Dreaming your life away

Deep thought, by Nat Hawthorne

We sometimes congratulate ourselves at the moment of waking from a troubled dream; it may be so the moment after death. -Nathaniel Hawthorne, writer (1804-1864)

Whoa. Life could be like Dallas.

It’s natural to be afraid of death, but ponder this.

Perhaps the best cure for the fear of death is to reflect that life has a beginning as well as an end. There was a time when you were not: that gives us no concern. Why then should it trouble us that a time will come when we shall cease to be? To die is only to be as we were before we were born. -William Hazlitt, essayist (1778-1830)

And because I like you, one last quote:

Animals have these advantages over man: they never hear the clock strike, they die without any idea of death, they have no theologians to instruct them, their last moments are not disturbed by unwelcome and unpleasant ceremonies, their funerals cost them nothing, and no one starts lawsuits over their wills. -Voltaire, philosopher and writer (1694-1778)


Die thoughtfully, please

If you’re gonna die (and something tells me you will), could you do the world a favor and not pollute the earth with a honkin’ coffin? Really, dead people are already cluttering up the land, but the big ‘ole boxes just make things worse. Eco burials are where it’s at. Find yourself an eternal resting place in a green cemetery (i.e., a meadow) and be done with it. Of course, you’ll have to wait till they spring up on the East Coast as they’re primarily in California right now, so take care of your health until then.

If you must go out in style, at least consider a biodegradable option like the Ecopod, a stylin’ container made of paper. And if you’re really environmentally conscious and have decided to be cremated, check out this nifty little vessel called the Acorn Urn. I mean, if you gotta go, at least go out in a nice felt-like acorn.

When bad things happen to annoying birds

I came home to find an eviscerated pigeon splayed on the porch—the victim of another city hawk and yet another omen of death. I’ve been reading about death relentlessly (though unintentionally) and just witnessed a pigeon attack last week; it’s become the Killing Fields around here. But this rotting carcass is a bit in-your-face and not at all a welcome gift as say finding a basket of chocolates or a bouquet of wildflowers left on the porch.

It’s strange, though, that the young pigeon was left in a heap because he appears to have some meat on him—for the hawk, that is; I’m not a fan of broiled squab. Anyway, if you’re a hungry hawk and you’re reading this, swing by for a free meal. It’s a French delicacy free for the plucking.

Hello, it’s the Grim Reaper

I’ve been reading “How We Die,” a nonfiction account of…fill in the blank, after seeing Dr. Sherwin Nuland on Charlie Rose. It’s a national book award winner and probably in the library of most doctors yet is a very accessible book on “life’s final chapter,” as the tagline says. No surprise: it’s depressing. To balance out the grim descriptions (it pulls no punches), I scarf down some cake while reading. But the sections on clogged arteries are too much to bear, so I toss the book aside. (Alzheimer’s was the next chapter, so there was really nothing to look forward to.)

I stumble upon a little book next, “The End of the Alphabet,” drawn in by its design. Good story, but the main character is dying right out of the gate.

I knew “The Savages” would be tough to watch—it’s about a brother and sister putting their estranged father in a nursing home—but I went anyway. Here I expected the death theme—hard to avoid in such a film, though it was a comedy. Oh death, you’re so funny.

I try a new book, “The Sea” by John Banville, winner of the Man Booker Prize. A cover with a beautiful, but darkly colored seascape can only portend one thing. I learn immediately that the main character is a widower. Of course he is.

I was at a cafe for a couple hours this afternoon where no one died. I come home though to spot a dust-up of feathers floating by the window. I look out to see a hawk pinning a pigeon to the ground, throttling it with its talons. The pigeon, probably the same one I berate for hovering on my skylight, now flaps its one free wing helplessly.

I’ve had enough.

But in all this, I did take away this lovely passage in “The Sea” about happiness. “Happiness was different in childhood. It was so much then a matter simply of accumulation, of taking things—new experiences, new emotions—and applying them like so many polished tiles to what would someday be the marvellously finished pavilion of the self.”