Yesterday I was walking in the woods. Since I was little the woods have always been where I felt the most at ease. It's where I go in meditation. To me it's always held great proof of life, I associated it always with life.
Walking through it yesterday I realized suddenly that there was just as much death there as there was life, and not only that, but the aspects of it that called me the most were areas where life and death overlapped right on top of each other.
New green moss crawling over a dead and decaying trunk.
Saplings of new trees raising their fists through piles of dead leaves, with the bodies of more and more plants gone ahead beneath them.
A tangle of an old branch, far away from its original home (or maybe not), scrubbed white by the sun. The perfect place for new sumac to climb up, a home for a salamander for a minute or two.
In the woods we don't isolate live things, dead things, and in betweens. The whole cycle is so clear and visible there and we've no need to define each one's place in the scheme of things. There's no more value on the living than the dead. In the woods we see how they need each other. Not opposite ends of a line, but the point where the ends meet to make a circle. In nature it's a clear continuum. It's not life and death, it's time. It just is.
The history of death in the earth is what makes the parts that live on stronger. It makes the soil rich and valuable. It feeds the plants. It feeds us.
We are the present representatives of our ancestors going back to the beginning of time. Our short lives are just small bookmarks in a longer, more complex story. The observable Universe, as awesome as it is, is still just limited to what we can see now. It's not the whole story.
Without death there wouldn't be life. Without life, we would have no death.
Death is not the end. Birth is not the beginning. No one is lost.
I welcome my niece born today. Cosette, I love you! Welcome to this wild and precious life! I love you, I love you, I love you.
With reverence to those who came before us and those who will come after us, and with so much love for all of us here now.