Posts Tagged ‘death’

Rivers as a Barrier Between Life and Death

So, a week ago, my family and I went to our local science and history museum since one of their temporary exhibits was in its last days and we thought we should probably see it before it went.

(That exhibit was about Sue, the most complete Tyrannosaurus skeleton ever found. Which was neat! I learned things. But not actually related to today’s discussion.)

(I also got us an entrance time to the newly renovated space exhibit, which is better than it was but still kind of whatever, alas.)

(ACTUALLY, our museum is a leader in studying what happened right after the asteroid that killed the dinosaurs, a notoriously tricky time period to study because they’ve had issues finding fossils from it. But some of our museum scientists made a big breakthrough in the area about a year ago, so they set up an exhibit off to the side of the space exhibit. And the exhibit was very interesting, but my spouse and I were also interested in the fact that it’s in a part of the museum that’s been closed off to the public for, oh, twenty years? It used to be the Hall of Dinosaurs when we were kids, but that was also when they thought dinosaurs dragged their tails and were cold-blooded, so when science proved all their skeletons wrong they took them away and closed off the whole hall.)

(Sorry. I like dinosaurs.)

(Our museum ALSO has two plesiosaur skeletons hanging from the ceiling in the entrance hall, which are my very favorite prehistoric reptiles.)

The OTHER temporary exhibit (our museum normally has two going at a time) was about Stonehenge. I have actually been to Stonehenge, back when I was young, but it has been a while, and archeologists keep making discoveries, so you know.

A lot of the exhibit was somewhat familiar information, talking about the different phases of the monument and how they moved the stones, but I did learn some new stuff too.

(They actually had a breaking news section, from a discovery made in February, so that was pretty cool.)

So, apparently, the reason why the stones came all the way from Wales was that they had a previous monument there, and when they moved, they decided to take the monument with them.

As you do.

That’s cool! But the coolest thing I learned from the exhibit was that, some miles away from Stonehenge was a settlement, with a henge made out of wood. So, at least at the beginning, Stonehenge was a burial ground, and it was always a place to remember the dead (or so they think). So there were no buildings there, no places for the living. And this village was where the living were. And, to get to Stonehenge, either to bury someone, or to worship or whatever, the people in the village would go down to the River Avon, get on a boat, and sail down to the entrance to the Stonehenge complex.

So there were two distinct areas–the area of the living, and the area of the dead, and the river was the passage between them.

Which I thought was very neat, to see some of the mythology of the people in the way they used the land. And you guys know me and mythology, and also it always helps me with my own mythologies for my fantasy world to see what people thought of.

But as I was thinking, I realized that the river as a passage between the living and the dead is a fairly common theme, though perhaps not realized quite so literally as done here. Both Greek and Norse mythology have a river the dead must pass (well, if going to Hel in Norse mythology), though those are later civilizations than the one that built Stonehenge. In Hindu religion, the sacred river Ganges is used in many death rituals, including ones meant to help grant salvation to dead relatives, suggesting a link between the river and where people go after death. In Scottish folklore, a bean-nighe, or washerwoman, is a messenger and omen of death, often seen in rivers and ponds.

I don’t know, I just thought it was cool, and it’s always interesting to see the connections between civilizations across continents and time.

Any thoughts on rivers in death practices, squiders? Cool trivia relating to Stonehenge or death rituals in general?

And Now, In Solemnity…

I apologize for the lateness of this post, Squiders. Our dog died suddenly on Sunday, and this week has been a bit rough.

R.I.P. Riley, 2008-2017

I am not a dog person, in general. They require a lot of work and a lot of attention, and in general I just don’t have enough spoons to deal with that. Also they’re messy and drool-y and…well.

But Riley was the ideal dog. He rarely barked and was never destructive, he was super patient with the small, mobile ones (though he did like to still their food), he was willing to walk and play but also willing to nap in the middle of the floor. He loved to have his tummy rubbed and his ears scritched, but he would be okay if you only did it for a minute and then wandered off.

He did shed more than every animal I’ve ever owned combined, but hey, in the great scheme of things, that’s not so bad.

It’s never easy to lose a pet, especially one that’s been an integral part of your family for several years. But I think what’s making it so much harder is that it was unexpected. Riley was not old. Riley was not sick. Riley showed no signs of anything being wrong and, in fact, had been in an excellent mood all week.

And then poof, suddenly gone. His heart failed. Why? Who knows? We don’t, and we never will. Was it a heart attack? A stroke? Did he eat something poisonous? Did he get bit by a rattlesnake (despite it being 50 degrees and raining)? Was there something we could have done differently that would have saved him? The ER did everything they could to get his heart going again, but nothing worked.

Sometimes that’s the hardest part, I think–being left behind and not having the answers.

It’s rained since he died, which matches the mood of the family.

Anyway, we’re coping. Everyone’s been very nice about it. His vet even sent us fancy flowers, delivery from a florist. But it’s been hard to get the creativity flowing.

I hope your week’s going better. See you Friday.

Aging Authors

I don’t know how many of you caught my post at Turtleduck Press mid-February about how I believe that we are not only a product of our experiences, but also what we’re exposed to, and how important books can be to a young child.

What brought on such introspection was the death of Brian Jacques, author of the Redwall books, which I was in love with when I was little.

And this past weekend, Diana Wynne Jones, one of my literary idols, passed away.  (Patricia Wrede has a lovely post about Ms. Jones at her blog.  It warms the cockles* of my cold, dead heart to know that my two favorite authors were friends with each other.)

I took my mother to see Lois Lowry (Of The Giver and Number the Stars fame) give a talk at a local bookstore on Monday.  When she came in, my mother leaned over and whispered, “She’s getting so old,” to me.  Ms. Lowry is 74.

Life happens.  People die.  But I admit it’s a bit like losing family.  A good book is like a dear friend, always welcome to visit, and by extension, I can’t help but love the people who bring them to me.

And I can’t help but wonder about the stories that go with them, that the world never gets to see.  As a writer myself, oh, the stories.  They are never-ending.  I will never be able to write all the stories in my head.  What characters did the world never get to love?  What places did they never get to visit?

There will be new authors, new books.  But I can’t help but miss the ones that have given me so much over the years.


* The dictionary informs me that a cockle is a type of mollusk.  I am not sure where this expression comes from or why it exists, but you all know my love of invertebrate sea creatures, so I continue to use it, usually inappropriately.