Grasshopper’s Last Meal

GrasshopperI remember believing in Santa Claus until I couldn’t fake it anymore. This is how I see much of life now. We hold on to the status quo until we can’t fake it anymore, wishing not to know what is evident and waiting on a miracle to make it better. Refusal to fake it is the beginning of knowledge. The temporal disappointment of Santa’s demise opens a portal to higher consciousness, triggering the wonder and shame of our collective existence.

That life talks to me is a given, something I learned early and often. My immigrant grandparents knew how to listen to the land, sky, animals, and the weather for information essential to the cycle of planting crops, breeding animals, harvesting the crops and slaughtering the animals. Autumn reminds me of harvest and slaughter on the farm, marking the end of another season of tending fields and gardens, feeding cows, chickens, and pigs, and making repairs. The finality of the harvest and slaughter symbolize for me the birth-death-rebirth cycle that all wisdom traditions embrace. Life is what happens between birth and death. No one gets out alive. Acknowledging the triad lets the world come alive.

I always think of the farm this time of year, nostalgic for that time of kinship. I am thankful for a life path embedded in natural cycles. The greatness of my own species pales in comparison, reminding me that set and setting matter most. Set and setting requires one to enjoin the mind with the physical world. Intimacy with all things comes from spending time with them.

The coming of winter solstice offers me an opportunity to shed the year’s burdens, struggles, and disappointments collected along the way. The winter fire that keeps me warm also takes my troubles, and through its alchemical power, transforms them into new beginnings. It is in the darkness that I confess my human nature, beseeching the earth’s forgiveness. Winter’s long nights awaken dreams inside me.

I am a member of the grasshopper clan. I know this only because I was told so by an elder whose wisdom in such matters is undisputed. The initiation came by way of friendship, two individuals recognizing an energetic connection tuned to the same frequency. A clan is made up of those listening to the same songs of nature. I remember grasshoppers as allies from childhood when their numbers captured my attention, and I have managed to live among them most of my life.

The fascination of childhood gave way to an appreciation of their symbolic meaning in my life. Shamanic traditions invoke the animal world as teachers and guides willing to help this hapless two-legged creature muddle though. Common sense implores me to see the connection for my own sake. Grasshoppers teach me patience and trust in my own instincts. They also teach me to leap forward in life. That’s why I stopped splitting firewood yesterday to spend some time with a dying grasshopper.

Messages come in surprising forms, but we often miss them. Little things pass by without notice, and big things consume too much energy, leaving scant time for seeing what is underfoot. I read the daily news with a fool’s desire for salvation, and ignite the search engines of cyberspace like an astronaut going to the moon but come down to earth embittered. The sweetness seems to be missing, vanquished to the borderlands of consciousness.

So on this day, when time seemed as short of the sun’s southern path, I set the ax aside and stopped to watch the grasshopper crawl along the bottom step of the wooden deck. I was surprised to see it still alive this many weeks after the cold had set in. The grasshopper was barely holding on, dragging itself along like a homeless person without shelter. I sat down and waited for it to crawl onto my hand, knowing this to be the grasshopper’s last day on earth. A pang of obligation told me to witness the passing of a relative. The others had disappeared weeks ago leaving nothing to note the moment.