This kind of weather always makes me introspective—and oftentimes melancholy. I am a warmth and sunshine kind of girl in spite of the fact that I spent 2 years living aloft in the fog of the coastal redwood ecosystem. I know…irony.
With hip dysplasia and a partially torn ACL in my knee, walking hurts—only adding a bit to the melancholy. But something inside me had called me to walk this way and explore this landscape on this day. I have learned to listen to that inner voice. It usually has something it wants me to notice, learn, and/or take action around.
At first, I just meandered, noticing more the kids SWIMMING in the freezing water, smiling and laughing. It definitely kicked me a little out of my fog-filled thoughts. As I walked, I noticed all the little dead sea creatures—eaten by birds or left stranded by tides. I walked around piles of seaweed decaying beginning to draw in the flies. I watched as seagulls wobble-ran after the little crabs and other sea life snapping at their morsels of food.
Everywhere I looked there was death and dying, but also so much life. From the children playing care-fee and happy in the cold water, to the people in wet suits boogie-boarding, to the cute adolescent girls strutting around in their bikinis, not letting the cold ruin their chance to show of their beautiful bodies.
I remembered, we are all piles of walking compost until one day we quit walking and eventually quit moving altogether, but either way, we are still compost from day one. Just think about all the cells dying off in our body every moment of every day! For adults it’s about 50-70 billion per day, for children between 8 and 14 it is 20-30 billion per day. A lot of these are skin cells and blood cells, which are continuously recycled.
So for adults lets say 60,000,000,000 in 24 hours
That means 60,000,000,000 in 1440 minutes (hours times 60)
That means 41666666.67 per minute (60,000,000,000 divided by 1440)
Even this shows us—life and death truly are not separate. It’s only our thoughts that make us think so.
I know this can sound morbid, but that is not my intention. I found such a sense of peace in being reminded of this that I already know—but being reminded in this very real, visceral way. It really is all impermanence. It is my heart caring so incredibly deeply about the well being of “others” that makes it so hard for me. As I completed my walk and went to sit on a bench to put my shoes back on, I read the plaque on the bench. It was dedicated in memory of a woman who lived 98 years.
So whether we have only moments or a century of living or in the case of some of the trees, thousands of years, our constant dance partner is death and dying. I have said it before—the quickest way to die is to get born. The quickest way to die is to get born. We get to choose what we do with this moment, this moment, this moment. Death is a given. It’s already happening to the tune of BILLIONS in each of us every day.
I have not yet figured out the balance of deep caring and accepting death and impermanence. But today, somehow, brought me closer to the place of peace as I dance with the one who wears a cloak and dagger, the skull, or merely the untold microorganisms eating away at everything every day. Our dance partner is death as surely as it is life. The quickest way to die is to get born.
Here’s to the dance.