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Thursday, August 16, 2012

To Cradle the Remains

To Cradle the Remains
A few months back I found this doe, laying quietly on a hillside, returning to the earth.  I asked (always, always ask and then gift in return.  I like to sing little wordless songs to the remains of a life), then took her skull and a handful of vertebrae.  This morning, after allowing nature to do the dirty work, I finally finished cleaning her to a luminous glow.
(p.s. if you ever move into a new home and see your neighbor whistling to herself out on the porch whilst straddling a bucket full of bleach and bones, scrubbing away with a toothbrush, just come over and say Hi.  Because it will probably be me)
I have loved bones for, well, I suppose forever.  There is an elegance to the swoop of an eye socket, a creativity to the curving lilt of a jaw, a wild, alien sculptural form to the cranium.  I think skulls are one of the most beautiful things in the world, but when it comes right down to it, my obsession is with vertebrae.
* * *
When I was two days shy of my twentieth birthday, I got into a terrible car accident (one of those 1:00 AM-hydroplaning-across-the-freeway-hit-by-a-car-going-70-miles-per-hour terrible accidents).  Truly it was pure miracle both I and the other driver survived.  I ended up fracturing a couple of my vertebrae and spent quite a bit of time laying still and stretched flat, thinking about those spinal building blocks.  I started looking up anatomical images; something deep in me needed to know the exact shape of those damaged pieces.  I began drawing them, first little sketches, then bigger charcoal ones, then painting them into the base layers of my larger works, then stitching their outlines into paper and fabric.  And from the first time a lumbar vertebrae slipped out from the point of my pencil, I felt in my very bones that they could fly.  That the delicately stacked column in our body was full of these beautiful hollow flapping forms that could play Icarus on us at any moment.  That the central opening was a liminal portal through which the secrets of life and death slipped, grew wings, and flew into the sunset.
* * *
To Cradle the Remains


pencilfox said...

oh, my.
i love you so much.

[likewise, here. forgive my buckets and boxes and jars of rocks and relics. they sing my soul home. you and i, we know what's important.]

MrsLittleJeans said...

they are fascinating indeed .... xx

UmberDove said...

Foxy - sing my soul home... yes woman, yes.

MLJ - Ah, I love the way your mind works: full of science and wonder and questions all at once.

bev said...

In the desert from whence I sprouted my brother once found an antelope skeleton complete with an indian arrowhead. The stark beauty of that life has stayed with me.

Valerianna said...

If a person might have just moved to Massachusetts, they might find a quirky forest dweller scrubbing bones and singing to trees and calling back at the Ravens.... that would be me. Lovely Doe, and you cleaned her so well.

prairiegirl said...

No wonder I like you so much. You remind me of Frida Kahlo!! The story of that awful wreck...the whole bit. I'm imagining the bone-scrubbing porch scene...LAUGH!

UmberDove said...

Bev - I almost choked on my own gasp reading that. AHHHmazing.

Valerianna - a bone scrubbing sister!

PrairieGirl - True Story: that IS how I met a neighbor once. I was sitting on the front stoop of our little town house scrubbing down some seal vertebrae when the brand new neighbors emerged, children in tow. Needless to say, it took a couple before they warmed up to me. :)

nancycreations said...

It's so amazing to me the similarities between all of us in. Each of us are so similar in our likes and journeys to one another, Odd but just a while ago my daughters dog brought me a skull of a racoon or something and I just had to save it because I found it so interesting.

Laura said...

Beyond moved by this morning...thanks for the gift Kelly...

Brittany said...

what a beautiful post. thank you for sharing. :)

she said...

it's a wonder to discover slowly and quietly those delicately stacked pieces of what makes you, you. i daresay it's holy; thanks for opening the door and showing us part of the road that has led to this current (ever changing, ever better-ing) version of you. xo

Candace Morris said...

This has been one of my favorite things about you since we met. I daresay you will be such a good example for Scout.

Let me explain.
Just last night, while eating dinner out of doors because the house was hotter than a (insert a myriad of metaphores here. I picked up Bowie and Joel said that his biggest hope for her is that she be filled with wonder at the universe. He then launched into a speech about how people don't notice trees enough, how people don't pursue things to their very bones.

So you see. You'll be a good example.

And I'm dropping her off every chance I get cuz mamma needs a pedicure.

Speaking of that. Maybe Brad could be Bowie's nanny?! I pay $10/hour, eh, eh?


BC said...

I'm in for the Nanny gig until I start working with your husband ;)

Sara said...

I share your cherish for those internal shapes (as you know) and must remark that it was from my own healing struggle journey that brought those shapes to my attention as well. I've always loved the shape and forms and I too have been occasionally seen on the front porch with said bleach bucket and brush.

creative quest said...

How lovely it is to find, in this vast interwebular galaxy like hearted gals. Gals who cradle skulls and love bones. I know some quirky folks but none that like to collect bones such as i do. It's great to know that so many of our spirits sing the same song. The song of reverence of remains... how it brings us deep into our life.
I love how the threads are connected... for over a month love been working on a new series called pretty bones. love. If anyone has some sources on what the sybology of bones is I'd love to know. Sometimes they speak to me, and i create before i really know what they are saying.