I made today's drawing a couple of weeks back; at the same time that I made the charnel ground drawing. That charnel ground drawing sat on my drawing table until four days ago when it felt like the right time to share it.
Then two days ago I was working in my studio when I heard a loud 'baa'. It sounded like a goat which is unusual since there are no goats around. A commotion broke out behind the barn. I went outside to investigate.
Our neighbor's dogs were attacking a baby deer, a fawn, spots and all. I wanted to save the deer, chased away the dogs, but then I saw the animal's neck was broken, eyes glassy, and it couldn't stand. It looked me in the eye and gave one more cry. In shock I stepped back and the dogs swooped in to finish the job.
The deer was dead. I went back inside the studio and tried to sort out my reaction. You can judge for yourself what you would have done. I have played every scenario in my mind and the outcome doesn't change.
The chemical mix in my body was intense, the grief, anger, and confusion of what just happened. I felt helpless. I centered myself and tried to be more mindful of my sensations. Tried to note what I was feeling. Something deep was coming up, flooding me with dread. I was imagining the feeling of finding myself in this scene again, not with a deer being killed, but a person. I felt great compassion for anyone who was forced by circumstances to witness another person's death. It must happen all the time, all over the world. And not with anonymous animals but loved ones. It felt different than imagination. Insight of the scariest kind.
Deep breath. Some time passed. A few sips of coffee. What now? Do I bury the deer? It would be impossible in our rocky yard to dig deep enough. The groundhog I buried last year was quickly dug up. Throw it away? Burn it? My mind turned to a book I read last year called "Life Everlasting: The Animal Way of Death" by Bernd Heinrich, a series of first person essays about observing animals decaying in the wild. This thought suddenly joined into the thread of fascination that had led me to read about charnel grounds in the first place. I would not interfere with the decay but observe it - hitting me full force that this was a mini charnel ground. My wondering about my own ability to visit a charnel ground would not be tested with a human, thank goodness, but with this deer.
I have been back there many times to see the decay, it is rapid, first animals feeding and now bugs. And I must say the smell is noticeable. But when I am there I try to only think of impermanence, how fleeting life is, how sudden it can end, and how attached we are. And from this kind of meditation I have started to see more sides to creativity. I guess I had always equated creativity with growth, the optimistic approach, but now I can appreciate more viscerally that something must end for something new to appear. The carcass of the deer decaying is its own creation.
I was pretty somber inside after this happened which eventually led me to write down these thoughts. The final coincidence happened an hour after deciding to post the story. While driving my car, I had to put on the brakes suddenly. Out of the bushes and right past the car came skipping and bouncing along, at full speed, TWO fawns, full with life!
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