It started on the first day I noticed the winter chill had broken-at least during the daylight hours-as the cold rushed back in with sunset later that evening. Spring; and with it the stirring of the Lady of Green Death.
I don’t perceive the Monarchs of Death as inherently seasonal, although White Death and Red Death walk with hands held at Samhain time. What they are is abstract and alien and unknowable in terms not translated into myth and metaphor. They don’t speak, because words do not serve them. Their presence is paradoxically both qualia and a fundamental force; a firsthand experience and a law.
On this first temperate day, I had paused on my way to meet a friend to admire a baby seagull. Cute.
I hadn’t gone far when I spotted another; dead in a barren promenade planter. At a glance, it didn’t seem injured or malformed, but perhaps too young to fly. Hit with a pang of melancholy, I didn’t investigate further so I don’t know for sure. I’ve always been fond of seagulls; although most people consider them vermin, silver gulls are a native species and thus protected under the same laws that sanctify eagles. They’re inquisitive, adaptable and boisterous birds. I once sat on the beach at midnight during a terrible cricket plague and watched as the gulls formed a line to drive the insects towards the waves so they could be picked off with ease. A favorite pastime from my childhood was amassing great flocks by feeding them barbeque table scraps on camping trips and leading them around like a beneficent Australian Pied Piper. It’s hard to ignore a bold bird that will steal a sandwich straight out of your hand if you aren’t paying attention. Baby gulls are shy, squeaky and awfully cute, and my young self tried to favour feeding them over the ones too busy posturing to snatch up bits of sausage.
Back in the present, so few steps apart, I recognized the poignancy in the moment.
For every life, there must be a death.
The thin crust of the Earth is like an enormous digestive system, grinding and chewing and renewing itself as it awakens from the sleep of winter, stretches and hungers for sex and nourishment. Usually calm, serene and silent save for the rustle of insects in leaf litter, and the hiss of mushrooms releasing spores, at Beltane the Green Lady pulls like a tide, urgent, insistent. She’s an explosive force pushing out of the ground in a cacophony of orgasmic lust, rain and verdancy.
Many living things take a scattergun approach to reproduction. Plants blast seeds out in all directions knowing not all will land in viable soil. Babies die. Eggs fail to hatch. All are digested back into the biosphere, perhaps to try again in another form. There is a critical moment in which the young must bloom, must hatch, must fly, must stand or take a breath or stretch upwards or they will die. Many do.
Beltane is a crucial point in time, hurtling forward and dangerous with possibility. Now, NOW. NOW!
You can trip and stumble but you must not hesitate. Jump. Awaken. Feel. Live.
Sometimes it’s a choice and sometimes it isn’t. Not everyone will make it.
Now is the time to bloom into our better selves, and let the old rot and nourish us while we still have the chance.