Sunday, September 6, 2009

Vultures, Part II: The More Personal Stuff

In the previous post I mentioned the Shakta concept of the interlacing of, the inseparability of, life and death. One of the cognitive changes that Shakta spiritual practice aims at is establishing a gut awareness that life is filled with and depends upon death, while death in its turn inevitably flows from and begets life... that life and death are finally the same.

I remember when this truth first hit me in a visceral, deeper than intellectual way: early in my Shakta career, probably in 1999 or 2000, I was driving some back road here in East Podunk, a lovely twisting road through endless emerald woods and fields. I turned a rather sharp corner and came upon a dead deer lying partly in the road, with a couple of vultures chowing down, shaded by trees that bent over an old fence.

The birds were so black, so lovely and regal, and one bird's beak shone with blood. The whole scene took on a jewel-like completeness: death, life, blood, beauty. I shivered; I saw Kali in that blood, in those black feathers.

I'd never been this close to a vulture before; I grew up in Florida near some of the wilder parts of that state, and had seen hundreds of vultures from afar, usually gliding in their stately holding pattern above some future meal. (It's not true, though, that vultures circle because they're waiting for animals to die. Or, rather, that's not the main reason. I've read that they circle to attract other vultures to the site and to make sure some bigger, badder animal isn't lurking on the ground to snatch their dinner.)

Me and Sophia and the kids just went to Florida a few weeks ago, and it was vulture central, as usual, but we had some fairly close encounters. At Kennedy Space Center the sky was black with them at times-- KSC occupies what has to be one of the largest (mostly) unspoiled areas in the state. About 5000 alligators live there, if that gives you any idea. We also went to a zoo and around sunset the trees filled up with a large venue (yet another collective noun) of vultures. The walkways were heavily dotted with the birds' past contributions and one walked beneath those trees mindfully and briskly. But the sight of them, perched in the dying light, was shiver-making and I kept taking pictures, hoping for one that did justice to the birds' dark majesty.

We didn't get pooped on, and Sophia laughed in her sweet, teasing way at my "goth" obsession-- Sophia, my Nekhbet, my personal "Mother of Mothers." It felt so good: I was home-- in Florida, with my Beloved and her kids, and under the dark and somewhat dangerous wings of the Goddess.

No comments:

Post a Comment