and the children we once were
Hello. This post is about Death & Birds.
We are all still the children we once were. It is inescapable. When I was little, I had a rabbit; Snuffles. He was snow white with black speckling down the centre of his back. One morning I went to his hutch with fresh greens, and he was laying dead, as stiff as a board. I knew, by then, what Death was. I recognised its permanence and felt the weight of its presence. I sensed the shift in the intensity of the moment. The quietening. The delicate, almost balletic, way with which everything was suddenly handled.
My aunt lined a shoebox with hay, and I gently (so gently) placed his rigid body inside. We would bury him that afternoon, making a little headstone and planting a rose so that his grave could be just like my mothers.
This was the early 90’s, and there was something called Viral Haemorrhagic Disease killing large numbers of wild rabbits in the UK. In a field near the house I saw a rabbit which had been dead for a while—its body in an active state of decay. I found myself transfixed by a thing once animate, now more earth than being. A variety of little bugs happily weaved their ways in, on and around the rabbit, and I wondered as to whether the same thing had happened to my mother—a thought which prompted the complicated merging of a genuine curiosity with a violent sense of longing.
That quiet, balletic, careful tone does not move in and out of life—it is a river running constantly underneath it, a flow of reverence which we can sometimes fall into when Death is near, or present. Birds, too, offer portals to this place. They are themselves invitations to momentarily let go of the struggle and, instead, slip into the clear waters of attunement.
In adulthood, I once came home to an empty apartment in LA, walking into our bedroom and jumping at the sight of a large insect on our otherwise perfectly white duvet cover. On closer inspection, I was perplexed to see that it was in fact a drawing. A cartoon-like picture of a spider, drawn by my beloved, with permanent marker—on our otherwise perfectly white duvet cover.
I messaged him, saying something along the lines of “Moving forward, can we please discuss this kind of thing before you act on it?”. Five minutes later I got a message back, which read, “You are not in charge of my art”. An inarguable statement of fact.
We are all still the children we once were. Observant, curious, defiant, terrified.
Whether we care to acknowledge it or not, whether we are able to relate to the child, or not, we have to contend with them. They will, after all, be with us for our final breath.
No doubt confused as to where all the time went.
Yours in aimless flight,