Erasure of death
If we continue on the trajectory we seem hellbent on going down, we do more damage to the planet.
And in the name of what? Life?
But what is life if there is no room for death?
That room under our feet of rotting life-giving humus.
Soil erosion, deforestation what is all this but a slow erasure of death and therefore life too?
On the surface, we are creating more death through our fear of it.
But what we should fear most is making death itself obsolete.
And if there are no forests, if there is only damaged soil where to does death go?
And if death goes where does life go?
You break symbiotic relationships and all crumbles around you.
The erasure of death is the erasure of life.
Life & death
The Jay has not been for a week, and I’m left wondering if it’s just the time of year. There is more food around for him, like the famous acorns.
I hope that is the case and that nothing ominous has happened.
I always feel this way when the Jay has been absent for a week or so. It’s more relieving when he comes back because at least I know he’s alive and was just living his life, and it lets me know he’s not become reliant on me.
I suppose it’s interesting that I use the word ‘ominous’ when writing about what could have happened.
As if something evil may have gripped him and plucked him out of the world. Yet I know that is not what death is, logically speaking.
If he has fallen like the leaves on the trees, it is simply a part of the cycle of life and death, nothing more and nothing less.
But it’s hard to reconcile love for something or someone with the idea of death. In a certain frame of mind, it makes the world look like an evil place, and the dirt beneath our feet becomes something that cages us in disgust rather than the knowledge of what that dirt encompasses.
It’s easy to write about as a concept, to logically write out the words that death & life are intermingled in ways we don’t usually emotionally feel.
Another case of emotions always being far behind the pace of the facts and knowledge. You can learn so much factually, but does it always matter emotionally? It doesn’t seem so.
I suppose there has to be a point where emotions catch up to the facts, isn’t that just healing?
Sometimes the way people talk about loved ones that have passed I get an eerie feeling that no one is really healing from it, though they feel healed, but, then they’ll say a common bird like a Robin is a sign from their loved one.
Is that healing or just a lie?
But then, is there a more philosophical way of looking at it? Are these fantasies people want to believe a subtle acknowledgement of life & death being intermingled? Just translated wrong?
Isn’t life & death a symbiotic relationship? Therefore it could be said that the Robin is simply being used as a symbol of how a loved one’s death is, in turn, feeding life. As death ultimately becomes nutrients?
I think the problem is people take the Robin thing literally (which is ironic since I’m the autistic one 😉 ).
I have been reading a lot of environmentalist and nature books over the last few years and one common theme comes up; ‘wilderness’ is said to be a necessity to humanity.
There is a lot of talk about what it is to be human, the spirit of the human being.
How people often feel a need to shake off their ‘civilisation’ and bask in some ‘wild’ land ‘away from it all.’
I can’t help but agree with the sentiments, and I’ve used this naturalist trope often myself in my writing, particularly in some of my poems. For example, I have a poem titled Beneath our civility a wry grin.
But I confess to a conflicted, contradictory feeling too.
It all sounds well and good, poetic and spiritual, almost, yet the supposed ‘civilised’ sectors of land that we have separated off from the ‘wilds’ is not just a luxury for those of us who have disabilities.
Our civilised cities and towns are akin to life support, rather than just a convenience to those of us more vulnerable to the cold, less mobile homosapiens.
So when I read this common theme and initially nod along in wholehearted agreement, and love writing about this theme myself. I read in these words, initial inspiration, hope and strength. Until I remember my fate, it feels as if I’m reading my own erasure and that there is always a shadow inside me reading on and thinking, ‘wait, stop! Temper your enthusiasm! What does this mean for you?’
And then comes the big sigh of resignation that I can’t be the people I read about. And the idea that wilderness is necessary for humanity becomes, ‘the wilderness is necessary for the homosapiens that can.’
For those of us who can’t, it’s only a dream. Perhaps a necessary one. But a dream nonetheless.
Excursions from a wasteland
After the ‘wasteland.’ I took a short excursion to a spot looking onto some farmland. I was pessimistic as to what I might see, knowing that in the past, farmland ‘views’ have often led me to have a sinking feeling of doom inside.
Cows were roaming and grazing further along to my right, and then to my left and straight ahead of me were a gaggle of geese also grazing.
The sun above me warmed me up where I sat, I could have taken my coat off despite the October chill in the air and been warm.
To go further on the country roads, I would have needed my mobility trike, so I stuck to the same spot for an hour, if not more.
Behind me, there was a fenced-off body of water. On the fence, there are yellow warning signs about ‘deep water’ though I’m not entirely sure why as there doesn’t seem to be a way to get to it anyway.
I watched cormrants fly overhead and over the fence and a buzzard hunting way off, way in the distance beside the motorway.
Jackdaws, crows and magpies perched and flew around, chasing each other around a tree ahead of me.
