MY REFLECTION IN THE DEATH’S HEAD MIRROR ON MY BIRTHDAY


Please look carefully at my picture in my profile — it isn’t very clear, but you can see that the mirror has a skull on it. I found this mirror in San Ignacio in Mexico when we were there for our whale kissing tour in Kuyima camp this February. We stayed in San Ignacio in the pensione of Juanita, an American expat whose home was full of the art of a local artist whose name I forget in my dotage.  Such is the story of obscure artists who labor in love in anonymity. Payson wanted to visit him and though I was tired of funky camp living and wanted just to return to the relative comfort of our hotel in Loreto, I accompanied him and our artist friend, Libby, to  the artist’s studio. I was instantly drawn to the mirror and told Libby to please take this photograph.

Why do I mention it? Because I turn 65 today, the official age of becoming a senior citizen in the US. You go on social security, Medicare, and you start getting notices in the mail to pre-pay for your cremation. If you haven’t lived with death before now, you better start doing so now, for you are on the threshold. Actually, you are always on the threshold, each moment can be the gateway to whatever there is or isn’t on the Other Side.

If I hadn’t thought the death’s head mirror too heavy to carry back on the plane to the US, I would have bought it. But I didn’t, not only because it was too bulky but because I am stepping into that space  time where things matter less as less, or matter only as symbols. The journey towards that abstraction from which we come has begun. I still love things, am still quite materialistic, was thrilled by Payson’s many gifts to me this morning, paintings, a poem inscribed on a painting, and three pairs of 2500 year old antique gold earrings from Rome and Greece (a virtual gift so far, photographs on my computer, since I won’t get to see or hold them till I get to the US), and our staff’s annual gift of flowers, so many flowers that our house is full of them. But what I loved most of all was the very, very simple, ordinary (only till it becomes extraordinary in the death’s head mirror) vibrant fact that I was alive, Payson was alive, my mother, my dogs were alive and with me; that a new day had begun, quite ordinary in every way, thank heavens.  Though I do not subscribe to the hype around birthdays, I think it is a good day to fill with gratitude. Ultimately, of course, it must be a reminder to live each day as if it were your birthday.

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