I forget how the old cemeteries haunt me. The seventeen-year-old who drowned in August of 1782 and his mother who died a scant month later. Grief and loss and a gap into which the mind rushes, inclined to fabrication. The snake going before me in tangled grass, shadows of ferns, and my father using a black cane to clear away the obscuring growth. Beer cans and a black gun, hidden in the hollow of a rotten oak. Oh, and the gaping black maw of the earthen vault, in which I never see what I fear I will see, which is no comfort.
Pondered a tweet last night – “the horse foundered a bit, and I foundered too” – but knew only the latter half of the sentence was true, so let it go. Couldn’t sleep, troubled by a sense that I had betrayed myself at some point in the previous few days, a mystifying accusation but too acute to ignore. Drank of glass of water in the dark dining room, leaning on the North-facing window sill, studying the cool flickering stars, listening to the chickens mutter dreaming. The night sky is always where the coming seasons first shows itself – Fall unfolding, like a cool mirror slowly unshading. This has been a sad summer, passing of the Dog Day’s Moon.
I remembered Steve Wood, too, who was kind to me at a difficult time, and first introduced me to the cemeteries – mowing the grass, trimming the deadfall (sic!), etc. In particular I remembered the white pine we climbed off Dingle Road, scaling its windy peak and studying the blue distance, like a pair of musing crows. How grateful and bewildered I felt! As I so often – still – feel in the face of blessing. And later my father became Cemetery Commissioner, and my tenure as undertaker began in earnest. Some part of me is always heaving in knowing tandem with death. How many men my age have dug by hand a grave for a human being?
Wordy soul! I was surprised to fall back to sleep, insomnia being such a devoted companion, but I did, and gently too. Woke to the sound of Chrisoula grating zucchini, a comfort, and only minutes later the children, their voices light in the sunny kitchen, like little lost canaries coming home.