Guest column by Victoria Thorpe
I cannot reconcile the extremes in this world; the beauty of the hawk circling the sky, the grace of the snake sliding through the grass, the culmination of life and death as the Red Tailed hawk swoops down from her dance and grasps the garter snake in her talons, eagerly ending its life and joining its essence to her own.
What is it all about?
I continue to search and ask — what’s this life about?
We caught “Clever” seven days ago, she escaped last night and we re-set the live catch traps with hopes to lure her back with a luscious piece of dog kibble.
This evening the five house cats brought her lifeless body to us.
There was a spiritual link to my sister forming when I lugged in an aquarium stored in the garage and carefully arranged a miniature living space for the pocket-sized guest. Kerry lives on Death Row in California, and the mice are her closest friends inside the prison. I’ve heard about them in detail by post for years, and occasionally through a phone call. I felt connected to the row and the struggles Kerry and her tiny friends face. I did not fully realize the extent of the symbol Clever held in my rescuing her, until they got her, they killed her. I failed tiny Clever.
I cried for that little mouse. And I cried for the pain of the helplessness I live in my struggle to free Kerry, to make her safe.
It’s all so crazy. I’m sobbing over this mouse! Why couldn’t I just be allowed to protect her? What a terrible death; in the mouths of five cats. I said a blessing for her seemingly insignificant little soul before I buried her in the flower bed, “Please grant her peace. I know the felines only did what their instincts drove them to. @#*! sniff, … Namaste`.”
I envisioned the people of the rows as mice, looked at as vermin, refuse. I’d felt a fraction of their affliction with Rep. Brad Klippert ‘s revulsion and physical withdrawal from me in my earnest attempt to connect with him. His expression was disgust combined with fear he might catch something from me; I had just testified before the House committee in support of Washington State ending the death penalty, I represented the voices of the row and shared my sister’s story. Other representatives displayed similar attitudes with their rolling eyes and stiff body language. One asked me if my sister had received a trial: yes. That was enough to assure him she was getting just what she deserved. My testimony was ended.
That day I realized I have become a “mouse”at heart , and I am proud of it.
As I wept over Clever’s body cradled in my hands last night, I flashed on the symbol the scene held to me; a symbol of the executions our state carries out. There was no outward evidence of a tormented death on her body; she lay there perfectly intact, just still. I almost expected her to jump up and run off, but she was dead none-the-less.
I kept seeing my sister in Clever’s place; nothing left but an empty vessel. I knew that field mouse would no longer have the worries and struggle of survival, and I realized it was those of us still here, left behind to continue the living, which I then began to weep for.
What is this all about?
I used to fear atheists, agnostics, even humanists, because if they were correct — if this was all there is — then death held such fear for me.
These recent years of raw exposure to not only my sister’s tormented life on the row, but many others living similarly, the system knowingly grinding people down like wheat into flour, and “regular” folks out here so apathetic to the needs and hurts of their neighbors, has all been a challenge to my spiritual journey.
I now fear faiths who believe in reincarnation. I worry it may be truth. Infinite cycles of this? Am I up to that?
Sometimes I now secretly root for the comfort of simply becoming dirt; no consciousness, no feelings whatsoever. It is less frightening to me than repeating this journey at times like this.
I’m not complaining about my physical life: I’m healthy, have plenty of food, shelter, and the privilege of living in the good ole U.S.A.
It’s the constant question in my heart: what’s this all about?
To collect the most things?
To take self-comfort to the ultimate level?
To experience as many thrills as one can fit into one lifespan?
To leave my mark behind and “make a difference”?
To count how many others love and admire me?
What is my purpose?
I dearly hope and pray it goes something like these words from a Sufi master, Hafiz;
“Forget about all your desires for truth,
We have gone far beyond that,
For now it is just –
(All) our hearts are meant to sing.
(All) our souls are destined to touch
Upon this holy flute
For every reason in existence
I begin to laugh and love!
When I turn into a leaf
And start dancing,
I run to kiss our beautiful Friend
And I dissolve into the Truth
That I Am.”
I pray for mercy on us all. Peace be with you.
Thorpe is the author of “CAGES“, a human rights Activist and the founder of Fellowship Of Peace
Tracy Simmons is an award-winning journalist specializing in religion reporting and digital entrepreneurship. In her approximate 20 years on the religion beat, Simmons has tucked a notepad in her pocket and found some of her favorite stories aboard cargo ships in New Jersey, on a police chase in Albuquerque, in dusty Texas church bell towers, on the streets of New York and in tent cities in Haiti. Simmons has worked as a multimedia journalist for newspapers across New Mexico, Texas, Connecticut and Washington. She is the executive director of SpokaneFāVS.com, a digital journalism start-up covering religion news and commentary in Spokane, Washington. She also writes for The Spokesman-Review and national publications. She is a Scholarly Assistant Professor of Journalism at Washington State University.
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