Bones / by Hayden Michelle

The other day I was greeted by a knock on the door, with an invitation by my neighbor to go “bone hunting” with her on her family property.  This may sound odd, but for me, it gave my heart a leap, because I immediately felt known and loved!  We have lived in the country for 9 years, and have been fortunate to be surrounded by amazing neighbors, who have slowly come to understand and even appreciate (with raised eyebrows and slight smiles) our often outside-the-box nature.  I jumped at the chance, as did my 2 sons, and we piled into her ATV to go explore land that has been in her family for generations, and has only been recently made accessible.  As this family raises cattle as part of their livelihood, we watch countless cows roam, and witness their new calves grazing the hillsides, often stopping to nurse from their mothers.  Sharing our land for them to graze has brought experiences of closeness that we never would have had when living in the city, and with it, a deeper affection for the beauty and docile nature of these creatures.

So to embark on an adventure to seek out the bones of these once living beings, was a bit on the other end of the spectrum, but on the same continuum, none the less.  We crossed the creek and drove to the top of one of the remote hills, and took in the view that surrounded the long-empty barns and lone chimney, a symbol of the hearth of the home that once stood there, housing their family in generations before.  Trees had grown around the chimney on either side, providing support and framing it in a cathedral-like manner.  I stood in quiet awe, imagining the family life that centered around this pillar of stone, the warmth of the fire that must have sustained the family many a night almost palpable.

{Imagine serene photos of the decrepit chimney surrounded by trees here,  as well as some macro shots of the crumbling brick, intrepid plants that grew between the cracks, and images of the light that fell between the barn slats and warmed the dirt floor. littered with formations of bones.. Unfortunately, I accidentally deleted most of the pics of this day, and the rain has left that area inaccessible for the time being.   So, imagination caps, please!}

When we began exploring the land surrounding the homestead, I could see patches of white dotting the landscape, nestled down in the grass, and discovered bone after bone (it was a bit like the best-ever Easter egg hunt, only these treasures had been there for years).  There were concentrations of bones under certain trees, high up on this hill, and I wondered if the cows knew something about dying close to the skies.  They seemed to take a bit of shelter from the trees and the decaying barn, and I was reminded of their innate ability to find protection and comfort where they could.  I wondered if they died alone, or with others from their herd nearby them, and the starkness and reality of death as part of life was so apparent.  As I picked up each discovered bone, I connected to the sacred energy that is part of the life we all share.  I felt honored to be able to collect these bones in hopes of giving new life to them by bringing out the art inherent in their beautiful and interesting forms, hoping that if the animals had any awareness at all, that they would have given their permission for this taking.

I thought also, of the loss of my mother, my father, and those that I have known that have already left this world, and how their involvement in my life has left its imprint, full of lessons that will continue to teach me.  I felt longing for their physical presence, and offered my gratitude to them for the gifts they gave.  We were exploring this very dynamic over the last couple days as I helped lead a healing arts retreat… how the family patterns influence who we become, and how we use these experiences to continue to grow, heal, change, and raise our own families and define our own sense of self.  I was connected with compassion for the difficulties that are part of each person’s life, as well as the blessings, and reminded how interconnected they are as I worked alongside others making mobiles to represent this interconnectedness, a tremendous privilege. 

(excuse these rough photos... had to use what I had left on my memory card, and was reminded that it is the essence of our work that is most important!  Hopefully, the gist comes through all the same :)).

(excuse these rough photos... had to use what I had left on my memory card, and was reminded that it is the essence of our work that is most important!  Hopefully, the gist comes through all the same :)).

It made me smile this morning as I was pondering this, realizing how much making the mobiles was like finding these bones that once roamed-- imagining how they will remain unmistakable in the foundation of their new iterations, yet bring a fresh beauty and depth to their surface.  I realized that is a wish for us all… to keep strong the many parts of our core, while being open to new growth, evolution, and possibility that emerge as we continue through life.  And, of course, the hope that our transformed beings are loved and appreciated by the other cows we cross on the path…

[Update:  Since this highly successful expedition, I have had several knocks on my door, with farming neighbors standing in my doorway, new bones to add to my collection in hand, and proud (bemused?) smiles on their faces... and have even been stopped as I drove down our long hill, stopping the car to wait while they gather a few gems saved for me on the side of their barn. Tis a gift, indeed, to be open to what we have to offer each other!]