Loving What Changes
“I do not wish to say that one should love death; but one should love life so magnanimously, so without calculating and selecting, that love of death (the turned-away side of life) is continually and involuntarily included.” — Rainer Maria Rilke
I’ve lived with anxiety my whole life. When I was younger, too young for language, I dreamed of black birds coming up over the horizon and filling the sky. Their endless wheeling dizzied me, and I was horrified at my helplessness to control my own mind and make the images stop, even after I woke up. As a teenager I began experiencing panic attacks, which I can describe now as cascading, escalating loops of alarm in response to change. A change in mood, a change in my body, a change in the weather, a change in my company. Living with panic is mounting resistance to change in all forms. It is the body’s desire for homeostasis writ in fireworks. I’ve spent decades of my life learning how to listen to my body’s subtler cues so it won’t need to fire up all its cannons to shock me into rest and recovery mode.
In the first part of this series, I introduced this blog as a monthly meditation on change, loss, and fear. This month, working with the balsamic moon right before the Scorpio new moon, my focus is on change and stasis—the axis of Scorpio and Taurus. I invite you to join me in this rituals every month (there’s a schedule at the bottom of the post), in your own way, where and when you can. I also welcome your comments—companionship is one of the best tools we have to face our fears.
Second Balsamic Moon Ritual
On October 27th, on a bright fall day, I took a walk in the woods.
I was surprised to feel called out into the world, and specifically toward noticing the beauty of the forest as it sloughed off its dead and dying parts. My first ritual sent me inward, into my fears about the world, about my health, about what it means to be mortal. I expected the second to look a lot like the first. But then I realized the coming full moon inflects these rituals with its energy—for the Aries full moon, I needed to develop courage to begin this process, and I needed an intense focus on the self. As each sign balances and corrects the excesses of the previous sign, Taurus offers a space of rest after the intense energy expenditure of Aries. Where Aries inspires us to face fears and act, Taurus reminds us that beauty is restorative. Taurus invites us to rest in our connection to the earth, to rub our limbs in the dirt and cover ourselves with flowers.
Full moons always mirror what sign the sun is in—the Taurus new moon opposes the sun in Scorpio. Where I live, in the temperate rainforest of the Pacific Northwest, Scorpio season is a time of trees dropping their leaves. Bright yellow Big Leaf Maple leaves, larger than my head, smaller leaves streaked with red and green, dry brown fir needles—all these pieces that were once part of a living organism, that absorbed sunlight and converted into sugary sweetness, that fed and nourished—all these pieces die in bursts of beauty. Taurus beauty nourishes and balances the death processes of Scorpio. The two are never separate.
As ritual this month, I walked slowly through the forest, stooping to admire small scenes of death and transformation. Some fallen leaves were still wet and waxen, others curled and skittered in the wind, scraping the ground like waves of a dry ocean. I also noticed the stumps of trees, nurse logs losing their crisp edges and blurring under a skin of moss and ferns. I saw white mushrooms luminous over dark, wet wood. Again and again, as I focused on the death process, I saw new life. And each transformation was its very own—this leaf crumbling, this rotting, one bright, one faded. Transformation by water, rot. By air, crumbling. By earth, mushrooming. By fire, rising. Energy moves through matter, astonishing us with what it can become.
Coming back from this ritual, I felt I’d watched a play. Each leaf, each mushroom, each scattering of needles and decomposing plant matter was a scene I’d studied long and carefully. Paying attention is a magical act, and one I use most often as an artist, or when I need to calm fear. Looking closely at one moment of transformation fixes that moment, and reminds us of the larger story. Trees will drop leaves again and again, but each leaf will be its own unique event. I am in love with this particularity—one leaf dissolved into a skeletal net, another splayed wetly against a tree stump like someone on a life raft.
Working this ritual reminded me of the deeper layers of Taurus energy. In the midst of change, we find safe haven in beauty. Humans are good at negativity bias—at anticipating and expecting worst-case scenarios. Taurus is the energy that flips our nervous systems from fight-or-flight to rest-and-digest. In Taurus, we find the stories that balance fear of change and death—reminders of what nourishes us deeply, and how death itself is nourishing to life. A dying tree can not only become a nurse log for other trees, it can send its nutrients out to the trees around it as it dies, releasing what it has hoarded to feed its children and cousins. Working with Taurus, we say yes to nourishment in all its forms.
Balsamic Moon Ritual #2 Summary:
Intention: To notice and appreciate the beauty of the death process
Main activity: Walking through the forest, looking closely at what is dying and what is growing from that death.
What I learned: Death offers nourishment; beauty offers a safe haven for our nervous systems. Loving anything means loving its changes. Paying attention is a form of loving that calms fear.
Join the conversation: Where do you find beauty in transformation? What helps you feel nourished?
Support this blog: I’ve just soft-launched a Patreon page for those who’d like to donate to this blog. In time it will have more offerings, but for now you can see photos from my second ritual. Thanks if you feel so moved!
Balsamic Moon Blog Schedule:
November 25: Ritual
December 11: Blog Post
December 23: Ritual
January 10: Blog Post
January 22: Ritual
February 9: Blog Post
February 21: Ritual
March 9: Blog Post
March 22: Ritual
April 8: Blog Post
April 22: Ritual
May 7: Blog Post
May 20: Ritual
June 5: Blog Post
June 19: Ritual
July 5: Blog Post
August 17: Ritual
September 2: Blog Post