Death of a Staghorn

We celebrate Birth and Life.

We avert our eyes from Death and Dying.

We see life in Kodachrome.

We see Death in monochrome.

Staghorn-Baby-Dead-I

 After the recent freeze,

I went into the garden on a mission to study death and dying

in the plant life there.

I made many photographs of what I saw.

I want to share the death of the Staghorn here.

Staghorn-Leaf-Frozen

After the frost,

The Staghorn anchor leaves changed from tender green

to silver and gold in the sun.

Staghorn-Fern-Leaves-Frost

The Staghorn was but an ephemera on the continuum

from stardust to stardust.

Her death a minuscule marker for those who came

before and those who will come after.

Freeze-Morning-II

When we banish the Fear Lizard

and view death through our spirit lens,

we see the nuance of color in death as in life.

Staghorn-RAW

This image is as I saw it.

In death, too,

There is noise. There is darkness.  There is light.  

There is color.

Staghorn-End-Stage

In the end, when the leaves are shrunken, gnarled, twisted and dried

their essence is visible in their structure.

As I observed them through the lens

I was surprised and astounded by the transformation.

When they were green and broad and healthy,

 the veins in their leaves were visible against the sun.

But they were only green leaves with a faint silver cover.

As I watched them die,

I understood the complex transience of life

And the incredible beauty of death.

sun-drenched

For what is it to die but to stand naked in the wind

and to melt into the sun?

~Khalil Gibran

Note:  Re-posted from January, 2014  (A favorite post that I wanted to share again.)

49 Comments on “Death of a Staghorn

  1. Thanks for your beautiful pictures and comments. It surprised me that I learned a better way to live in the process of dying. For me it has been a process of letting go. I no longer have to work at solving life’s big problems. I just enjoy every moment, i loved a comment that we die a way we have lived. I believe that is true. i have lived with gusto and enthusiasm, and I’m dying the same way. Thanks again.

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    • Hi, Switt. When I look at the Reader (which if infrequent now), I am amazed by your wonderful photography! And to think that I thought of you as a maker of flies! I must have sensed something very creative about you since I bothered to follow a fisherman! Chuckle… My gut instinct was right. I’m supposed to be dead by now, you know, but for some odd reason, it didn’t work out! Chuckle… Thank you for always coming by to cheer me on and make me feel good! Bless you, Switt!

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  2. Ah George, The Wise Woman of Texas, you remind us of life in all of of its transitions. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and creations in my travels of the virtual world of the 21st century. We are all time travellers here. 🙂

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    • Yes, and our stay here is short. We should celebrate all stages of life from birth to death. We must stop hiding our dying and turning away from death. We cheat ourselves of the great beauty in the death of our elderly. We no longer listen or want to hear. That is sad. I think this must change one family at the time. Our children learn what we teach by our own behaviors and attitudes. I never saw a dying person who had fear in his eyes. I saw dying people who longed to be surrounded by loving family and were denied that final comfort. We pay a tremendous price for that attitude. Thank you, Joseph. You have been very good to me always, and I appreciate that more than you can imagine! 🙂

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    • Hey, Golden Girl. Thank you. I’m happy that you enjoyed her death as much as I did. There is a beauty in death that we often miss because we turn away. Charlie watched his pops sicken and die. He saw his body after death. He listened to Pops talk to him the night before he died. He understands that death is part of life and that there is no fear in death. We talked about my own death and he understood, accepted it, and is not afraid. Children learn what we teach by our behaviors and our attitudes. We must change our avoidance of death and dying. We must stop turning away and hiding. That is the source of much suffering for the dying and for the survivors. We can only do this one family at the time. I am hopeful that our attitudes will eventually become realistic and accepting of the deaths of our elders. And we can celebrate again in the old ways.

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    • Thanks, Ole! I watched the death of the staghorn fern with a great deal of interest and a fascination for the beauty of it. I’m happy that you enjoyed the images as much as I did. 🙂

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    • Death is simply a part of life, Scott. We should teach our children to accept and to celebrate the death of their elders as a beautiful end to life. We should never hide illness or death from them. Early death is tragic. The death of old people is natural and can be a transformation sort of thing for families. Thank you, Scott. I hope you are well and happy in your new home! 🙂

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    • I have no idea what death means in your culture. In mine, it is avoided like a plague. People fear death, deny it for themselves and hide it from their children. That is a horrible mistake. Charlie watched his pops sicken and die. He saw his body before it was taken away for cremation. We talked about his death and we talked about my own death. He understands and accepts. Children should be taught that death is a part of life that should be celebrated. There is nothing to fear about death. The dying want to be surrounded by those who care about them. They want to talk about their impending deaths. They want to be accepted and included in the family. Not hidden away in a sterile hospital surrounded by strangers to die. It is very sad in my country. I hope it is more traditional in yours. And, yes, there is beauty in death as there is in life. death should be celebrated as is birth. Talk about it to your children in a matter-of-fact way that does not frighten them. You, with your sensitivity and perception will do this well. Thank you, Celestine.

