ritual tagged posts

Good-bye to a Tree

“Every part of nature teaches that the passing away of one life is the making room for another. The oak dies down to the ground, leaving within its rind a rich virgin mould, which will impart a vigorous life to an infant forest. The pine leaves a sandy and sterile soil, the harder woods a strong and fruitful mould. So this constant abrasion and decay makes the soil of my future growth. As I live now so shall I reap.”
—From the Journal of Henry David Thoreau, October 24, 1837


March, 2014


A year or two ago, I came across a passage, its source now slipped through the holes in my memory, in which the writer was talking about his grandfather who had received a terminal medical diagnosis and was forced to leave his home. The grandfather had been on the land his whole life, I think in Italy, with all that such long, deep immersion implies...

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Death and Ritual for a Sparrow

It was one of those everyday tasks one adapts to and just getsdone, however odious its undertones: getting the dog poop off the lawn and into the trash.

I went at it with dispatch on this winter morning, wielding my sawed-off shovel with well-practiced scoops until I came across some bird feathers, then a few more. I knew what they meant: If I followed the trail, I would find evidence of my cat’s most recent conquest.

Sure enough, a few yards farther across the lawn, an eviscerated sparrow.

When my daughter was young and we came across such finds, we would treat them just as we did the dog and cats and rabbits and fish whose demise shadowed her tender years: by performing a ritual burial and saying farewell. But it was years later now, my daughter at school, tasks awaiting, the morning cold, and the ground hard.

So with my shovel in hand, albeit with dog poop already on it, I set about taking the conven...

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