stump feeding new life, with close-up of lichen
I’ve been thinking a lot about the
Life-Death-Life cycle recently.
That’s how Clarissa Pinkola Estes names it in Women Who Run with the Wolves—this ever-regenerating, ever-cycling pattern that permeates the universe and all existence.
It is the energy of the Wild Woman in Estes’ frame—the instinctual upsurging of life that naturally peaks, dwindles, and returns to Source to feed the next upsurging.
It is the cycles of living—we are born and learn through the stages from childhood, adolescence, mothering/fathering, loving, creating—and at the end of each stage, we die to our identification with that stage and move into the next, growing into new life.
It is the cycles of the seasons—from the new growth of Spring to the vibrant, flourishing of Summer and to the falling, waning and drawing in of Fall, and into Winter, where things return to rest, to compost, to mysteriously and ultimately be reformed into new life.
As a species, we experience this cycle on a macrocosmic level.
Our human life story starts way back with the big bang 13.8 billion years ago. And the death of stars led to the creation of the planets, Earth among them, with conditions that supported life to grow.
Our ancestors—from first amoebic life forms through fish to mammal to ape to proto-humans and including indigenous peoples today—live(d) WITH Eairth.**
Their lifeways honored and respected Eairth, not taking more than they gave, living in such a way that Eairth’s elements of air, fire, wind, and earth were not harmed. In this way life, for all Eairth, not just humans, could flourish.
It’s hard to say exactly when it first started, but as far back as settled agriculture, we can see how humans begin to take more than we returned to Eairth. And since then, especially with the Industrial Revolution, this unsustainable pattern has continued rapidly.
While it may look like humans are flourishing—and we certainly are manifesting the creativity of the universe in all the innovations and developments our minds have been able to discover and create—we have exceeded the carrying capacity of our own planet home.
We see this in the death that is happening all around us—from melting glaciers, to more and more extinctions, to climate chaos.
Our planet, and all her inhabitants are moving into the Death part of the Life-Death-Life cycle.
That means that we, the human species that caused this to happen, are moving into this cycle, too.
In Estes’ language, we must call on our inner Wild Woman to help us through.
She knows how to return to our roots.
She knows how to navigate death as part of the greater arc of life.
She knows that with death comes loss—necessary loss:
- Loss of human-centered ways of living
- Loss of the excess we think we need to live
- Loss of the hyper-individualistic orientation we think is normal
- Loss of our too-busy-to-practice or connect attitude that keeps all of this going.
Just like the blizzards in St. Paul where we used to live, when our neighborhood came together to shovel each other out from under 2 feet of snow, these Death times can bring us together again.
The goodness of our human nature can be cultivated and practiced.
We can invest more in meaningful relationships, in community building.
We can return to participation with our more-than-human brothers and sisters and find ways to get into right relationship of respect and honoring.
We can consume less, reforest, clean up our messes, and help to restore any amount of balance possible.
And, ultimately, as Wild Woman knows, as Eairth’s seasons know,
We have to move through Death for there to be new life,
for Spring to come again.
We don’t know what will survive, but Life will have its way. Spring will return with new life in some form, in some way…
How will we navigate these intense times of the Death cycle?
** Eairth = Earth and Air