I started writing a song or prayer many years ago. It’s very short, only 4 lines, and sometimes one of those lines changes. But it carries the depth of poetry because the meaning of it depends on what is going on at any given moment. In this version of it, I honor the life and death of my friend and teacher, Tracy Maier.
The four directions are acknowledged along with some of the things that they stand for when I think of Tracy. I choose this because the four directions are a compass for my life as an herbalist, a teacher, and a human.
Below my prayer, you will find a video called “The Meaning of Death” from Stephen Jenkinson, who has helped me make room for my grief. Grief for Tracy, Miriam Weisberg, my friend and student, Stephie Rexroth, also a student, and for the animals lost in our barn fire.
[facing north] Have compassion, we are all dying.
To honor Tracy’s indigenous and non-indigenous ancestors, and all the people that came before us. To honor Death, the great equalizer that teaches us to have compassion. To honor Winter, the time of tending to our roots. To honor the element of Earth that brings us nourishment and medicine.
[facing east] Hold gratitude, we are all living.
To honor Tracy’s life and all the joy that he brought his friends and family. To honor those that try to make a difference and give ease to others. To honor Life, the senses, and consciousness. To honor Spring, and the green things emerging from the soil. To honor the element of Air breathing life into us all.
[facing south] In resistance, we are all rising.
To honor Tracy’s work as a nurse and a street medic. To honor those that resist corruption, discrimination, and exploitation. To honor the passion of Youth. To honor the Summer and flowering of our gardens and our lives. To honor the element of Fire that refines our desires into life-long pursuits.
[facing west] Seek forgiveness, we are all learning.
To honor Tracy’s mistakes, he once told me that the stinky hedge nettle was mugwort. To honor the mistakes of those that came before us so that we don’t repeat them. To honor the wisdom of compassionate elders. To honor Old Age as a time of reflection and a forewarning to future generations. To honor the element of Water that flowing force in our blood, rivers, and oceans.