Thursday, 31 October 2013


There were random bones all over the Acres, hauled by ones and twos into crannies and under trees. Ribs, vertebrae, mandibles, scapulae. Mostly elk and deer, along with one llama, whose carcass Jim dragged into the Plantation and found stripped bare a week later. Bits of it turned up all over the mountain; the Squirrel Grove phalanges, plastic white and chunky, were an example.

All were a reminder that things lived, and so died – and killed – on the Acres. Their prevalence suggested that these hills were very different in winter. And, more cause for reflection: the bones by my tent moved. Often. Something, or things, nosed them in the night.

The Plantation in particular was a veritable boneyard, where glowed green-stained remains in the eternal twilight. From there I collected a brain case and a face, and as I had done with the cranium I found on the far side of Bear Ridge, racked them on branches.

My species has a compulsion for headbones. I've happened on them in a dozen countries: skulls of horse, deer, goat and cow – not yet any human – seeming to float above the ground, spiked on branches and fence posts in the middle of nowhere. Also, entire crania of moose and mountain sheep, defences intact, nailed over cabin doors. Our cave-painting elders are not so remote, after all.

The import, subconscious perhaps but clear, is that little in this life meets death in bed. Everything before us died by violence, and was pooped out by something else.

We who are so proud to die fighting, when the real achievement in this world is to die in peace.

(Adapted from 100 Days on the Mountain, copyright RK Henderson. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons and Frank Vincentz.)
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