As cooler temperatures have finally begun to reach our calendar, so too has the first year of Carolina Memorial Sanctuary ended. Living and dying have their season-like cycles as well, and I am reminded of all the work that was put into supporting many deceased beings and their grieving families. In consideration of what we have accomplished this year, and the many ways that I, in my role as the Steward of the Sanctuary have grown, I have received a most fortunate blessing with the New Year: a chance to pause and reflect, which comes with many opportunities to prepare for what is ahead.
For many of the plants at the sanctuary, the four seasons of a single year show signs of a complete living and dying cycle. Right now, there is very little green on the property compared to what it was over the summer. Many of the invasive plants established their presence again before the cold hit. Many of them in the same locations as before. I consider this to be good news rather than bad, because my comfort level with the task of removing them has increased. Also, the space that they have taken is consistent enough that I have fewer worries about harming other species. Overall, I would say that this time of year offers many great opportunities for land management since the regrowth likely will take two or three months to begin again. I have a greater confidence in identification and understanding of the plants with which I work.
It is also useful to be reminded that the living and dying processes we support in our service to the deceased and their bereft families, is likewise reflected in the life and death throughout the sanctuary property. In winter, the landscape reveals the husks of the recently vibrant-colored habitats. The forms of the various trees, shrubs, and other vegetation resemble their final mature states, but for most, their energy has returned to their roots in the soil, or has been transmitted on to be of benefit to future generations. These processes are, for me, what bring all of the various tasks of stewarding the land into harmony: each and every activity of invasive plant removal, grave digging, memorial planting, demolition and construction, is performed for the benefit of all, in their living and dying transitions. And it is a reminder that I am not alone nor separate from anything or anyone at the Sanctuary. The land, the plants, the people, and all other beings are connected in a way that makes my work a truly happy, blessed opportunity.
After one year at the Sanctuary, I can also say that I feel like a slightly more experienced beginner, and that even though the project list has not gotten smaller, nor have the tasks themselves really changed, I have great confidence moving into 2017. The creation and maintenance of our sacred space here at Carolina Memorial Sanctuary is certainly no small task, and it is the most rewarding livelihood I could see myself endeavoring to accomplish at this moment. As the contracted energy of winter brings focus and attention inward, I am grateful for the many lessons brought to me by the Sanctuary and its residents.