Pueo, the indigenous Hawaiian owl, reminds me that death dwells among the living.
Hiking in the Haleakala Crate on Maui, I was frustrated with days of constant rain. On my way back to the campsite, I was surprised by an enormous bird soaring silently on the thermals rising on the outer slope of the crater. I recognized the owl as Pueo, the Guardian spirit of many Hawaiian legends. The next morning, walking from the campsite, I heard a deafening drone of buzzing flies. I noted the entrails and claws of a bird and continued on the trail without breaking my stride. Pueo, I knew, had visited there. Working with cancer patients, I realize death dwells among us, as constant and dependable as my breath. Death's presence encourages me to live as fully as possible, so that I am ready and willing to surrender when Death slides its razor sharp talons into my soft-skinned coat and carries me off, with no regrets.