Order member Shannon sent these photos from her father’s compost pile in Texas, where a bunny crawled in to die.
I don’t like… KNOW this bunny or anything (and it’s dead now so I’ll never get to talk to it) but man I like its style. Instead of dying by the side of the road or in someone’s storm drain, it hopped into the place where natural material is supposed to decompose and rot and snuggled in for its final rest. Picking a spot with leaves and flowers makes it especially poetic.
If your heart wasn’t warmed enough by this natural, poetic gesture, Shannon reports that another bunny, seen below, was standing vigil next to the compost pile.
Bethany Pope wrote this poem, in her own words, “after far too many back issues of ‘The Lancet’ and yellowed journal entries about clouds of killer sparrows.”
Accompanied here by the work of Dutch anatomical artist Frederik Ruysch (1638-1731).
A knock on the door, so
innocuous, answered in the clinking
of sovereigns passed hand to hand,
to be drowned in a purse of cheap leather.
The purchase laid out for dissection;
So much meat on a slab.
Undressed only partially, bleeding
from the head, skin and hardening muscles
slowly agreeing with the temperature
of tabletop. And why not? The students
have yet to arrive with their sketch pads
and charcoal. There is a strong smell
which the good doctor relieves
by opening the windows. The sparrows
alight. Three of them, sharpening their beaks
on the windowsill, aligning their pinions.
The old man lays his scalpels on leather,
A gleaming row, arranged by dirty fingers
-a gentleman’s hands are kept clean by culture,
cleansed by the rhythmic flow of hereditary blood,
whose process no one yet understands-
the door resounds youthful excitement,
the students filter in. Incision, incision,
a red node held up to meet
the first light it has ever known.
A student in the back row displaces
a perched sparrow from the corner of his pad.
He adds a shadow, with a delicate stroke,
to the corner of a bloodless liver, deeply pleased.
There is the scent of butcher shops, a few small,
quiet sighs. The doctor’s descriptive intonations, muffled
by torso, his feet displacing mouse-like birds
With every readjustment of his weight.
They cheep and hop in brownish clouds,
pecking at the leakage. Two hours’ work,
or less, the job is done. All that remains
is final dispersal. The students leave
their payment in coins that rattle against
the slaver by the door, or choke the gaping mouth
of a plaster African left out to accept them.
They grasp their hands with their good teacher,
honored to come to grips with his greatness.
The good man turns his hot face to the light,
taking in the open window, feeling the breeze.
The flesh on the table awaits its dénouement.
He rolls up the skin, a good heavy rug,
his footsteps scattering sparrows,
mentally measuring a number of wallets.
As he scrapes up the fat, to be sent to the renderers;
calculating the price of rich soap. The bones will be boiled,
clean, and buried with all the others in a small patch.
of earth. The old man works hard at this reclamation,
at his feet the gentle sparrows flutter in clouds,
fighting for scraps.
There’s nothing more pleasing than a well done necropolis, or city of the dead. When one thinks necropolis, he or she likely thinks of the ancient burial grounds of the past. But no no no, my pretties. Now there is a necropolis of the future!
Welcome Yarauvi, a necropolis designed to be built smack dab in the center of the Dead Sea. Significant location because it lies on the border of Israel and Jordon AND because it’s the Dead Sea — get it?
The Dead Sea is extremely buoyant, so the Yarauvi would be a giant floating bowl of dead people: “a place where any person—regardless of nationality, race, religion, age or affluence—can be laid to rest.” Like the International Space Station of corpses.
Hark! A boat approaches, like Charon symbolically ferrying us across the River Styx. Once inside Yarauvi, you find rings of sarcophagi facing one another in concentric circles.
“Families will bid farewell to their loved ones from a dock at the southern banks of the Dead Sea. From there, the dead, accompanied by a few mourners, will be transported to Yarauvi by boat. The boat enters the necropolis at its base and travels through a ceremonial unicursal labyrinth that leads to the center point of the necropolis, where the dead are lifted to the space above. The accompanying mourners will also enter the necropolis this one time, during the interment of their loved ones.”
If I didn’t have to be embalmed and shipped halfway around the world for this I would say sign me up. At least it’s an attempt to redefine multinational death and aesthetics, one “ceremonial unicursal labyrinth” at a time.
Oh hello there. Welcome to my home. I hope you’re hungry, my dears.
First let me offer you some tea.
How about a cookie?
Now that we’re comfy, let’s talk death fear. In my reading this weekend I found a fantastic list of seven common fears about death from a paper called “Values Destroyed by Death” from 1961.
I started asking my friends what their most fundamental fear about their own death is, and, quite magically, they seemed to fit within these categories.
1. My death would cause grief to my relatives and friends.
2. All my plans and projects would come to an end.
3. The process of dying might be painful.
4. I could no longer have any experiences.
5. I would no longer be able to care for my dependents.
6. I am afraid of what might happen to me if there is a life after death.
7. I am afraid of what might happen to my body after death.
Jillien my roommate is a primary 3/6, Mara is a 1, Jena is a 4, I’m solidly a 2. It seems, from cursory interviews, that your anxiety will focus on one or two of the seven fears, with smaller or nonexistent issues with the remaining fears.
I’d love to know what your fear is! (Especially if it doesn’t appear on the list, since these seem to do a great job of covering the deathy fear bases).
Apologies for the Ask a Mortician absence in the month of February. In my defense, February is a strange little month with little to recommend it.
This episode is about my favorite favorite favorite thing in all the land — Decomposition!
For more on why I love decomposition (and all that it represents) click here.
As always, thanks to David for the music, Mara & Shannon for helping create little Caitlin the decomposing puppet, and Oliver for that decomposing title (his website).