Skull-hunting is a pastime I took up in order to teach myself patience and humility. Patience because finding a skull is a hard thing to do. And humility because they're skulls - the remnants of the heads' of the dead. A skull is a fascinating and terrifying thing. By itself it is the very symbol of death, yet within one we can see, still, the features that once gave it life, that gave it awareness and voice - its eyes and teeth. Because we associate a skull with death, we see death in bared teeth and eyes hollowed. When the flesh is stripped away we see the basic form of the animal below, we see what we are, a marvel of microscopic systems that assemble to create a form; a form that procreates form. Skulls are not easy to collect, unless you buy them. But that wouldn't be serendipitous, and then they wouldn't be gifts. A skull should be discovered, stumbled upon, won through effort and exertion. And the only way to find them is not to look.   
This was a fox. It's all that remains of him. It's sitting beside a grave in an old Catholic cemetery where it must have been for months without anyone having noticed it. It died here. I know this because I found it still attached to its spine, amid a cluster of other bones that were its ribs and limbs. So it died here, or was dragged here, and here it sat undisturbed until I happened along accidentally,  because I was bored and wanted to go out and use my camera. I came to the cemetery to photograph the monuments of the dead and found this. 
The head is where it all happens. It is the home of thought and action. It is the one external part of our bodies we can't live without. There was a reason why, in times not so recently past, that power took the heads the powerless. To take a head is to utterly destroy, but more than that, it is to utterly defile. The head on the pike was a symbol of supremacy and a beacon of fear. The skull meant death, but it also means life. The skull is proof of the miracle of life, of intelligent life. The creature whose brain requires such protection is surely worth living, and passing on its crazy formula for a slightly altered duplicate of itself. To house eyes and guard brain, to receive and process the very smell of living, the various sounds of it, the vibrations life makes, all the images, memories, voices and songs that were once contained within, even the fox - what things it alone has seen and heard and tasted and smelled before it met it's end? The skull is a talisman that can tell no story, but all stories.

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Published on February 04, 2012 22:09 • 17 views

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