It is cold here. Fur coat weather. I’ve got this sealskin coat. The fur is bear-rug black, long and luxurious. You can put your face in the pelt, and it automatically erases wrinkles and worry-lines. It is seriously better than “age defying Oil of Olay.”
If you are a woman, you can imagine yourself wearing the coat (over a slinky dress – over a slinky body) walking into a cocktail party, drinking a dry martini, hobnobbing with film producers, sharing witty asides with Barack Obama over appetizers, and chatting with Hillary Clinton in the Ladies Room.
If you are a man, you can imagine that the woman in the coat is wearing nothing but the fur. Perhaps you are with her in front of a fireplace. You are sharing a glass of wine and looking into the flames as though they were about to reveal the future.
I like this coat a lot, but year after year, it hangs in the closet. If the seals have memory, do the seals who constitute my coat, dream of the Far North? Does one pelt talk to another? When they talk, do they start every sentence with, “Do you remember…”
As nice as my fur is, I don’t wear it because I don’t want to raise any environmental eyebrows. And seals are cute – there are no two ways about it. You may have seen the picture to the right… of the seal whose mother left him to seek food. Mistakenly thinking he was abandoned, the baby seal left the New Zealand rookery, toddled up the Bay of Plenty beach, entered a house through the cat door and settled down for a nap on a couch. “Lucky” was subsequently returned to his habitat. My heart-strings were plucked; however,
- I have never personally clubbed a seal to death.
- I have never made any money from a seal’s demise.
- I have never bought a sealskin coat.
My fur was given by my grandfather to my grandmother. I remember her wearing it. She did not wear it often. No doubt she “saved it for best,” and opportunities for best did not occur often enough.
During this holiday party season, I’ve seen any number of furs. Chatting with the fur-clad women, I’ve asked them if they have any ambivalence about wearing fur. All of them inherited their furs, and all of them have said that their furs were too old to be offensive: given the age of their furs, they were immune to environmental criticism. I get that.
In Russia, a common deathbed/gravesite saying is “May the Earth be a fur to her.” How lovely is that! I think I’d like to be buried in my fur.
Checking the Internet, Colorado seems to be moving ahead in terms of green burials. Karen van Vuuren, is the executive director of the Boulder non-profit Natural Transitions. Front Range communities are leading the way in the green burial movement. Fort Collins has already set aside 27 acres of six-foot-wide plots for green burials. Roselawn (what a traditional name for an untraditional site!) will be seeded once with native grasses and then neglected. Bodies leaking embalming fluids will not be allowed. No plantings or vases will be allowed. Markers will be flat pavers. Those buried will be wrapped in shrouds and/or placed in decomposing caskets.
As for me, I’d like to be buried on our Centennial Ranch property. From Promontory Ridge, you can see forever. Custer County is considering green burials, and come the new year, as the county commissioners work on revising the county resolutions, they will be taking advice from our coroner Art Nordyke and other interested parties.
Meanwhile, I’m moving ahead with my plans. This spring we should dig a grave in case I should die during frozen-ground weather. As to the shroud, winter or summer, I’d like be buried my fur. The coat will warm me, and the seals will finally be at-rest.
In keeping with the Egyptian custom, I would like friends and relatives to bring gifts to see me on my journey: chocolate, coffee, brandy, books, notebooks, and pens would be a start. A camera would be good. As a computer would be useless and I’d be lost without Google search, an abridged encyclopedia would be handy. And I’ll need some money to see me across the River Styx.
I doubt that I’ll need a map.
List all the things that you are taking with you to the next world.
What are your funeral plans?
Reflect on your notion of the “Afterlife.”
Write a scene that revolves around a funeral. If it is helpful, have one attendee saying, “She looks better now than she did in real life.” Or… “What possessed her to choose that dress!” Or… “He was not a saint: in life he was a real bastard.”