Strength in a wasteland
I sat on my usual folding camping stool on a little corner of ‘wasteland’ full of curly dock waiting for the usual sound of birds I always hear at this particular spot.
I felt especially conspicuous since it seems such a random place for someone to spend any time on.
But there were a few reasons I decided to sit at this seemingly undesirable spot.
One morning I decided to take one of my ‘physio walks’ which is basically a small walk where I walk a circular around the block where I live.
I’m not good at getting up early in the morning but I’d managed it on this particular day and as the light of the day was still young and clear of clouds it had lit up the spot in such a way it looked like the perfectly lit place for photography. Add to that, the left over bit of wall with ivy and brambles made for a good background made all the more atmospheric by the water vapour rising on nearby fences.
I thought to myself, ‘now I remember why I like to try and get up and out early in the morning.’
So, today, much later than I had originally planned because as mentioned above I’m shit at getting up early, I figured if I didn’t go today I might not go tomorrow or the day after so despite it now being later I decided to go for it.
The usual wren turned up and the usual sounds of birds started, a blackbird perched on a small tree that hung over from someone’s garden to the left me.
The wren flitted between the Ivy and the brambles and the left over remnants of protective barbed wire.
A dunnock perched on some brambles right next to some of the wire.
The sharp wire jutting out like blades and yet these tiny birds didn’t seem too worried by their sharpness.
But then I reminded myself for all their smallness this is the way in which they have been cut, to be hardy creatures that could go against the grain of humanity’s force upon the world.
And so it was here at this small apocalyptic looking triangle of land that I saw strength in a wasteland.
I’m sitting on a camping stool looking out at nettles and the trees beyond. Leaves are rustling and falling like rain on and around me; autumn is truly here.
While I sit here it occurs to me I’m not so sure if my previous ‘love of nature’ was all that deep.
I wonder if it’s been more about superficial aesthetics than anything deeper.
But then I question if there is anything deeper in the first place?
I think about the dirt underneath my feet, and I think about being buried underneath it and wonder what that would feel like.
A rivulet of disgust and discomfort overcomes my body with a shiver.
What am I disgusted by? I ask myself, the first word that comes to mind is ‘parasites.’
Then I look on at the nettles before me and I feel like getting down on my hands and knees, digging and then rubbing the dirt onto my face.
Because it strikes me that interacting with all that dirt is the truest interaction with life & death and, thus all our fears exist within that soil and built up decaying matter.
And if I could just get to know and get comfortable with that which lies beneath my feet then all fears can be dissuaded.
And if not, surely it would still root me somehow?
Like the trees around me and ahead of me, all rooted down into that dying and living matter, networking with fungi and each other.
Rooted to their spot seemingly still yet within and underneath it movement is happening in tiny little increments.
Their roots shook by the traffic on the road next to this little pathetic wood.
And if I really concentrated, if I really got down to the ground maybe I’d feel those vibrations too?
If I sit here long enough perhaps I could become rooted like the trees?
Making my own rustling autumnal music as my leaves fall, red, yellow and brown.
Most of the trees are anonymous pillars of something I’m trying to attain because my knowledge of tree identities is woeful.
But what I do know is that trees are like the knots that tie communities together, human and non-human alike.
For example, I know that with an oak tree there is a high chance a Jay buried the acorn that became the tree.
And I know that there are caterpillars that rely on the oak tree come spring and that blue tits rely heavily on those caterpillars.
And that’s just the ones I know about!
According to the woodland trust there are 2,300 species supported by oak trees and 326 species depend upon it!
Trees are the centre and the knots of communities, yet as people walk their dogs past me, it is not the trees that they notice. It’s the man they give the side eye to because he’s sat on a camping stool in a public ‘park’ that is barely big enough to call itself a park.
In the end I decide not to get down on my hands and knees and rub dirt on my face, not just because of the onlookers that already consider me weird, but because knowing my luck with the amount of dog shit left around here I’ll end up with dog shit on my face.
It’s time to let go.
I am losing focus on the world around me retreating into a place I know best.
I feel like I’m getting ready for the end.
I wouldn’t take too much stock in that though; I am not a man of my word though I’d like to be.
The world is looking bleak in beak, claw and human hands. It is the human hands it seems, the force of nature that is humanity that is the cause.
But despite our major flaws as a collection of apes in so-called ‘civilised societies,’ I’m finding it harder to be inspired to try to be guided and also guide humans to better more ecologically friendly ways to be.
Because I’m looking at the world through a dark lens and all I see is that nature is suffering.
I always struggled to see the ‘beauty’ when my dad parked his car near a supposed scenic landscape and declared it ‘beautiful,’ usually in the countryside. Because all I saw and felt was absence. I didn’t necessarily know what was absent, but I felt it.
