Thursday, 18 October 2012

Embracing Autumn... and other Life, Death, Life Cycles

The leaves are beginning to rust and rustle, gold and red shells of what was only but months previous, tender and green.
Every season brings it's own wisdom and Autumn is the great teacher of the letting go lesson.
We will all reach an Autumn in our life somehow. Physically, emotionally, spiritually... Maybe one and all.
And like the leaves we will be blown along roads we don't recognise.
We will begin to feel the damp earth beneath us, then surrounding us, then above us.
We will become softer somehow.
Then we will go back to our roots, our core, our own truth. And it will be enough.

autumn 2

autumn 1

autumn 3


Every Autumn brought with it a little death.... And ever Spring a rebirth.

And I began to see that love is not linear, it is cyclical, like a wedding ring.
And I began to see that without the little deaths of those Autumns there could be no re birthing come Springtime.

Autumn and Spring are seasons of transition.

They neither carry the heat of Summer or the bitter frost of Winter yet they hold the key that unlocks both.
In their suspension, the times of transition in life almost always the hardest points.
Just ask a mother in labour. Transition (the time of complete cervical dilation that precedes delivery) is always the most overwhelming point in the birthing process.
Yet it is also the most trans-formative.
It is the very threshold of both the end of one thing and the beginning of something else.

But first comes the letting go.
Only the acceptance of death can embrace the promise of life.

tilly in the autumn leaves

Clarissa Pinkola Estes explores these ideas to a great extent in her analysis of a little known yet potent native Inuit Tale "Skeleton Woman" excerpted from her wonderful "soul epic" "Women Who Run With the Wolves":

"One must face and develop a relationship with the Life/Death/Life nature. When we have that, we are no longer bumbling along fishing for fantasies, but are made wise about the necessary deaths and startling births that create true relationship. When we face Skeleton Woman we learn that passion is not something to go 'get' but rather something generated in cycles and given out. It is Skeleton Woman who demonstrates that a shared living together through all increase and decrease, through all endings and beginnings, is what creates an unparalleled love of devotion.

To understand this story, we have to see that there, in one of the harshest environs and one of the most stressed hunting cultures in the world, love does not mean a flirtation or a pursuit for simple ego-pleasure, but a visible bond composed of the psychic sinew of endurance, a union which prevails through bounty and austerity, through the most complicated and the most simple days and nights. The union of two beings is seen as
angakok magic in itself, as a relationship through which "the powers that be" become known to both individuals.

"But there are requirements for this kind of union. In order to create this enduring love, one invites a third partner to the union. The third partner is Skeleton Woman. She is also called Lady Death, and as such, she is the Life/Death/Life nature in one of her many guises. In this form, Lady Death is not a disease, but a deity."For those who are curious... below is the "whole" story of "Skeleton Woman"

- A Tale of the Inuit -

She had done something of which her father disapproved, although no one any longer remembered what it was. But her father had dragged her to the cliffs and thrown her over and into the sea. There, the fish ate her flesh away and plucked out her eyes. As she lay under the sea, her skeleton turned over and over in the currents.

One day a fisherman came fishing, well, in truth many came to this bay once. But this fisherman had drifted far from his home place and did not know that the local fisherman stayed away, saying this inlet was haunted.

The fisherman's hook drifted down through the water, and caught of all places, in the bones of Skeleton Woman's rib cage. The fisherman thought, "Oh, now I've really got a big one! Now I really have one!" In his mind he was thinking of how many people this great fish would feed, how long it would last, how long he might be free from the chore of hunting. And as he struggled with this great weight on the end of the hook, the sea was stirred to a thrashing froth, and his kayak bucked and shook, for she who was beneath struggled to disentangle herself. And the more she struggled, the more she tangled in the line. No matter what she did, she was inexorably dragged upward, tugged up by the bones of her own ribs.

The hunter had turned to scoop up his net, so he did not see her bald head rise above the waves, he did not see the little coral creatures glinting in the orbs of her skull, he did not see the crustaceans on her old ivory teeth. When he turned back with his net, her entire body, such as it was, had come to the surface and was hanging from the tip of his kayak by her long front teeth.

"Agh!" cried the man, and his heart fell into his knees, his eyes hid in terror on the back of his head, and his ears blazed bright red. "Agh!" he screamed, and knocked her off the prow with his oar and began paddling like a demon toward shoreline. And not realizing she was tangled in his line, he was frightened all the more for she appeared to stand upon her toes while chasing him all the way to shore. No matter which way he zigged his kayak, she stayed right behind, and her breath rolled over the water in clouds of steam, and her arms flailed out as though to snatch him down into the depths.

"Agh!" he wailed as he ran aground. In one leap he was out of his kayak, clutching his fishing stick and running, and the coral white corpse of skeleton woman, still snagged in the fishing line, bumpety-bumped behind right after him. Over the rocks he ran, and she followed. Over the frozen tundra he ran, and she kept right up. Over the meat laid out to dry he ran, cracking it to pieces as his mukluks bore down.

