The Teaching Bones

She would lament this continued desecration of beings. Used up, handled by thousands of students memorizing their Latin names, praying for a passing grade. Destined to be poured into dumpsters and carted to land fill mountain, too treated with varnish even to be a source of calcium for the living. Drawers full of frog and cat bones, sorted according to type, their yellow labels curling with age, compartmentalized. Severed. And so her husband brought them home to her. He was right to do this.

And now, on a cool August morning, under a metal sky, my friend brings them here, to hold between she and I.

I stand on the front porch to greet her, watching her walk up the path. A Dakini from the Charnel grounds, she carries a crystal vase spilling over with the beautiful bones. The thin and elegant hand bones of frogs. Who knew what mystery frog flesh held within? Fibulas, tibias, and metatarsals of cats mingle with the thin, shell-like arc of scapulae, so transparent, light moves through them illuminating the vase. If I had second sight, would I see surrounding her a throng of spirit cats, high tails waving, ghostly frogs sitting atop their crowns. Come for, if not resurrection, reparation.

We light the fire and make smoke with mugwort and sage, smudging the bones, saying prayers and blessings over these bones so long forgotten. We begin to speak of those in our community who are ill, dying, suffering, we speak of human cruelty. Sitting by the fire, talking quietly, murmuring almost, our bodies lean toward each other, the smoke rises, carrying our prayers as we try to conjure some divine balm for the suffering.

My husband steps out of the house briefly to tell me that his mother has just now come under the care of hospice. Yes, it is like that this morning. We fold her into our prayers.

We carry the bones back to the car, where we place the vase into a box and secure it with the seat belt, attending to them as we would a child. As women do, we lean our hips against the cool metal telling last minute stories, finishing off the ragged edges before we bite through the thread of the morning’s weaving.

Falling silent, our gaze is pulled to the sky. Two Turkey Vultures wheel a wide, slow circle above us.

Yes it is like that.

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