Season One, Four Seasons Project, 2019
My spring was punctuated by rather intense rat sightings in broad daylight. In late winter, I came across a rat who was actively dying in the middle of the sidewalk in the rain. It was large and adorable and struggling and I spent a long time trying to figure out how I might save it or comfort it, eventually realizing that there was nothing I could do but let it be. I feel deeply connected to animals and was absolutely heartbroken by this encounter and the feelings of powerlessness and sadness it evoked in me. Come spring, I encountered a completely dead rat on my path and weeks later, a second dead rat in front of me -- this one with its face missing, gnarled and bloody. My fourth and final rat sighting came in late May, this rat was also large and adorable and very much alive. It scurried right across my path and then took a seat in the brush looking at me without fear, as if saying a sweet hello.
Although sometimes a rat is just a rat, I'm a Jungian who doesn't believe in coincidences but in synchronicities and the magic of symbolism. Having never been closer than about ten yards to a rat on a city street at night (save a friend's pet rat years ago), all of these rat encounters in a matter of months were no accident to me. I decided to do a visioning journey to more intentionally meet these rats and understand why they so dramatically made their presence known to me.
In the journey, hundreds of rats showed up and came to die in front of me, one-by-one, until the floor was covered in their blood. It was gruesome and I asked them why they were doing this. They replied that they were dying in front of me so that I would become more comfortable with death in all forms - death of the body, death of all of life's circumstances, death of parts of the self, etc. They said they knew I would respectfully bear witness to this and would both honor their lives and properly grieve their deaths. So it became this exchange, they were to show me how to more gracefully sit with the impermanence of all things (something I am admittedly terrible at) and I, in turn, would witness, honor, and grieve them. Then, a paintbrush showed up in my hand and I dipped it into the rats' blood on the floor - with clarity that I was to create art from this blood.
After this visioning process, I set out to cover a canvas with blood red paint. All I felt inspired to do next was to make circles on the canvas and so I began to make hundreds of tiny circles realizing that this was now a meditation on the birth-life-death(-rebirth) cycle. I recreated this cycle over and over again on the canvas while reflecting on this truth - eventually adding the rats to the canvas. I want to lift up the qualities of the rats themselves because this wasn't just any animal who showed up. While rats are often seen as unclean pests, they also model for us: vulnerability, courage, perseverance, resilience, adaptability, creativity, resourcefulness, intelligence, honesty, ambition, shrewdness, and abundance. These are all qualities that are necessary to successfully navigate the continual waves of impermanence - the birth-life-death cycles - that we experience in our lives. I gave the rats golden crowns to honor the regality of these qualities. Their sweet little crowns are my favorite part of this piece and certainly helped make it look like a page out of a children's book... (perhaps one that would teach children some of these lessons before they reach adulthood and require several dead rats on their path to open their eyes :).
So please take a moment to sit with these Royal Rats of Impermanence and reflect on the cycles happening in your life right now. Claim which of their regal qualities you already possess and are actively using to move through your days - and, if needed, set the intention to bring more of these qualities into your daily experience so that you may more easily ride these waves. With love & reverence for the impermanence of all things, Talia 🖤