Throughout it all she kept right up, in fact, she grabbed some of the frozen fish as she was dragged behind. This she began to eat, for she had not gorged in a long, long time. Finally, the man reached his snowhouse and dove right into the tunnel and on hands and knees scrabbled his way into the interior. Panting and sobbing he lay there in the dark, his heart a drum, a mighty drum. Safe at last, oh so safe, yes, safe thank the Gods, Raven, yes, thank Raven, yes, and all bountiful Sedna, safe... at...last.

Imagine when he lit his whale oil lamp, there she - it - lay in a tumble upon his snow floor, one heel over her shoulder, one knee inside her rib cage, one foot over her elbow. He could not say later what it was, perhaps the firelight softened her features, or the fact that he was a lonely man... but a feeling of some kindness came into his breathing, and slowly he reached out his grimy hands and using words softly like a mother to child, began to untangle her from the fishing line.

"Oh, na, na, na." First he untangled the toes, then the ankles. "Oh, na, na, na." On and on he worked into the night, until dressing her in furs to keep her warm, Skeleton Woman's bones were all in the order a human's should be.

He felt into his leather cuffs for his flint and used some of his hair to light a little more fire. He gazed at her from time to time as he oiled the precious wood of his fishing stick and rewound the gut line. And she in the furs uttered not a word - she did not dare - lest this hunter take her out and throw her down to the rocks and break her bones to pieces utterly.

The man became drowsy, slid under his sleeping skins, and soon was dreaming. And sometimes as humans sleep, you know, a tear escapes from the dreamer's eye; we never know what sort of dream causes this, but we know it is either a dream of sadness or longing. And this is what happened to the man.

Skeleton Woman saw the tear glisten in the firelight and she became suddenly soooo thirsty. She tinkled and clanked and crawled over to the sleeping man and put her mouth to his tear. The single tear was like a river and she drank and drank and drank until her many-years-long thirst was slaked.

While lying beside him, she reached inside the sleeping man and took out his heart, the mighty drum. She sat up and banged on both sides of it: Bom Bomm!.....Bom Bomm!

As she drummed, she began to sing out "Flesh, flesh, flesh! Flesh, Flesh, Flesh!" And the more she sang, the more her body filled out with flesh. She sang for hair and good eyes and nice fat hands. She sang the divide between her legs, and breasts long enough to wrap for warmth, and all the things a woman needs.

And when she was all done, she also sang the sleeping man's clothes off and crept into his bed with him, skin against skin. She returned the great drum, his heart, to his body, and that is how they awakened, wrapped one around the other, tangled from their night, in another way now, a good and lasting way.

The people who cannot remember how she came to her first ill fortune say she and the fisherman went away and were consistently well fed by the creatures she had known in her life under water. The people say that it is true and that is all they know.


  1. What a beautiful post Suzy. I am so glad you have your happily ever after as I have mine here.xx

  2. Loved this post Suzy. God used it to speak to me. I have been whining in my mind about our children not being perfectly oiled and reacting in a way I want them too.

  3. there is so much here. and it is so amazing. drinking it in... i've come and read three times now, slowly. thank you suzy.

  4. this is so rich, I must come back again tomorrow...this line wrapped around my heart immediately "Sometimes I have to give more of myself away to the soft earth than I had ever imagined." Indeed, when we release our rigidity into the softness, our planted selves can grow.

    Thank you so much for visiting me today:-)

  5. autumn is my fav timeof year...though autumns in life are never easy to walk through...i have been through marriage, in work, in heart as well...but they can bring so much more to our lives as spring is always coming....

  6. "those lasting embers that burn on through a stormy night long enough to warm the morning tea are far more sustaining and easier to bear" I love this in context. A lovely, thought-provoking post all around. Thank you

  7. Rich full post, and a fascinating tale. I love Autumn, holds so much meaning.

  8. suzy, you teach me, and you minister to this weary soul. don't stop, okay? love e.

  9. goodness. google just ate my comment so the gist was yes.... real life autumns are a definite transitioning time and that for one who struggles against change, it's so good that God is constant yet uses the changes to mold us more like him. thank you for sharing the johnson quotes, i'm eager to check that book out. glad i came over from emilys!

  10. Thanks so much for sharing your women (and humans) we go through so many seasons, learning to accept and integrate both the light and shadow in ourselves. I am impressed with the way you are able to put your thoughts into words. Another tale in Estes book that I have learned from is The Handless Maiden. Blessings.

  11. I love the story of "The Handless Maiden" :)

    I have written a little bit about it here

    Robert Johnson does an excellent analysis of the story in his book "The Handless Maiden and the Fisher King"

    Thank you so much for your comment :)

    1. I have only read Robert Johnson's "Inner Work," which deals mostly with dream work, and am interested in reading these other titles you mention. The book where I first became familiar with "The Handless Maiden" is called "Here All Dwell Free: Stories to Heal the Wounded Feminine," by Gertrud Mueller Nelson. It is now out of print, but very well written with lovely illustrations. I also plan to read your writing on the topic! Again, thanks so much for the thoughtful writing on difficult topics. Well done.

  12. i love how you shared the seasons of your life with us suzy. i love how autumn brings with it such death, but that in dying, the world is made new. love you.


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