, I woke up from the surgery,’   she sniffs, wiping her swollen eyes with a tissue. You see, my dear friend would prefer death to her life, the pain is so great…even on the first day of spring.

On the first day of spring another one of my friends said goodbye to a cherished companion. Her sweet chocolate chicken labrador retriever was ready to leave her old body, finally … after my friend willed her to live after a close call with her liver, and brought her back after that swallowed sock… the answered prayers…  leading up to her inevitable death.  Even in spring. RIP Koko, aka,  The Chocolate Chicken.

Also on the first day of spring, my beloved writing teacher, Natalie Goldberg, was in town promoting her new book. I rushed across town with a friend after tucking my post-surgical friend into her bed with some jello and ibuprofen. Natalie’s new book, The True Secret of Writing has as an unexpected thread…death…on the first day of spring, I am treated to a beautiful reading from her book about the death of one of her students. She said so many fabulous things during her talk, but the one thing that slapped me upside the head the hardest was, ‘stop fucking around…if there is something you want to do , do it…’   Maybe not verbatim… but this was the jist, and she did say “stop fucking around.”

Kate… STOP FUCKING AROUND!!! …death is around the corner…

This too… I remembered from her retreat, and  it’s also in her new book… a wake-up:

From Part One ~ The True Secret of Writing~

I beg to urge you everyone:

Life and Death are a Great Matter

Awaken, awaken, awaken

Time passes quickly

Do not waste this precious life.

~ Evening chant, written on the wooden han

This spring, along with the orange blossoms blowing the top off of my head by way of my nose, I’ve been shown some darkness, stuff that when juxtaposed with the energy of spring, gives me pause. This contrast breaks my fever and drops me way down into the hot belly of reality.  I stop to see and feel with my very own life,  that in everything there lives everything, even in times of great celebration and joy,  there lives also the pain of loss and the sharp stab of deep despair. There is death. They exist side by side here in the land of milk and honey and matter and molecules.  Broken hearts mingle with joyful ones…and on and on we go, dying and birthing until god only knows.

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