Death: As Common As Life

Robert Genjin Savage

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At least half the organic matter you see on a walk in the forest is dead: dead leaves, deadwood, dead weeds, insect carcasses, maybe even the stinking corpse of some higher animal if you're lucky. There are massive die-outs: suddenly the cicadas are silent, and the husks of their bodies litter the trail. Great plagues sweep across the vegetable kingdom: plagues of viruses, plagues of herbivores, plagues of invading plants, as the monastery's gardeners know only too well. And then all this carnage is brought to an abrupt halt by that biggest mass murderer of all, the first hard frost. The katydid's song grinds to a halt, the dainty jewelweed shrivels and collapses into putrid slime, the birds get out while the going's good. Autumn's splendid tragedy unfolds, and we have the beauty of a dying world. The spectacle makes us pensive: we think of our own demise, our approaching winter.

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