I live in an area that is not quite the Mid-West, it’s certainly not the South, it’s far too west to be called the East and a little to south to be the North. It’s a place I call home and it’s that time of year to begin to put the garden away for the winter. This means cleaning out flower beds, raking leaves, cutting back plants and putting things into the shed for storage. It’s a cycle that happens every year – year after year.
There’s a calm and simple stillness that the garden has from now until April. The winter garden is a true beauty that more often than not, goes unnoticed. We tend to the garden’s needs at the end of the season and then move into our own winter cocoon – sometimes forgetting to even look out at the empty beds and withered grass. When I tend to the garden this time of year, there’s also a little excitement for me and I have those moments of, “Oh cool, next year, I’ll do this instead: and I’ll move these over here….” -all kinds of plans, because I know that they will come back – that they will once again be vibrant and full of color and life.
This time of year also marks the anniversary of my Father’s passing. For the last ten years, I have toasted to his life and have mourned his absence. The garden he was part of, or his “Tribe” as he called us, has moved forward. It has continued to bloom and thrive and grow, but the tall tree in the middle has not come back. As a wise man once told me, “His Absence has become his Presence.” I like that!
Now, this month I add another name to the list of those whose presence will be missed. Last week, one of my cousins, who is very much a contemporary of mine, died of a massive heart attack. No longer will her flowers bloom in my Tribe’s garden.
So, as I put my garden away for the winter; as the plant’s blooms cease and the leaves turn brown, I think about those in my tribe who have passed. The Iris, Black-eyed Susan, Primrose, Roses, Hydrangea and Dalia are just like us. They come from nothing – they are everything, full of life and color – they then return to nothing. But unlike us, these plants have a seed or bulb we can still see and we trust that once again, they will burst into life.
I wish it were like that with us. I wish there were a seed we would leave behind, a promise that we will return. But alas, there is not. Or, is there?
Science tells us, energy cannot be created nor destroyed – it just changes shape. At the very base, we are energy – we are animated by a spark. The outer casing or our bodies are just a vehicle or house for this spark. It is a place for which the spark can express itself. Now, that opens the floor to a lot of questions for me! Some of which are, “Where did this spark come from?” and “Where does it go after it leaves the body?” We can only guess, right?
Eastern teachings state that all of creation; from the dandelion, to the robin to each one of us is simply an expression of the Divine, or Shakti. Shakti is the creative force that gives rise to everything – it wants to experience all things from the smallest to the largest and the most hideous to the most beautiful. It cares not how it is expressed and therefore all forms of this expression are equal. When one aspect of Shakti’s expression withers and dies, another form comes bursting to life. But it is the cycle that we are so afraid of – especially the death part when it comes to our own Being. Because once we die, what’s next? This is called “The Human Dilemma”. As we know it, we are born, we grow and learn, we have experiences of love and hate, we serve others or we hoard our resources and then one day…we take our last breath. It happens to all of us and it is that thought that scares us more than anything else. Eastern Religions also tell us that there are five causes of suffering: they are: Ego, Attachment, Aversion, Ignorance and Fear of Death. They also say that to be happy, we must recognize these causes of suffering and free ourselves of them.
Through mindful living and keeping ourselves present in every moment, we begin to still the ego brain. It is our ego which labels experiences or things as good or bad. It is our ego which judges all things based on our attachments and aversions and this then leads to false beliefs. It is our ego that tells us that this physical body is immortal – as long as we keep ourselves busy with our likes and dislikes, we can hold death away from our doors. But by keeping ourselves mindful and present we see life as it is – a string of events that are all equal, no one thing better or worse than another.
So, as I reflect on the passing of my cousin, I try not to judge the experience. She lived as she did; she interacted with the world and then took her last breath. It is what we all will do – like the billions who have gone before us, like every expression of Shakti.
Her particular flower or expression of Shakti will be missed. I now welcome a new energy source into my garden however this new expression will be.