Biking home I heard some crows barking above me. I saw two crows on the power lines screaming madly and at first I thought they were screaming at me. Did I do something wrong? Then, I looked down and right below them on the street was a big, dead crow, black wings and head twisted with red blood coming out of its mouth. I sighed, and admired the scene. The crows continued to yell away, their litany of cries fading into the distance as I peddled home.
I used that experience as a death omen and felt the sun shine a little brighter on my face. I smiled and said hello to an old lady walking with her walker.
People usually misinterpret death omens, in my opinion. I mean, sure, if you see a death omen, it usually means you are going to die. But not necessarily soon. It just reminds you of the fact that one day you will die. And, if you use the omen correctly, an amazing wave of appreciation and excitement can suddenly appear inside you. You realize that your time here is limited, and so, every day must be lived as if it's the last. Everything looks a little brighter than before.
You might see that all things die, all things change; it is just one of the marks of this world. You might even see that the death is a birth, that every ending is also a beginning. And, if you listen closely to the silent core of your own heart in this moment, you might even discover that part of you which will never die. Because it was never born. That Unborn, unformed center of awareness that forever and ever simply is and already is Free and Full and Present as the open, spacious present moment. The I AM.
And then, awake and alive as an unborn, unchanging presence, you might gaze dreamily at the world arising all around you. Now, a brilliant transparent clarity shimmers and glows as the true condition of all manifestation, forms of Light in light. Radiance, and subtle luminosity, all erupting and dissolving in a dance of rainbows against a vast, vast Emptiness.
So, when I rolled into the bike parking lot of my apartment building, I saw one of the little boys I usually see playing outside squatting, eyes fixed on something small on the cement. I approached curious and found a big, beautiful, blue and green and orange hairy caterpillar with wet slime coming out of its end. “Oh no!” I said. “What happened?” (Even though, I already knew what happened.) I looked at the boy, holding a tiny stone in his hand. Suddenly the little boy burst into tears. Balling. Crying his eyes out. I comforted him, put my hand on his back, but also took this opportunity to do what my mother did to me once. I asked him if he liked animals. He nodded. Then I asked him why he would want to hurt one like that. “You know, it will be a butterfly soon. Did you know that?” He nodded his head and cried some more. Now I felt bad. So I said, “hey, look, it’s still alive. Don’t worry.”
A vision of the past suddenly flooded into my awareness. I was 6 or 7, same age as this kid. I used to climb trees and steal eggs from nests, take them home and dissect the dying fetus under my desk light in my room. So, one day, my mother caught me dissecting a stolen robin’s egg under my desk lamp. Gleaming with pride I peered up at her, smiling, being an accomplished scientist and all, but I did not meet a happy face, no. She glared in horror at the slimy mess on my desk, shocked. “How could you?" she said in a cold, serious voice. “I thought you loved animals!”
I immediately burst into tears and yelled, “I do love animals!”
“Well, imagine how that baby bird’s mother feels now. Or what kind of pain that little bird is feeling on your desk.” We both stood silent for a moment.
My mother then said the coldest, cruelest words I will ever hear. “I am very disappointed in you.” She turned and left, and I was alone, crying, with a dying fetus on my desk. I never did it again.
The worst thing I have ever done to an animal I think (besides buying tortured meat) was when I was about 10 and some friends and I caught a huge bullfrog at the creek and then I threw it into the street to see it get hit by a car. Almost immediately, before my very eyes, a car smashed into the frog just as it hopped, and somehow it was flung to the curb directly in front of me, it’s entire insides enclosed inside a slimy white sack now hanging out of his mouth. The frog was still moving, twitching. I was disturbed, uneasy with the fact that I did that to him. Although, I think I laughed and acted fascinated at the time.
My friends and I did some weird ass shit at that creek.
Anyway, I took a picture of the boy crying (if you look carefully you can see the caterpillar's long trail of slime.) and then went up to my apartment. For the first time in ages, when I got home I did not immediately go over to the computer to find out if anyone had emailed me. I didn’t go outside to work on my frames either, even though I have less than two weeks to finish them all. Instead, I turned off my cell phone, went into my studio, opened the windows to let in the cool evening air, and spent the remainder of the night painting.
Can you find the caterpillar and the Buddha?
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