Tag Archives: death

Stand Up Guy

With yet another new research fragment drawing us toward the conclusion that sitting is a hazard, I urged Trail Baboon Poet Laureate Schuyler Tyler Wyler to take up his pen to write an anti-sitting poem.

STW wrote back immediately to say that he was “offended.” As a Serious Poet, he does not produce doggerel on newsy topics for the purpose of entertainment. He argued that he finds nothing inspirational in sports medicine research, and besides, if the latest data is correct my request that he write a poem is essentially a demand that he shorten his life, since creating poetry is one of the sitting professions.

I told him to try writing standing up, but he answered with a firm declaration that such a thing is simply impossible. “It takes intense concentration and focus to create a work of genius.” He said “Having to remember to keep my balance will dull the edge of inspiration.”

STW noted that great poets, like Billy Collins and Charles Wright, have already written on the topic, and their work is unabashedly pro-sitting. How could he contradict people he respects and maintain his integrity?

I answered with an assurance that the audience for this blog is very close to zero, so his reputation will not suffer. And “a work of genius” is never required for a mere blog post. I suggested that if he felt stuck, he could give himself a head start by stealing the work of someone else, like the wooden-legged Welsh poet W.H. Davies.

Then I offered him $50 to drop the complaints and get me something within the hour. He thanked me and got to work.

A person can stay trim and fit,
As long as they can’t stand to sit.
So learn a lesson from the cows.
Take to your field in stately rows
to watch the world before you pass.
and never plop down on your grass.
Your buns will become firm and tight.
Your frame will thin, your face will light
With other benefits. Perchance –
much longer-lasting seats of pants.
And if you’re standing like a crop,
when death arrives, there’s room to drop.
But have them stand you up again,
for vertical internment‘s in.
Upon your narrow tombstone fit
these words: “He couldn’t stand to sit.”

What’s your favorite type of chair?

A Ceremonial Send-Off

Today’s guest post comes from Renee Boomgaarden, known as Renee in North Dakota.

A couple of weeks ago, husband and I were invited to a ceremony that a Native American friend organized to commemorate the fourth anniversary of his mother’s death. Our friend is Arikara, a member of the Three Affiliated Tribes (Mandan, Hidatsa, Arikara) who live on the Ft. Berthold Reservation in western North Dakota.

The ceremony took place in Bismarck while our friend was camping at the United Tribes Technical College Pow wow. It was conducted by Eric, a Lakota Indian from the Pine Ridge Reservation. He is our Arikara friend’s spiritual advisor. Eric explained that the Native American period of mourning lasts four years, and the purpose of the ceremony was to set free the mother’s spirit and bring her children out of the mourning world.

Our friend and his five siblings lined up by the camper and we observers sat across from them. A plate of food and a glass of water for the mother’s journey into the next world was set on a nearby table. The ceremony began with all present getting smudged with cedar smoke, fanned on us out of a shell with a leather-bound bunch of eagle feathers. Eric then stood between us and the siblings and directed two Lakota traditional singers to sing the song to help the mother’s spirit leave this world and travel to the next. He said prayers in Lakota to the four winds/directions. Then he brushed each of the siblings head to toe with the eagle feathers and wiped under each of their eyes with his fingers to remove any tears.

Eric then directed the singers to start the Song of Welcoming, to welcome our friend and his siblings out of the world of mourning into our world. Each sibling was given a taste of corn meal and a drink of water. We observers very formally shook hands with each of the siblings while Eric said another Lakota prayer. We then sat down to a potluck supper, the oldest person going through the line first.

Everyone mourns in their own way and in their own time. Our friend was very happy at the conclusion of the ceremony, surrounded by friends and family, sharing a meal, at peace.

Describe a ceremony that gives you comfort.

A Polluter’s Lament

Featured Image taken by Dori (dori@merr.info)

Last week’s White House National Climate Assessment was remarkably blunt about the reality of our situation – that we are already experiencing the effects of an environmental shift.

For some of us in the baby boom generation who have been following this issue for a long time, this comes as a surprising development. Yes, we had heard that our habits of consumption were contributing to a potential catastrophe, but it always felt our role was simple – to create the problem and then to start a conversation about how later generations would face it and solve it.

Sorry about the mess, guys. Good luck!

Now this latest report seems to suggest the we are not going to be able to skip out on the check after all. Any chance I can go back and un-drive all those miles and un-click all those switches that let the power flow?

I didn’t think so. Would a poem of atonement help? I asked Trail Baboon sing-song poet laureate Tyler Schuyler Wyler to write one up, and he agreed because every stanza could include a reference to death – his favorite subject.

The warming fields and rising seas
The melting ice and dying trees
The drying lakes that will not freeze
This all has come up by degrees.

