Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Cemetery

I’m walking through the cemetery, through gravestone rows, feet sinking into soft turf, into the earth below, toward the bodies returning, having been returned.

I wish these gravestones told me more. The rhetoric of love and heaven hardly makes an argument. I’m curious about the life that lay shrouded behind the name. I want to know more than the dates that bordered each existence. A life is such an ocean of feeling, such a frenzy of events. What were these people passionate about? What was it like to be in a room with them? How were they kind? How did they hurt people?

I could spend an hour a day here then, taking in these histories.

I watch an airplane rise into the sky. I see it tilt and turn southward, shrinking into the distance. I follow carefully as it withers to a tiny glimmer on endless blue, until I can’t hold it any longer, until I suddenly blink and my eyes open to an empty sky.

There are sections here of stones marking where children have been buried - infants - two or three day winks of consciousness. Most of these slight flashes into the universe occurred more than fifty years ago, yet there are flowers set before several graves. I can picture a mother, now very old, still carrying with her that void, that aching space her lost baby left her. I imagine her knelt there in late morning, alone, alone for acres, alone for light-years, for millennia - her long skirt flapping in hot quiet wind.

The sun hammers on blazing car roofs, inching through traffic in the distance. Trucks rattle by, landscaping equipment in tow, metal teeth gnashing. A funeral procession comes with the buzzing of motorcycle cops. I lower my head and lift my gaze from time to time, caught in the eyes of those driving past.

I descend a steep hill, careful, slow, overcome with the reality of this place, with awareness of death, of all the mourning yet to come.

I try to feel the ground as I walk. When you start breaking away your defense mechanisms, you feel the internal weather system all the time. You can’t fight a storm, you can only wait it out, then inspect the damage and from what damage it came.

I think about the emotions that burn. Anger, Anxiety, Anguish, Grief, Fear, Shame, and on and on... Each of these flares up differently, on different latitudes of our bodies. For me, Grief smolders. Grief sends smoke upwards on each side of the spine, it burns quiet like the embers of a campfire on a vast, dark, lonely, plain.

These fires are raging across our planet, spreading from city to city, nation to nation, person to person, moment to moment, era to era. I stand here in the cemetery and this is all I can think about. We are a species ablaze. We are a world engulfed in flames.