A scream cut through the forest.
We lit the dark woods by the light of our iphones, Sukaynah and I were on a mission to recover what had been taken.
We thought it was a fox.
Hoped it was a rat.
But we knew it was the right thing to do—
To search for something that never meant to get lost.
What we found...was bambi.
I always hated that damn movie.
The dead baby dear was perfect and beautiful and even had little white spots across her back. She was only a few days old and lay positioned as if she was in mid run.
(Before I continue with this tale…I should confess…I’ve been cheating on you.
I wish I could say that I am Polywriterous, but I’m not.
My brain and my heart and my arse have been overtaken by the final edit of a book I’m writing. And while I have so many stories I yearn to share with you they rest as notes in a box of other ideas while I head steadily towards an impending deadline).
Which leads me to the beginning of this story.
Sukaynah and Kelly brought a group of 10 year old girls to the land I live on to run a one of a kind spring break camp for witches in the making. The girls learned about plants and how to make tinctures and felt bags and how to make offerings to the earth.
They asked me to a do storytelling with the littles, and I fell in love with these young people as they created a story about a planet that required heroes to steward it. I realized that the main character in my book, who is also 10, lacks the zest and zing those girls had, and that I need to spend more time around kids that age.
So I did what any writer on deadline would do, and when the girls walked by my front door, I asked if I could join them on their nature hike. A few moments later we stopped in front of a magnificent mushroom. The girls gathered around, and practiced tuning in to the plant while asking if they had permission to harvest part of it. We were in rare moment of pseudo 10 year old silence when we heard a scream cut through the forest. There was no mistaking that something small was in fear and in pain.
Luna, the beloved white husky who lives on our land, was running through the woods with something large in her mouth. The screaming continued. But now we couldn’t distinguish our screaming from the animal that had been captured. Luna eventually dropped it, and returned back to us a little more wild, with blood smeared around her mouth.
One of the girls started crying.
The rest were in shock.
I wanted to throw up.
There I sat with one foot in my own horror of seeing an innocent life taken, and the other foot as an adult among children witnessing death for the first time: navigating my own grief, and being present to mentoring young children through this threshold of loss of a piece of their innocence. The dog they adored murdered something else they adored. Not to eat it. For the pleasure of the catch. And they knew it.
As we circled up and spoke about what happened: the natural cycles of life and death, how we all eat meat, how we love Luna for that wild part in her, I realized how incredibly lucky these girls were to have this kind of experience in a held and facilitated environment.
One decided to become a vegetarian.
One of the girls wanted to go see what it was. But for better or for worse it was decided that we wouldn’t. I was relieved, I didn’t want to muster up the courage to go look with them, I knew that if we found it still alive we would need to be able to put it out of its suffering and I didn’t have the tools or skills to do this gracefully.
I returned to my desk to write.
The girls cried and processed throughout the day.
They discussed if they would be able to forgive Luna.
These girls were lucky, to be able to be together, and held with people who had camp counselors who had been raised on the land and prepared and ready to be with them in this moment, who could be with their tears, help them shake it off, and even laugh later with them as they reenacted the death in the final story told in their closing circle.
I already spilled the beans about what happened next: That night, in a scene out of The Blair Witch Project, Sukaynah and I went searching for death.
I was relieved that the girls didn’t have to see bambi.
But it felt right to look. To take the time to look and see what life and death looks like. To honor. To cover its body. To sing for the dead.
To take a few moments to be present with death.
I wonder about if we did the right thing: allowing them the girls live in their imagination about what had died--hoping it was a squirrel or a rat...as if that was a an easier death to accept.
Part of me thinks I was selfish for feeling relieved that I didn’t have to be with them when they witnessed Bambi dead in the forest...(and for the record, I made a choice about how much of the scene I shared with you, choosing to protect you from the gruesome images of the death. Perhaps that is also unfair. But I can't help but think in a world where we are constantly being bombarded by violence and horror we didn't choose to witness, its ok to want to protect each other, to pick and choose the experiences we force on one another).
And sometimes that is an act of wisdom.
And sometimes it is an act of selfishness.
Because woven into the horrors of life is beauty. And it is the beauty that makes it possible to keep looking.
At the end of the day...I think I played a game of lost and found innocence. In fear of that this thing we hold precious could be taken, I found pieces of my own still lingering.
Sean, a parent of two children in the late 20’s and early 30’s, says the job of parents is to make themselves obsolete.
“I see parents with their kids, and now I see the innocence of the children, as well as the innocence of their parents.”
Sean told me he had no idea how much he would have and how much he would lose through the life cycle of parenting.
It would seem if we are lucky, we will have moments of losing pieces of our innocence throughout our entire lives.
Death, loss, the cycles of life...include more beauty, more grace, more love, when faced with others.
May we all be so lucky to have a group of people around us in those moments when we come face to face with what we have lost.
These newsletters (ehem...storyletters) will take a slightly different form as all of the focus goes on completing this final draft of my book, so I leave you with but one sweet treat:
Crowdfunding 101: Everything you want to know about crowdfunding but are afraid to ask is being offered as a 2 hour online class in May by the one and only Ian McKenzie.
I can’t say enough great things about how Ian approaches fundraising (I featured him as the first speaker in my own 5 part video series oncrowdfunding). If you or someone you love is considering this mode of fundraising and community gathering this is a great opportunity.
MYTH, MAGIC, & MEDICINE: STORYTELLING FOR A NEW PARADIGMonline course will begin again in the fall. Private study is available until then.
I am in NYC for a few more moments and hosting a private Soul Story Circle, ping me for more information.
The illustrations were created by Chinese illustrator, Jin Xingye.
Monsterous Dog is by Holly Lucero