Posts Tagged ‘death’

The Tired Trees

The trees are tired and who can blame them?  Scorched by the sun last week and then ravaged by the wind on the weekend, they’re ready to retire for the season.

Up close the leaves look blemished, nibbled by insects and tattered by the wind.  They’ve seen better days.  As the leaves have yet to turn color for the fall, after Hurricane Earl departed it was odd to see so many green ones covering the forest floor.

Earl’s high winds beat many of the trees to the ground.  Some tried their best to accommodate the wind by bending,  but even a young tree can only bend so far before it’s folded in half and unable to get back up again.

Lulled to sleep by the soft buzz of chainsaws in the distance, some have become logs, ready for the deep rest that comes once one is covered with mosses.  

I like trees because they seem more resigned to the way they have to live than other things do. ~Willa Cather

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Down, down, down into the darkness of the grave
Gently they go, the beautiful, the tender, the kind;
Quietly they go, the intelligent, the witty, the brave.
I know. But I do not approve. And I am not resigned.

~ Edna St, Vincent Millay

The beautiful, the tender, the kind, the intelligent, the witty, the brave.  They represent to us the best that we have to offer one another.   Certainly among their ranks was navy diver Craig Blake, who was killed in Afghanistan by a roadside bomb on May 3rd.  He was only 37 years old.  His funeral is today at Shearwater.

This past weekend I walked through Bowes Cemetery with my grandson.  The sun was shining, birds were singing in the spruce trees and tiny bluets were blooming everywhere in the grass. 

Together we read the names on the headstones and talked about those whose lives had ended:  some in infancy, some in childhood and many in young adulthood.  To die at any age brings sadness, but this is especially so when someone’s lifespan has not yet reached half a century.  It’s also especially sad when someone’s life ends in the spring of the year, when all of nature is busy renewing itself and creating new life. 

Goodbye my friend it’s hard to die
When all the birds are singing in the sky
Now that the spring is in the air…
With the flowers everywhere
I wish that we could both be there.

~ Terry Jacks, Seasons in the Sun

And blue has never been bluer
True has never been truer
Honey never tasted so sweet
There’s a song in the breeze
A million voices in praise

A rose has never smelled redder
The sun has never been brighter
If I could find the right words to say
If you could look at my face
If you could just see this place
You wouldn’t cry for me today
You wouldn’t cry for me today

~ Mandisa, You Wouldn’t Cry


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crow on roof

You can just barely see its tail hanging over the roof  in the photograph taken from my office window.  Although this black bird’s been here before, today’s visit on All Hallows Eve seems especially ominous. 

A black crow or raven on the roof is supposed to foretell of death or harm coming to a dwelling’s inhabitants.  Good grief!  Isn’t life worrisome enough already without all these extra superstitions?  I prefer to believe that a thirsty bird has simply come to have a drink of the water that collects in the eavestrough at the north-east corner of the roof. 

 black cat

I don’t think my black cat questions why feathered visitors stop by. She’s just glad they do.

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deadly star of bethlehem

Last summer I found two young snowshoe hares dead on the lawn one morning.  They were curled up in the fetal position and showed no outward sign of trauma.  They were the cutest little creatures and it was so sad to have to bury them.  I had seen them hopping around the rosebushes just the day before.  I couldn’t understand why they had died so suddenly.  A fox would have carried them back to its den.  If a cat or dog had attacked them, they would surely have wounds.

young hareHares have made nests in my wild rosebushes for years.  They didn’t this year.  In years past, young bunnies have often hopped out of the bushes as I’ve mowed the grass nearby.  Adult hares still graze on the lawn in the open, usually dining on dandelions and plantains.  In the winter they reach up to eat the green needles on the lower branches of balsam fir trees.

Recently I learned that most plants in the lily family of flowers are poisonous.  Plants in this family all have bulbs, flowers with parts in 3s and parallel leaf veins. Many of these bulbs are often planted in the fall in North American gardens for spring blooming:  narcissus, tulips, irises, hyacinths, crocuses and daffodils.

Although I”ve never planted any of these in my garden, a couple of years ago, a friend gave me a clump of Star of Bethlehem blooms to transplant.  I put them right next to the rosebushes.  At the time, I didn’t realize that their bulbs would be deadly if ingested by pet cats, dogs, rabbits or wild hares.  Could these have caused the death of the young bunnies last summer?  I’ll never know for sure, but I will be removing this beautiful plant and its numerous bulbs from my yard before next spring.

snowshoe hares

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A native love story set in North America provided the inspiration for this painting by the French artist Girodet. The Entombment of Atala had a profound effect on me when I first saw it as a teenager in the Louvre Museum.

atala inscriptionI was especially moved by the inscription on the wall of the cave which is easily discernible in the large painting, but barely visible in most reproductions.

J’ai passé comme la fleur.
J’ai seché comme l’herbe des champs.

Translated, it means ‘I have withered like the flower.  I have dried up like the grass of the fields.’

The ephemeral connection between humans and grass blew me away.

grass in woods

Especially when we’re young, we have a tendency to think that we will live forever.   As we age, we begin to take more notice of the change of the seasons and realize that old age and death eventually come to us all.

foxtail barleyThe bloom of spring becomes synonymous with the bloom of youth.  By the time we hit middle age, it becomes quite apparent that we are in the late summer of life, and that we too will eventually dry up and wither like the grass in the fields.

Yet every season in both nature and life offers a beauty of its own.  August days reveal the simple elegance of grasses on the landscape.

The Foxtail Barley shown at left is one that I find especially pretty.  However, it can be deadly if it finds its way into the hay meant for farm animals, as its tiny barbs are known to cause respiratory and digestive problems.


Despite its beauty when in bloom, grass serves its greatest purpose once it begins to dry and  go to seed.  It’s a comforting message of hope for those of us who wonder at times if the best of life might already be passed.

All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field.
~ Isaiah 40:6

For more information on Chateaubriand’s early 19th century story of Atala and Chactas, see the Wikipedia post on Atala.

For more information about the painting, see The Entombment of Atala at the Louvre Museum.

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Today is Workers Memorial Day in Canada and the U.S., a day marked to raise awareness of worker safety and remember those who have been killed or injured on the job.

The absence of three fingers on my grandfather’s right hand was a constant reminder to me to be careful with saws.  He managed to work as a carpenter all his life, despite an accident with a power saw as a young adult.  Young people have the highest incident of injury on the job.  Their lack of experience can be deadly. 

My great-grandfather, a logger, was killed in the backwoods when a tree fell on him earlier last century.  Even today, despite safer equipment and safety training, American logging workers have a death rate of 86.4 per 100,000 workers.  If you compare this to a national fatality rate of 3.4, it’s extremely high and is only second to fishing as a hazardous occupation.

Felling trees is a difficult task that requires alertness and know-how.  Whether your tool is a handsaw, an axe or a chainsaw, the potential for disaster is great, especially if you’re a bit accident prone like me.  If people who are trained to cut trees encounter danger, it’s likely that homeowners pruning or cutting trees on the weekend would be at even greater risk of injury.  

The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety offers some excellent guidelines to follow, whether you are cutting down a tree or just trimming off some limbs.  It’s better to be safe than sorry.

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