Friday, July 9, 2010

I think nature has a lot to tell. From time to time I wake up and realize that I've been on autopilot, deafened by the demands of everyday living. A few months ago we took my mom to see Thornton Wilder's play, "Our Town." The plot is too much to fully go in to here, but to understand the context of the quote below, all you need to know is that a young mother, Emily, dies during childbirth. She gets an opportunity to go back to earth for one day, and immediately starts trying to think of the best day she ever had. Her guide strongly encourages her to select one that is uneventful and ordinary, but she persists in her quest to relive a special day. They finally agree on her twelfth birthday. She lands in her family's kitchen as they're getting ready for the festivities, though they cannot see her. She sees her brother and aches to reach out and touch him. She longs to hug her mother, to be back in the mix of what's going on in front of her. She sees the beauty of everyday, ordinary living. At one point she exclaims,

"Oh, earth, you're too wonderful for anybody to realize you."
Then she turns to her guide and says, "Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it -- every, every minute?" He replies, "No. Saints and poets maybe...they do some."

And then Emily eventually returns to her "afterlife," painfully aware that she let the beauty and wonder of her once-mortal state escape her.

I can relate.

I wrote a song many years ago that starts out,

Winter turns to spring
And we don't blink an eye
The sun wakes and warms
As we pass on by
The mountains and the hills
Burst forth in song
Bellowing with beauty
As we hurry along.

That's the story of my life. In the chaos of everyday living I often completely miss the joys of living on planet earth. My family and friends are so precious to me. I can't imagine being in Emily's predicament, where I am no longer able to laugh, cry, celebrate with or hug those around me. But without a doubt, it will happen.

Since the dawn of time people have speculated and argued about what happens when we die. I wouldn't dream of trying to unpack all that here. But I do want to say that I think nature strongly hints that there's something beyond what we can see. Elton John's "Circle of Life" song from The Lion King comes to mind because it speaks of a life/death/life cycle. Here are some of the things that I've observed in nature:

• The sun. It rises (birth), sets (death) and rises again (birth.)

• Mortal sleep patterns. We wake up in the morning (birth) we go to bed at night (death) and we rise again (birth.)

• Regarding sleep, when we go to bed (die) we reside in an alternative world -- dreams. It's on a completely different plane than the "awake" space we live in, and other than the sketchy details that we remember (and soon forget) we have very little access to it. Think about it: every night we are ushered in to and "exist" in another world.

• Butterflies. They are born as caterpillars (birth), retire to a tomb-like cocoon (death) and then they emerge as a completely different creature (birth.)

• The seasons. Living things bloom in the spring (birth), expire in winter (death), and are reborn in the spring (birth.)

I know there are many more, but I can't think of them right now. I'll add them as they come to mind. Can anyone out there think of another example of birth/death/birth in nature?

Photo Credit: Daniel Garcia Neto
Licensed Under Creative Commons

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