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Beth MoonThy Kingdom Come Ė Diary Excerpts
Thy Kingdom Come
I am blessed with 3 exceptional children that I give thanks for everyday. Born in England, they spent the first few years of their lives in the heart of a sprawling city, but we missed the trees. Seven years ago, we moved to California.
The weather in northern California invites hiking most of the year, except for a few rainy months, and even that can be fun to walk in. Getting out in the green fields and walking cures just about anything, it is a good place to talk and share secrets. Only the hills can hear and they are not too concerned. It inspires fun and epic adventure. Sometimes we walk to the rhythm of reciting mathematical times tables, sometimes we talk of daily events, and sometimes we are silent, taking in the scale of the landscape before us. My daughter once told me, "When I am outdoors exploring, I feel alive all through my body."
We look at different animal tracks and wonder what they must be doing on their walks. We notice the effect the recent rain has had. We watch the rise and fall of water with the seasons. Once we found a long beak and a pile of feathers; nothing else, and we marveled at the forces of nature at work. We find evidence of many life forms around us. We have collected tiny hummingbird feathers, the chrysalis of a fig tree butterfly, paper from the nest of a wasp, and 2 dragonflies among others. Curiosities arouse trips to the library and lively discussions.
My daughters have brought home dead animals since they were first able to explore. Running in the house, they are split between outrage and grief. They show me the deceased. We search for a good spot and begin to dig a hole.
"We can learn something from this," I say reassuringly. "Animals do not worry about death or even think about it like humans do. They live their life to the fullest, right up to the very last minute."
We say a prayer, with bright wishes for the animalsí next life. A decorated Popsicle stick serves as a grave marker. The ceremony seems to quell the sadness they feel even though it does not remedy their lack of understanding. The concept is too large to grasp, but I do not think this is because of their age.
On our walks we come upon many animals. Even as gruesome and shocking as death is, it is also a strong magnet that draws us in closer. We feel like privileged voyeurs able to examine in detail what is usually only glanced upon from a distance. We marvel at the sharp claws of a pole cat, feel the tiny down feathers in between the primary feathers on a birds wing. We delight at the sight of scales on the yellow legs of a snowy egret. We were overwhelmed with the beauty before us. I take my camera to somehow capture this beauty, but my pictures look incomplete.
I dream of death these days. It opens before me like a black, empty void. I am aware there is a vacuum at its center. I feel safe watching from the periphery.
It is fall now. We count the geese flying in formation, a moving, flapping "V" flying over our heads. The ground is hard from lack of rain and the hills are burnt gold from long days of sun.
We talk about Indian culture and some of the rituals they practiced. Upon reaching puberty the child is sent out into the wilderness without shelter or provisions. There they wait until an animal spirit visits them. They return to the tribe to tell the elder in charge. This spirit will shape their future as they emulate strengths of their animal totem. We each imagine what animal would come to us in spirit, but it is too hard to pick our favorite so we each end up choosing two.
One day upon returning home one of my daughters greets me at the door.
"There is something I must show you," she says taking my hand, leading me to the hall table. There in a box she takes out a bird, a bird so perfect, yet still. She rubs a finger down the length of the bird and I see her mouth is pinched, holding back tears.
"I found him in the front yard," she says. She is unable to take her eyes off the bird.
"He looks so peaceful, donít you think?"
"Yes," I say. "He looks so peaceful."
"I think the best way we could honor this bird is to take a picture of him, donít you think?"
"Would you like to take a picture with this bird?" I ask.
Images start to form in my head, I see now what will make the photographs complete. I take my camera and we go out into the hills and begin walking.