If you realize that all things change, there is nothing you will try to hold on to. If you are not afraid of dying, there is nothing you cannot achieve. ~ Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching
Here in our Stories of Grateful Living, we honor the voices of our community as we invite people to share their personal experiences with gratefulness. Join us in appreciating the explorations, reflections, and insights of fellow community members as we collectively learn what it means to live gratefully.
I am attached. To birth, beauty, wonder, awe, love and laughter, to all the precious awarenesses that electrify and fill me with aliveness. We are in a season energized with new life. We feel it when we walk in the woods, when the deep green around us permeates and feeds us to our bones. This fawn, and her mama, were in our backyard a few days ago.
Deer are a common sight in Boulder. We love them, watch them, make way for them, sometimes help them, and protect them as much as we can around here. They are a symbol of the natural balance we work so hard to achieve, a gentle remedy that cures us of our own human-ness for the few short moments we watch them pass by. If we are truly conscious, we understand these little moments are the precious ones we live for.
Life and death are not so far apart as we think.
The following day …
She was lying under our apple tree in our backyard, near the creek. I was stunned when I saw her. The thick weight of sadness grew heavy in my chest, and I could feel myself sinking deeper into the soft earth. I have no idea how she died, but her body was without injury and as beautiful as it was the day she was born.
Life and death are not so far apart as we think. We tend to think in terms of years, when we need to be thinking in terms of moments–precious, fleeting, impermanent moments.
Birth does not entitle any of us to a long, healthy life, it never has.
After finding her, I ran inside, found my smudge wand, then sat down quietly beside her. I offered love, prayer, and gratitude to the Mother for the short time we had with her. I was reminded that despite what we might think we are owed in this life, we are entitled to nothing. Birth does not entitle any of us to a long, healthy life, it never has. What we are given are chances, chances to discover that life is fully lived in the moments we are awake and paying attention, and each one is a gift not to be taken for granted.
It is difficult to remember this every day, to not get caught in the nettings of our human mind and to-dos, to not be so hard on ourselves, to want more than what we already have, to not judge each other, and assume we have time to make amends. To embrace death so close to the bosom, and sit with knowing we may be far closer to our last breath than we ever imagined is intense, and exhausting. But I believe it is this very intensity that allows us to wriggle free. It is this vulnerability that allows us to dance with abandon, belly laugh out loud, and see the wonder and awe in anything and everything. It is this wide-eyed wakefulness that allows us to roar “YES!!!!” and say thank you, thank you, thank you.…”
I soon learned that the fawn beneath our apple tree was not the fawn I had seen the previous day. Shortly after sitting down with this fawn, I felt the presence of something to my right. I looked over and it was the mother, the same mother I had seen the day before. She stared at me intently as I slowly backed away from her fawn and walked back up onto the deck. I then saw another movement out of the corner of my eye. Another fawn, trotted over to the mother, the same fawn I had seen the day before, and sibling to the one that had died. This mother deer had two babes.
They had come back to check on the one that no longer lived. I cannot accurately describe the emotions I felt in those moments. A spiritual and emotional concoction of compassion, sadness, awe, elation, revelation, wonder, reality, gratitude, and gravity. What I witnessed was the beginning and the end all at once, life and death in full bloom. The three of us held each other’s gaze, in curiosity, intensity, and for me, complete and utter love, compassion and reverence. I could only hope that their higher developed senses could receive and feel all I was sending.
We invite you to share a story about yourself or another person, reflecting on the question: “How has gratefulness shifted a moment, an experience, or a lifetime?”