In the Midst of Death we are in Life

by Elizabeth Cunningham

“Or in the midst of life we are in death,” as it says in the Burial Service in The Book of Common Prayer.  Both statements are true, each one the complement of the other. The ecstatic, orgiastic rites of May Eve gaze across the year at Samhain (translation: summer’s end) also known as the Eve of All Hallows (souls) when pagans and Christians alike honor the beloved dead, the communion of saints, the connection between the seen and the unseen.

We recently cleared the overgrown flowerbeds around the house. In the new-turned earth, I planted tiny seeds: three kinds of Poppy, Black-eyed Susans, Irish Eyes, two kinds of Forget-Me-Nots, and something orange and red (whose name I don’t know and whose seed packet I can’t find), all according to preferences for sun or shade, dry or damp. Then we covered the beds with straw. It seemed the sheerest, most magical act of faith, to plant spring and summer flowers under a lowering October sky in a chilly wind. (I believe, help thou my unbelief.) What better way to celebrate the Celtic New Year than to sow the seeds of new life in the midst of death.

In another garden, a white Iris that bloomed in Spring is blossoming again amidst leaves fallen from an ancient and ailing maple tree and brazen marigolds that just won’t quit. In the late afternoon, the Iris draws all the light to its papery, translucent petals. I have to stop whatever I am doing and bear witness.

There’s a lot going on in my life, too much, really. But that’s all I want to say right now. I published two posts last week in other places. At Tikkun Daily: Keen on Occupy Wall Street and on Huffington Post: Credo: Community without Conformity. Please do visit.

My combrogo Tim Dillinger asked me to remind you that Maeve’s FaceBook page will soon be revealed. You make a friend request now.

The official launch event of Red-Robed Priestess will be Saturday, November 19th at Oblong Books and Music in Rhinebeck, New York at 7:00. We hope to livestream this event with better sound than our previous attempt. The performance will begin around 7:30 after people have nibbled and guzzled for a bit.

In closing I will note that all the other Maeve Chronicles were published on April 1. Seems right for Red-Robed Priestess to be published in November when we remember that in the midst of life we are in death and in the midst of death we are in life. You’ll see what I mean when you read the book. (PS: In answer to a query, here is the indiebound link for the book: )

Next post here will be 11/15 Maeve’s answer to: WTFWMD?

Happy Halloween! Happy New Year!

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Brooke October 25, 2011 - 6:53 pm

Such a beautiful post, you made me stop and take notice. Something about the natural world that gathers us back to our belly. And so looking forward to all the playing around the release of your Soul, I mean, book. Sending love.

Shawna Atteberry October 26, 2011 - 2:52 am

I've preordered Red Robed Priestess. Can't wait for it to come!

Shawna Atteberry October 26, 2011 - 2:55 am

Oops forgot to say in the last comment: if you come to Chicago let me know. I'll be there. 🙂

Neferhuri November 17, 2011 - 2:01 am

Oh, how I like this…

I read Red-Robed Priestess. Will not say too much for fear of spoilers, but I loved it! It made me laugh, cry, gasp, and sigh with satisfaction. And thank you for letting us know Boudicca's daughters. I've wondered from time to time about those girls–what they were like, what happened to them. Now I feel that I know.


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