This is the title of a Tarot card, major arcana. It pertains to an event in my life,
something that happened a year ago. I firstly have to explain that I live next door to a southern Yugoslav peasant, who is alcoholic and homophobic, who has waged war for a decade against my household, including stalking my 2 cats, both pure bred Tonkinese. Our houses are separated by an old wooden paling fence, grey and splintery. I went out one day to find the older cat desperately scrabbling up the paling fence on the wrong side [the neighbour’s], while the psycho peasant was lurking nearby holding a length of timber. Without my timely appearance he would have dispatched my cat for trespassing onto his property. The rough timber distressed the cat’s claw pads; I climbed up and rescued him. Incidentally the peasant’s karma has been a couple of strokes which reduced the use of his hands and cataracts which cloud his vision. It is beside the point to gloat; karma is inexorable and works within us all. We are served up the exact equivalent of our actions.
And why stay next to such an implacable character, you might ask? The Good Shepherd psalm speaks of lambs being fed in the sight of their enemy, of protection and security, goodness and peace, all the days of my life.
But what about the hanged man? I came home from a weekend away, a trip with my house mate to the New England Highlands, to Tamworth and Armidale. I wandered about the backyard and remarked on a bad odour of decomposition but was unable to locate its source. Finally I entered the narrow corridor of paling fence that runs between our houses. At first I thought a black and white rag had been blown onto the fence. I looked again and saw a large black and white bird that had perched insecurely on the horizontal fence beam, then slipped and the bird’s head had jammed between two palings. This was a gap 5 inches long, so the bird sadly was not able to free itself.
I can only surmise that it had stood on the fence, and suddenly startled by a noise nearby, possibly from the neighbour investigating, it slipped and strangled itself. It was a large bird, black & white, the size of a crow or currawong.
Apologies, dear reader for this narrative of pathos, pity & terror. When I realised the bird’s dreadful fate I removed the corpse and made amends with essential oils to neutralise the wrong that had happened there. Lavender and tea tree oil, and incense. But more was to follow. I noticed a couple of days afterwards, a similar bird was hovering in the trees nearby. The mate was waiting for the loved one to return? Finally, as the bird was no longer hanging on the fence the bereaved mate flew away, never to return.
When my fellow humans behave in a way peculiar to our species, as if we alone in all the cosmos possess sentience, I remember this incident. Of course I would have done anything to prevent this happening; I often rehearsed undoing things, saving the bird at the crucial moment. But it was a moment like many others, good and bad, on the river of my consciousness.
This incident, terrible as it is, deserves a place in my artmaking diary, because who knows the unconscious process of transmuting experience into art. Kazantsakis in his novel has Zorba ask the writer/narrator exasperatedly: What’s the good of all your damned books? And the writer could only respond with the limping words: They tell of the pain of people who can’t answer such questions.
Peace and contentment to all sentient creatures, may we all, in our equally small but momentous places, make the best of things.