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  3. We so rarely talk of death as being something real…a part of life. Thank you for being courageous enough to talk about it so honestly and with such beauty. The dying does have shape, depth, color, meaning, and form–it is life transforming. To what? Well, we will all eventually know, won’t we? My heart is with yours, George… ❤

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    • Thanks, Lorna. There is a movement underway to change our attitude towards death, but it won’t happen in my lifetime or probably in yours. Attitudes are programmed by families into their children. Most families protect their children from dying and even from death. That is sad. There is a beauty in death and in the celebration of it. I recall a time when families chose to keep their dead at home. People still came and sat with the dead until the funeral. Their attitudes were accepting and normal. People exchanged stories about the deceased, ate and drank in a communal sort of way that no longer exists. Dean did not want anyone to know that he was sick and did not want his death even to be announced. He thought the whole hoopla about funerals was fake and obligatory. He hated it. I did have a short notice published by the funeral home saying there would be no public funeral at the wish of the deceased. People did not like that and rejected me for it. The only reason I did it was so that Kelli would not have to answer questions about her dad’s death. Anybody who cared would have discovered his absence for the year that it took for him to die. And he knew it. Few people asked where he was and then blamed me for not telling them that he was dying. What I said was, “Where did you think he was?” That didn’t play well either. Chuckle… Yes, death is simply a part of life as is birth and should be celebrated as such when the person is “old enough to die”. Early death is tragic. At my age, it’s okay. A sort of blessing that saves me from the debility and dependence of very old age. I feel very fortunate. Does it matter what the transformation is? Not to me. I have seen a number of old people die. But, I’ve never seen fear in their eyes. We should revere the aged and celebrate their lives at their deaths. We cheat ourselves by hiding from death. You always understand, Lorna. You will die well as you have lived well. 🙂

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      • Thanks for that thoughtful and gracious response, George. I will treasure it. I do not fear death and wish more people would see it as a natural transformation of energy. But that is not where they are in their journey. I’m happy that you are where you are in your journey. Our souls will meet one day and we will smile. I know it. 🙂

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    • Thanks, Robin. I’m happy that you felt as I did when I watched her dry and shrivel to her essence. There was something magical about it. There was a time when I would not have noticed. When you know that your time here really is fixed, something inside of you changes. You become very calm and life slows enough for you to see what has eluded you before when you were busy living. There is beauty in death, peace and beauty. I hope society returns to seeing death in a more reasonable way. I have watched a number of people die, and I can tell you that I never once saw fear in their eyes. I saw a calmness and a peace that transformed them. Thank you for your sensitivity and understanding.

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    • Now, which Valerie am I listening to here? When you realize that your time here is fixed, something inside of you changes to appreciate death and the beauty of it. Thank you. I’m happy that you understood.

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    • Thank you Carissa. That’s precisely what dying people want. Somebody to simply sit and listen. You are incredibly sensitive. Most young people do not understand that. Bless you, Child!

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  4. Gibhran’s words never fail to move me. But I love the profound simplicity in your words and your images equally George. Thank you.

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    • Thank you, Madhu! Sorry it took so long to respond. I had a couple of nasty infections and then got food poisoning (for the first time in my life). It was an odd bacteria that caused me to pass out and hit the slate floor on my old head! That produced a concussion. I slept for most of two weeks and have little memory of it. I’m finally okay, I think. Perhaps, you can’t kill me with a hammer since I’m supposed to be dead already. Chuckle… The same thing happened to two of my young friends! Both of them lost consciousness suddenly too without warning. One poor guy passed out in the aisle of a store! Anyway, I’m okay now or as okay as my old brain is gonna’ get. You know, something changes inside of you when you know that your time here really is fixed. You begin to view life and death very differently. I watched the fern with a great deal of interest and appreciation as she died. I found her death to be beautiful. We should celebrate death. I’m afraid we hide from it, and that is sad. You have no idea how much your words mean to me, Madhu. Thank you from the bottom of my old heart! 🙂

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  5. Such a deeply personal offering, George. I love your photos and often feel that a dead or one on the way our is at it’s most tender and beautiful. There is a certain translucency within that I think is stunning in more ways than one. Be well, dear heart. xo

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    • Thank you L’Adelaide! You are always so very kind. I watched a number of people die in my life, but I never saw fear in the eyes of any of them. I think it is suffering that people fear. Not death. And, you are right. There is a certain translucency about it. We become the essence of ourselves. I find the idea very comforting. And I did so enjoy watching the drying fern. There was a time in my life when I would have paid no attention and found a dying fern to be ugly. Something inside of us changes as we age and begin the final journey, I think.

