All Hallowed: A Contemplation for the Darkening Time
Our dead are in the soil, in the water. Their voices are in the wind. Hear them howling against the window, voices thin as cobwebs, dry leaves? Let them in, warm them, bring them comfort. Their bodies, laid into the earth or burned in the funeral fire, have broken down like the leaves crunching beneath our feet. All rotted away. A hallowed rot. A slow, silent rebirth.
Like gold to airy thinness beat.*
Every fruit and vegetable we consume embodies them, every sip of water or wine or moonshine. They are in our every breath, in our blood. We take them in, expel them, but they are not lesser for it. My grandmother, your grandfather, all of them. In our skin, our hair and fingernails.
Where do we go when we die? Down into darkness, borne along hidden streams, up again into the light through crevices, lapped at by deer and coyotes and rabbits and turkeys, caressing the slick bodies of fish and serpents, flowing down beds carved and worn smooth by our forebears, toward the endless sea.
Then mist, then clouds, then rain.
In the soil, the tree, the leaves that burst green and fall as golden fire.
Again and again and again.
* From John Donne’s “A Valediction Forbidding Mourning“