to residing so fundamentally amidst primal natural forces that command and carry, that lift and move us beyond the realm of the living. Of course, even when we were in the city we got a taste of these forces, but we had to really create the opportunities for becoming acquainted with death.
Many years ago, we decided that we wanted to be connected to the death related to consuming meat. During our years in Portland, Oregon we referred to this as “sacred slaughter.” We became acquainted with the psychic reality of slaughtering, butchering, and then consuming animals we had lovingly raised.
We did this with chickens, turkeys, ducks, and eventually goats. We shared the beauty of this with family, friends and community in tagine, adobo, tamales at our seasonal celebrations.
I have also learned from some incredible women working to re-member traditional sacred death rites. For example, I have learned the arts of preparing the sacred body, sitting in wake, and natural burial. I now understand holding and tending grief, how three days of ceremonial contemplation and prayer transmutes pain into wisdom. I have experienced eternal connection with those who have moved beyond this seen world into unseen realms.
. . . for the level of unexpected death we faced this last year after moving to 65 acres in rural New Mexico. It seems not a week goes by without some tragedy striking our little farm. We have been humbled all over again, feeling overwhelmed by grief in each new experience. We have found a thread of continuity in these experiences and now refer to them as #homesteadheartbreak. Connecting with others who were on a similar learning curve helped us immensely. It helped us feel less horrible and alone in all the death we seemed not able to prevent.
After a particularly devastating and stressful #homesteadheartbreak, our dear intern Cooper decided we needed to all sit down and watch a film. It was called “The Biggest Little Farm” and told the story of a couple who decided to buy a lot of land and start farming without chemical fertilizers or pesticides, with the cycles and patterns of nature instead of in resistance to them. While there are many differences between us and the farmers in the film, there was a striking similarity in the pattern of death showing up on the farm in devastating ways.
We were reminded that as we are further recovering the long dormant part of ourselves even more fully than we could in the city, there will be exciting victories, beautiful gardens, incredible joy in all the beautiful baby animals, AND there will also be death, grief and confusion.
We immediately felt less alone and we were able to stop blaming ourselves and instead embrace the heartbreaking-open reality at the interface of the domesticated and the wild. We still do our best to protect ourselves and our herd/flock/gaggle/(what do you call a bunch of cats?), but we are just a little more graceful when death comes at this new pace . . . and patient as we grow through the phases and stages where re-member and re-create an ecosystem of interconnectedness and balance. The farmer’s mentor in the film suggested that it takes seven years to reach a new state of balance after initiating a new permaculture/regenerative farming practice.
We have patience.
We have peace.