Wednesday, November 02, 2011



And this day it looks me in the eye.  A fresh cougar track, only a stone's throw from my door, hinted at what was to come

Then this:  Drag marks----I follow them--

To this! A cougar kill.
I look death in the eye---let it speak to me.

Death likely came upon it while it slept---grasp it by its throat. (The words of Livingston are somewhat comforting here---He was mauled by a lion in Africa and was rescued.  He later reported that the incident while occuring was painless and that he watched with curiosity--not fear or horror at what was happening to him) 
Of course the whole campground is now abuzz ---  I show my neighbors---We all want to acquaint ourselves with death. Authorities are notified---warning signs are posted .
This was a close call---the cougar could have gotten me or one of these kids walking about.
I use the occasion to reflect on close calls---How thrilling to approach the "dangerous edge"---how just the previous week I deliberately camped on the very edge of this canyon--for some mysterious reason. 

I remember considering this particular spot as a possible suicide place---when the time comes.  Only about 3 seconds of terror---then blessed oblivion. I quickly rejected it as an unseemly burden on those who must come get the body. I will find a better spot --- to vanish.
Kids experiencing the thrill of near death---a 50 foot fall into Lake Heron, NM.
RANDY PHILOSOPHIZES:Life seems especially sweet after close calls---or perhaps just having a look at a death. I have deliberately risked my life a few times:  I jumped a blowhole on the Oregon coast once---and another time leaped a crevasse with a hundred foot drop---felt exhilerated afterwards.  Neither was any great feat---I just felt drawn to do it.  Once I went about a quarter mile into an abandoned mine and In louisiana I paddled into a pitch black swamp---my heart raced---and then soon calmed down---and fear went away.  I think all these experiences somehow blend into a larger truth about death putting urgency and even meaning into life. Victor Frankel's book, "Man's Search for Meaning" says that holocaust survivors emerged with an enhanced  joy of just being alive.  And Thoreau said: Living is so dear.
Once, I was camped with the WIN's ( in the desert near Apache Junction when rattlesnakes emerged from hibernation.  They were everywhere in our camp--under rigs---under doorsteps.  IT WAS WONDERFUL-- everyone was on high alert---discussions were animated---laughter and aliveness filled the campground. Life seemingly had more meaning with death at our doorstep.


Wayne (Wirs) said...

Life opens up and tastes sooo much sweeter when you make friends with Death (as you noted with your rattlesnake story). You lose almost all fear when you lose the fear of Death.

Sadly Death is practically taboo to talk of in our society, yet so important to contemplate if we really want to experience Life.

Glad you posted this, Randy.

Tesaje said...

Interesting about Dr. Livingston not feeling pain. More current research has revealed the power of endorphins as a pain killer. Perhaps the brutality of nature in getting predators a meal is mediated by the flood of endorphins to act as an antithestic.

It also appears that as our lives become more and more safe, many people are driven to take more and more foolish risks to get that excitement. There is something in that emotional rush of successfully conquering a real risk. Not so much in failing to do so... As always, its a balancing act.

butterbean said...

Howdy Randy,
Aren't you glad you didn't have to go to the potty outside in the dark?
Rattlesnakes are not scary, if you understand them, except when coming out of hibernation!!! Cougars don't have very strong jaws, so, they have to 'choke' their kills.. Good pics
of a cougar-kill.. Hope you continue
to have: Smooth roads, clear blue skies & balmy ?breezes?!!! (in Mew Nexico??)

Anonymous said...

Your explanation about why you did not kill yourself is oh so human ("I didn't want someone to have to clean up"). I have been in that exact place before with a shotgun to my lips. Some kind of (not so)silly fear prevented me from plunging into the abyss.

The abyss is nothingness. A dark sleep from which one never awakes. Take the lively air my friend, and go where you have to go.

hobopals said...

I once calmed one of my children's fear of death by asking her if she remembered before she was born and whether she missed me before she was born. Of course, she said, "No." So, I told her, "That's what death is." The only people who hurt are those who are left behind.

Glad I found. You through "To Simplify..."

Mary Matzek said...

Hi Randy,
I nearly drowned twice. Each time my brain accepted death calmly, without fear. I was grateful I made it, but didn't feel any particular euphoria or sweetness for life over and above what was normal. I felt lucky. But, looking back on those two close calls, I'm very appreciative for my life. And, the thought of my own death bothers me, not over much. Just, that endings can be gruesome or smooth. I hope for smooth and not to live beyond my ability to enjoy life. I guess that is why I'm a fan of assisted suicide.

the_Wanderer said...

The "endorphins" or the spiritual equivalent protect us from pain, and fear. The battlefield speaks from experience.

Andy said...

Sitting in the ICU hospital room holding my ex-wife Tania's hand a few minutes after she died September 1st...

Bringing her body to the house for ritual and friends' visiting...

Driving her shroud-wrapped to the cemetery and lowering her coffin-less into her grave, then shoveling dirt into the hole and covering her....

....makes death more real.

Randy said...

Thank you Andy for sharing this with us, In the 30 or so years I've known you, You've always been on the cutting edge of things----and this enlightened, humane, handling of Tania's remains is no exception. I hope the whole world will find its way to such a simple, hands-on goodbye.