We’d heard it was a thing to dread.
And by our habits it was sped.
But also was it often said,
It won’t get bad ’til we are dead.

But now they say it has arrived!
Not something still to be derived
for our descendants to survive.
It came while we are still alive!

Our sadness, is, of course, profound.
For glacial ice now in the sound
and forest creatures elsewhere bound,
and us, that we remain around.

What have you witnessed that you thought you would never get to see?

Is There Cheese After Life?

Archaeologists have determined that a mummy entombed 3,600 years ago was adorned with lumps of cheese – apparently to give her something to enjoy in the next world.

I can see why this woman’s custodians wanted to send her packing with a few tasty morsels. What is there to look forward to in a bring-your-own-cheese afterlife? Not much, I would guess. Sounds pretty cheap.

What’s amazing is that the deceased person in question, the so-called “Beauty of Xiaohe”, is so well preserved after 3,600 years. The New York Times described the burial location as being in a “terrifying desert”. The name of the place, Taklamakan, is said to mean “go in and you won’t come out.”

I’d think anyone would be relieved to check out of such an arid wasteland. But something doesn’t seem right. Now that the Beauty of Xiaohe is closing in her fourth millennium of mummydom, why hasn’t she gotten around to eating her snacks? When I set out on a long trip, I pretty much empty the goodie bag in the first hour and wind up hitting every rest stop afterwards. To leave the fromage unmolested for so long shows admirable restraint, and qualifies The Beauty of * for a poem or a nursery rhyme of some sort.

Naturally I chose the one that ends with cheese.

In the original, which is (inexplicably) about a farmer trapped in a computer (a Dell), the verses gradually have his estate acquire a wife, a child, a nurse, a cow, a dog, a cat, a mouse, and finally, the only prize any dead person truly cares about – cheese. This one is only slightly different.

The mummy doesn’t smell
The mummy doesn’t smell
Heigh-ho the derry-oh,
The mummy doesn’t smell.

The mummy lost her life. (2x)
Heigh-ho the derry-oh …

Her life wasn’t mild.(2x)
Heigh-ho the derry-oh …

It could have been worse. (2x)
Heigh-ho the derry-oh …

We’re looking at her now. (2x)
Heigh-ho the derry-oh …

And we are all agog. (2x)
Heigh-ho the derry-oh …

She has no body fat. (2x)
Heigh-ho the derry-oh …

Her tomb is like a house. (2x)
Heigh-ho the derry-oh …

The house has some cheese. (2x)
Heigh-ho the derry-oh …

The oldest cheese we’ve known.
The oldest cheese we’ve known.
Heigh-ho the derry-oh,
The oldest cheese we’ve known!

What food would you want to be buried with?

Death Complaint Haiku

My apologies, Baboons, for the absence of a fresh post yesterday. I mis-entered some information in the WordPress machinery and my tidbit languished, waiting to launch at 5:41 pm rather than its usual time at 2 am. This allowed for an extended conversation of Spring gardening plans, which turned out to be exactly the right topic for baboons to discuss on a snowy Tuesday.

The snafu also led to some speculation that I had met an early demise, which is certainly within the realm of possibility, but thankfully it was not true this time. As a human living on Earth, I have noted with chagrin the vast number and variety of possible exits from this life – most of them unpleasant and all of them unjust.

And yet, some days it seems like the universe wants to find memorable ways to demonstrate that it is inherently unfair, causing innocent people lose their lives in unfortunate accidents. I am reminded of this by the astounding case of Mr. Jeff Bush of Seffner, Florida.

Last Thursday, he climbed into his bed only to have a sinkhole open right beneath him. What are the chances?

Bush’s brother attempted a rescue as the bedroom was collapsing, but it was not to be. First responders looked and listened for a sign that the victim was still alive in the hole, but no signal was received. Authorities have determined the body to be “unrecoverable”, due to the awkward logistics of these unexpected openings in the porous limestone that undergirds Florida and several other states.

There are no “good” ways to go and every loss is a tragedy. But this one seems particularly capricious. In fact, an aggrieved person would be justified in lodging a complaint at the Pearly Gates. Though with so many new arrivals having legitimate gripes, a word limit on the appeals would be wise, no doubt.

Could you put it in a haiku?

I had just started
“Now I lay me down to sleep”
What was your hurry?

Piano movers
really shouldn’t text while they
are holding the rope.

Never listen when
any photographer says
“Take one more step back”

Other times I ate
identical sandwiches
they slid down just fine.

In retrospect that
pricey, stable stepladder
was a better buy.

That locomotive
was slower than my Harley.
Timing is crucial.

Speaking of timing, later might be way too late. Better write yours now.