I always figured once I had been diagnosed with Depression that it was my Depression that coloured this experience.
It wasn’t the countryside that was the problem, it was me.
There was hope in that.
But the more I look around, and the more I learn, it seems my perception wasn’t far off from reality.
I’ve started referring to much of what I see as a ‘green desert’ taken from the environmentalist author George Monbiot.
Yet whatever we do or don’t do as humans it seems to me that life is suffering and what for? On this meaningless little spinning planet why such desperation for survival, other than that instinct driven into all animals through evolution.
But logically it’s not worth it.
The French philosopher Albert Camus found the idea of wanting to survive absurd, saying that suicide was the logical conclusion. But he didn’t use that for negativity and turned that idea on it’s head with an essentially, ‘nothing matters so we may as well take the pressure off ourselves and live the best life we can because… we can.’
I can’t take on that attitude, I no longer enjoy the ‘now’ to make the meaninglessness of life meaningless.
I had these conflicts in my head about how I struggled with the suffering of life yet simultaneously wanted a greener better future for life.
But now all I can ask is, why? Why hold onto that desperation to survive, to that desperation for this cycle of life to continue? It’s absurd.
Maybe I’ll wake up one day and feel better and be back on the ‘let’s save the planet,’ journey.
Maybe I won’t. And maybe that’ll be better.
Maybe it’s time for me to let go and just let myself fizzle out.
Maybe I can become a living doll, alive for those that would be distraught if I died but inside no longer being. A psychological death I suppose. I think I’m already half way there.
My obsession with death
‘Nature has healing properties,’ I read over and over.
Of course, it does. Nature is everything, it is destruction and it is rebirth often both simultaneously.
Even in the deadest limbs of a tree, life of some sort is happening around, on and within it.
Death fills a lot of gaps in my mind.
The people I’ve lost, the people I know ultimately I will lose one day, if I don’t die first.
I always have to caveat that, because though I’m ‘younger’ and the order we expect is those who are older to die first, I don’t, I can’t buy into that because I know otherwise. I know because I am a 30 something-year-old who was born with a heart defect and that heart defect further damages other organs within the body.
I’m older than my age may suggest, I’m all too aware of the high probability of a low life expectancy.
But in that talk of my lower life expectancy the thing that makes me anxious more than my own death is losing people. The pain of watching people fade away, I don’t think I can face that again.
A part of me hopes that I will die sooner than those people.
A part of me doesn’t hope that and wants to instantly hold on and say, ‘no, no you’re jinxing yourself. You’re going to die a painful death in a car accident!’ ‘No, no, you’re jinxing yourself you’re gonna die from some kind of cancer.’
Sometimes I’m depressed enough to consider quickening the pace of my death, after all it should be easy given my health. I mean after all my heart has been and is currently beating to give me life while killing me off at the same time, a trickle down effect through my organs, scarring them.
Or rather the absence of something in my heart is killing me.
But then there are other times I am filled with an anxious desperation to see something, get that ‘perfect’ photograph of something because, ‘I’m going to die soon enough.’
But that only leads to continuous disappointment, not just in my photographic capabilities but in what is absent when I go out there to do the photography.
It stops me concentrating on whats there and I come away with a cloudy skied mind.
It’s hard to not get a grip on some idea, not become obsessed with it when your brain is wired like mine seems to be. I think anyone and everyone can suffer from this, but autism seems to make it harder to break the cycle.
And so my brain loops through these cycles of anxiety about death, others and my own, to wishing for my own death to becoming desperate to not die, at least not till I have that ‘one amazing photograph I can die happy with.’
I am terrified of my parents dying, terrified of watching them fade, watching them decline. I’ve seen people do that and I sometimes wonder who is it worse for? Them? Surely it’s them? But sometimes I think it’s worse for those watching, those that are caring and then that makes me uncomfortable too because I am that person too. That person who needs care, who was born to fade.
Death looks like the end on a cloudy day
But it can look like nutrients and rebirth in the sunrays of spring.
Another bird writes its name on my heart: The Black-tailed Godwit
You know by now I’m obsessed with Jays and saying this feels like I’m cheating on the Jays. It’s an uncomfortable feeling, that maybe only other autistic people may understand it’s hard to describe.
It feels like the world itself will erase its memory of my love of the Jays like I’m turning my back on them even though I know logically that isn’t true, I doubt anyone will ever be able to persuade me out of my Jay obsession at this point.
But there is another bird that for some reason has become another favourite, I don’t think we’re quite in the ‘Jay obsessive’ territory with these but from a conservation point of view, they probably should be.
I’m talking about the Black-tailed Godwit.
Scientific name is Limosa limosa.
Conservation status is Red. This means that they’re ‘of great conservation concern’
I’ve seen them a couple times relatively close up and thus a new faverouite has born.