The last of the field-crops have been gathered in. Their stubble in the fields is burning, stubborn stalks reduced to ash. Soon the earth will broken up by plough and harrow, cold steel overturning layers of life, exposing bare soil to the sky. Carrion birds will pick over the morsels of life left on its surface.
We are entering the season of death.
This is the violence by which we live; the rhythms of agriculture by which we grow, kill and consume that which sustains us.
In the chaos of these days, this desolated landscape feels profoundly soothing.
There are emotions so suppressed in me that I can only understand them as a scream – a latent howl, wild and wordless, clawing its way out of my constricted throat. If I opened wide and let it out, I know the force of it could tear down everything around me. How many times have I swallowed it whole?
I fell into the trap of defining self through circumstance; it happens, sometimes. Identifying easily with hopes and daydreams, I dwell outside of who I really am. Then comes the harrowing. Layers of life I have left undisturbed, growing comfortably (if stiflingly) around me, are torn asunder, overturned – and, underneath them, my bare self is left exposed.
Resisting the urge to cover my rawness, I wait for the birds.
Exposure brings clarity; not kindness, but relentless truth. Some things, I know, have taken root without my full, conscious intent. In this broken earth, they are easy to pick out and cast aside.
This is when the magpies come.
Hesitantly, as they cackle and coax, I learn to see as they do – first through one eye, then the other: a new panorama. I cock my head to gauge the full height of my human form. Closer to the ground now than ever before, I take one stiff step, then another, lifting my juvenile tail above the earthen clods.
Step step. Hop. Hop hop. Fly.
Two companions guide me, one at either wing. I am giddy with the flight, a heartbeat away from losing it at any moment. Flying is not easy; it requires unselfconsciousness as well as concentration. Muddled with exhilaration and relief, I crash-land into an old familiar beech tree, while my companions deliberate over the next stage of my journey.
They are taking me to Her.
She dwells at the root of all things, in the mist where all dies back into the darkness. An equivocal vision, vast beyond perception, contained yet not confined within a finite form.
I see Her.
One of her faces is Death.
I know this Lady.
I painted her once, at the age of 12, when I still painted – a palette of greys for the winter; one side shrouded in darkness and another revealed in the clarity of light.
Her season approaches, and it falls upon me now to do Her work. All that lies ahead is darkness – yet in the darkness, I know, I am touching my own earth; my own ground beneath my feet, my nature.
This is the emptiness before renewal.