Tuesday, March 28, 2017
Part-two...I will return.
I had a conversation with my mother a few months ago about the history of our little city here in the valley. I reminded her of a walk we went on some years ago through one of the cities grave yards. I remember mom being slightly confused about my story of the walk. I assumed she couldn't remember, she's been forgetting things a bit more lately, and having difficultly pronouncing the occasional word. Anyways, I went on with the visuals to mom hoping to jar her memory, but she couldn't remember...and now I know why....
the walk was with Nana J.
long before my parent's moved here.
It was a warm sunny day along the hillside. I'm uncertain whether it was spring or summer, nonetheless, it was a lovely day, especially the way the sun was slanting it's light.
Nana J and I drove up the small mountain at the edge of town where a winding road passes the cemetery, and goes on to a chain of homes to the top. My parent's, years later bought a home on the other side of this mountain.
When Nana J and I arrived at the cemeteries-gravel-parking lot we were virtually the only car except for one, which I assumed was an employee. The hillside cemetery was flooded with late morning light-soft against the trees-- giving way for the calm silence of many sleeping. I remember now-Nana J wanted to place some flowers on her deceased husbands plot, the year before that, he committed suicide.
I'm unsure why I confused my mother with Nana J and this walk. Obviously both have made an impact on my life. I do know this, however, both are alike, they saunter slowly, taking in all the small gifts of nature along the way. I suppose one of the differences in the both-are, the way my mother takes in deep breaths of fresh-air-so theatrical like, as if she's been born again. Nana J wouldn't want to attract attention to herself, she was very unassuming in public. My mother however, presently, doesn't care. Sometimes this is funny, being that she brought me up so prim and proper, English style.
I stood and gazed over the sunny hillside after getting out of Nana J's car. It was awhile before I could set aside the beauty of the landscape to the reality of death. Nana J bent down and cleaned two seasons of dust from a small vase left next to the plaque of which bared her husband's name. I thought it all quite simple, really, the small space of grass, the small plaque. Strange how life ends so small and simple, when for all matters---life in the beginning comes so dramatic.
Fresh flowers were put in the small vase. Nothing was said. And we walked away.
I thought we would walk back to the car resting in the shade of the trees in the gravel parking lot, but Nana J instead asked if I would like to walk one of the many paths. Of course I followed, until I was side by side with her sauntering. I wasn't sure at the time how I was going to feel about passing grave stones, especially if I saw any of children. I was a young mom at the time, however, I would feel now the same as I did then. We walked a small way before Nana J began to speak. Soon after that I began to see the cemetery in a new light.
We wandered the path past what seemed like a sea of head stones of all sizes, the sun caught on the granite and twinkled. Slowly we read the occasional name, until Nana J pointed her finger on a familiar name that I recognized as a street name in town, the Kip family. One after the other laid out in front of us, street names of actual people and their families going back to the pioneer days. I won't lie, I was fascinated. In fact? my imagination ripped up like a wind storm, I had to explore more.
When Nana J and myself passed all the familiar names of folks born and immigrated to this valley, there was one last exploration, the top of the hillside.
From a distance you wouldn't see the old grave stones. The grass at the top of the hillside wasn't as green as below, though the shady edge of a small forest that lined the top of the hill was. The head stones there were very old and far apart with names I didn't recognize. In some cases, actually, finding the head stones was a bit of a hunt. But once your at the top of the hillside in the shady-old-grove-of-trees, one realizes that your no longer on a hillside but literally on top of a mountain. The trees were a mix of old chestnut trees and cedars. Most of them had high dresses, meaning a high ceiling with open space below from which you could walk with clear view across the top portion of mountain-the footage however was short, and began to slope down into a pool of morning sun, nearing noon. Just before the slope we came across a few more old grave stones in the shade. The weathered look of them and the positioning of which they lay, leaning, had a story of their own. Everyone of them in were alone, no family members, and so far apart as if they weren't part of the cemetery-family on the other side of the mountain. It was a different feeling there, very different. I felt sadness there, and was relieved when Nana J turned to go back up the dirt path of the mountain.
Once we made it past the old grove of trees to the other side of the mountain where the main part of the cemetery lay, the sun revived our spirits.
Walking back down through the main portion of the hillside cemetery of which we came, had me no longer dubious or sad as when we came. In fact, I was glad I came. I would look upon a cemetery differently. And have.
There's a few things I learned, though; a cemetery can hold an incredible amount of history with which will ignite your imagination, so much so the diversion softens the sad edges of death.
Not only did the history fascinate me, but most memorable was the hillside flooded with the warmth of that morning sunshine. It was the way it made me feel under the circumstance. It was combined with a peacefulness that met nature with the chirping of the birds-signs to keep you present and well.
I couldn't be certain back then if I would ever revisit the cemetery again. Perhaps if Nana J asked, I would, but she never asked, and the years went on. I never returned-never had too-
she'll rest next to her husband. I will return.