Don’t Hide the Dead

You see this army of dead sunflowers? It’s powerful, isn’t it? Death is powerful. It shakes us. It feels eerie. It’s supposed to — because we are alive and death is…. not alive? Well, we are not quite opposites, are we? After all, one would not exist without the other. But that’s too deep for an opening paragraph. So, let’s take a walk in the park first.

Obsessively maintained parks that don’t have bent or crooked stems, not a single patch of wilted flowers and no horizontal trees that will not bloom come spring, are furthering our sanitization of death. Doing all we can to hide the differently abled, ill, and aging, in lieu of creating a society that is endlessly inspired to produce, is truly embedded to the point where we can’t even take a stroll or have a lunch break in an environment that does not show us perfection, furthering our white-culture standards.

It’s natural for humans to want to adjust to their environment to “fit in.” If you find yourself accidentally walking through the queen’s palace one day, for example, likely, you’ll sit up a little straighter — even if you didn’t have time to change clothes or take a shower. Even if you do not adjust your posture, you’ll most likely recognize that you are not quite like the rest of the groomed individuals walking around. It feels good to “fit in” and it can feel awkward, painful, or infuriating to not fit in.

Super groomed public parks do not allow a tulip to grow amongst the roses. No, no, how did that get there? Remove it at once.

Overly groomed parks do not allow the lilies to creep beyond their place. Get the edger.

Obsessively groomed parks don’t allow plants to go to seed. This entire patch is dead. Clear it before the birds start gathering the seeds for winter.

Ridiculously maintained parks clear the natural mulch of fallen leaves to replace it with treated store-bought mulch. These multi-colored decaying leaves are unsightly. Get the uniform mulch. This year, let’s use the red dyed one instead of the black dyed one.

You know what happens when an old, giant, tree falls in a park and it is not immediately removed? People stand around to look at it. Strangers sitting next to each other on a bench comment to one another, “What a shame. That was such a magnificent old oak.” Because many trees far outlive humans, old folks reminisce looking at the fallen tree, noting that it was ancient — even when they were little it was ancient — and they recall playing under it. People who have never been to that park before, stop to look at the end that has been upended with all of its dangling tangle of soil and roots…. someone may pull out a magnifying glass. The birds come to take a look and pluck the grubs and worms from the exposed ground. The children gather to play around it, on it and in it — they may even get soiled. *gasp*

Pft. We can’t have any of that now, can we?

In general, do people want to see dead stuff? Do they want to wander past something decaying and say, “Iwww! What’s that smell?” I’m not sure. But I can tell you, that they *should* want that.

If you only ever smelled roses the scent of rose would lose its appeal- there would be no contrast to compare it to. If you only see things that are lively and healthy and perfect and young, you forget that life fleeting and that you, yourself, will one day die — along with all of your loved ones.

We need parks that show the full cycle of life just as we need misshapen vegetables in the market alongside the “perfect” ones. We need to see the wilted flowers amongst the fresh, and parks should not be immediately cleaned up after a storm. The broken branches and flooded phlox should be seen by the community. Dying and death should not be hidden.

We like to pretend that youth, and beauty, and vitality and life are the most powerful. But they are not. Dying, death and decay are equally as powerful, but they are no longer beneficial to a society that prizes money over all else. With life, one can produce and therefore be valuable to our productive society. In dying, we are reminded that we will soon no longer matter, or possess anything of value.

Ahhhh, but that is not true, is it? Anyone who has been shaken by death knows this. Death is fertile ground. Death shatters our ego and breaks us open so we remember that LOVE is the most precious and valuable. That’s right — we remember, because we all know this in our secret nesting.

#ungroomourparks #lifecycleparks #donthidethedead

For more on this topic read, “Growth Rings: Ancestral Tree Meditations & End of Life Guided Journal” published in October 2021

Author of Death Nesting and Ancient Death Doula Series. Feeding Your Demons Facilitator. Community Deathcare teacher. Mama of three. www.annemariekeppel.com