Sunday, March 27, 2016
Pause at cemeteries
I pause at cemeteries, then go in.
Don't you? It seems the thing to do.
Though I'm not sure why. It feels like dull curiosity, at the moment, a mild historic interest. Almost something embarrassment, prying in the affairs of others, treading on theri graves.
But it's something of an obligation too. These people lived, they loved, they died, as shall we all, and left these traces, claimed their little space, a private country, eighteen square feet of territory made sovereign by their headstone forever.
The least we can do is glance at them as we pass by, at this little garden of eternity.
Well, maybe not eternity. Not, in fact, forever. Nature is forever. Humanity is the frost on a pumpkin, the charge on a battery. Headstones melt in the rain it turns out, at least marble and limestone do. Granite lasts a bit longer, but those will crack or be carted off in their turn. It's only the illusion of permanence, to comfort the bereaved among us.
Me, I find comfort in their ephemerality. Because it reminds us that for all the effort we put into our works, our careers and houses and such, great or small, it adds up to nothing, long term. A bigger monument, a plinth, a pylon, a crypt, which only makes the passerby shake their head at the irony, the futility. "Benjamin F. Barge" and his cap and gown and steepled glory is just as dead as the guy under an unreadable mound of softening stone. Reputation helps him no more than anonymity hurts the other.
How many people waste how many years piling up those stones? Stones that most people, truth be told, never contemplate at all.
Though there is good in doing so. I hiked up a steep hill in Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania last October to look over the cemetery. I did it the morning I left, as if it were some duty that had to be performed before I was free to leave the town. Because it was there.
I pause at cemeteries, then go in, Because, coming out, I'm gladder to be alive.