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  6. This one of my favorite posts! Stunning still in photos and words. Perfect quote at the end. I hope to turn away from the darkness and go toward the sun! Peace and love to you, George!

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    • Thanks, Jo Nell. I think we choose how we die. And, I think we die much as we lived. At least, that’s been my observation throughout the years of experience with death and dying. What I do know is that I have never seen a person die who appeared to be afraid at the end. We all hope we can leave gracefully! Good luck, George! Chuckle…

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    • Rob! I had one helluva hard time. I had two infections, and then got food poisoning, of all things. It hit suddenly, and I passed out in the dark kitchen. Hit my head on everything in sight on the way down apparently! I had a bad concussion. Finally, when I came around, I had no idea where I was, but I was lying on the slate floor in a pool of very cold vomitus maximus. Apparently, I’d been there for some time. I felt waves of nausea and the room began to spin, but I had a chat with the old woman and convinced her that she had to stand up, so she did. I staggered to the living room somehow and called Kelli. The rest is a blank. I mostly slept for a couple of weeks! I feel much better now. Glad you enjoy the dying staghorn fern. I did too. There was a time when I would have paid no attention and would have thrown it out. Something has changed. I watched with great interest as it withered and died. A beautiful sight. Thanks, Rob!

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  7. Wonderful thoughts and images, George, just wonderful. And, yes, Kodachrome and Monochrome, tho here in England there are (very!) slight hints of that attitude changing from the Victorian attitudes we are still stuck in, eg the wearing of funeral blacks. And, absolutely, the continuum from stardust to stardust – there is no more basic truth. Texas has been having bad weather – I hope very much that you’re ok. As always, love from me, my dear friend! Adrian xxx

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    • Sorry it took so long for me to answer, Adrian. I had a couple of infections and got food poisoning, of all things, and passed out in a dark kitchen. I came around sometime later and had no idea where I was. It was a bad concussion we’re guessing because I refused a CT scan. There was nothing to be done anyway, but it took a fairly long time for me to recover my balance and get my head straight. Or as straight as it’s gonna’ get. 😉 I find that I still have trouble concentrating on tasks and I am not very motivated. I slept for most of two weeks, walked with a walker (of all things) and was feeling off balance for a long time. But, I suppose you can’t kill me with a hammer, huh? I’m supposed to be dead already, but it doesn’t appear that’s going to happen for a long time. Thanks for always caring, Adrian. I was looking at the beautiful book of images you sent just the other day. I do so appreciate that. You have no idea! 🙂

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      • George, its exceedingly good to hear from you, my dear, even though you’ve been through some rough times – its simply good to know that you’re hanging on in there! I very much realise what an effort just doing ordinary things must be, but “whenever you feel like sending me even a sentence, it will be my pleasure to read it!”!!!!! Just take very good care of yourself, my dear friend. Love from me. Adrian xxx

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  8. Thanks for re sharing this lovely post. You are lovely in dying as well. That sounds very odd to say in a comment, but I trust you know what I mean and take it to heart in a loving way.

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    • Of course, I always understand what you say, Linda. And I agree. There is much to celebrate in death. We simply miss it. There was a time when I would have missed this death and thrown out the fern. Something inside of me has changed. I watched it dry with a great deal of fascination and curiosity. I found it to be beautiful in death as it was in life. The next spring I was about to discard it for a new one when I saw the tiniest of leaves emerging from the base. Now, it has grown back. I find that symbolic in some way. Thanks, Linda.

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    • Thank you, sweet Nia! Yes, death in the garden fascinates me too. Once upon a time, I paid no attention and would have thrown out the dried up fern, but I enjoyed watching with great interest as it changed. It grew back the next spring. I could hardly believe it. 🙂

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    • Thank you so much! I loved watching that staghorn fern as it dried. It recovered very slowly the next spring. I was about to throw it out when I say a tiny base leaf appear so I left it alone. I couldn’t believe that it came back! 🙂

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