Some have said that I’m “dark.” Their impression might be based on my love of Scandinavian movies or my revelatory writing or my love of cemeteries. I would like to dispel that misconception. Yes, based on those impressions, you might think I’m wallowing in death, damnation and the Underworld, but you are wrong. In truth, I’ve seen enough of death and dying that I’m not as fearful as you may think.
It is true that I often drive out to visit with the departed interred in the Rosita Cemetery. Some might think the cemetery unkempt. I, however, glory in the rolling terrain, the pines, the sunken plots, the stones and the history. I particularly love the wooden fences that mark the plots’ perimeters. Some fences stand upright; other fences lie down. Deer saunter from grave to grave; rabbits pause to munch the overgrown grass. Walking on a pine needle carpet beneath the trees, walking from sunshine to shadow, I think of the alternating light as a metaphor for life: whatever misfortune befalls us, sooner or later, if we hang tough, we will walk out of the shadow and into the light.
The Rosita Cemetery goes back to 1870. Drawn by the Pocahontas and Humboldt silver mines, the hopeful arrived and by 1878, Rosita had a population of 1500. The headstones tell a dark story of death at birth. Children dropped like flies. And no doubt, some died in the mines. Wandering from stone to stone, I commune with the departed. I long to know their stories. I want to visit with them. My visit isn’t dark; rather, I take comfort in their company.
As usual, I come to this blog with too many threads and not enough focus. Let me go back to this past week’s book club.
Our assignment was to read The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown. The non-fiction book follows the making of the University of Washington rowers who crewed an eight-man scull and unexpectedly brought home the Gold in the 1936 Berlin Olympics. From the very beginning, the reader knows that the student athletes will overcome Depression Era poverty to take on Berkeley and the elite eastern schools. Ultimately, they to will represent America and challenge Hitler’s crack, home-town team.
As an aspiring writer, I am dazzled with Brown’s ability to seamlessly weave geology, the Great Depression, the Art of rowing, the psychology of coaching, the construction of the sculls, the rise of the Nazi State, the propaganda inherent in hosting the Olympics, and most importantly, the building of a crew that rows in perfect symmetry. Brown’s book is a lyrical prose poem that sings. The prose and particularly the quotes by George Pocock, the boat builder, put great value on the spiritual, out-of-body transcendence that occurs when the eight crew members row as one.
At the conclusion of book club, we were talking about how the students had surpassed the physical and mental challenges inherent in rowing. And at that point, Lavonne Bullard added that if we looked around the circle, we would come face-to-face with a large number of women who had survived debilitating illnesses and were in remission or back in treatment. Surely, they had surpassed their self-assessed physical and mental abilities. Looking round the circle was a sobering moment.
Book Club was followed by a Labor Day 5K walk to raise money for local residents undergoing cancer treatments. I walked in memory of dear friends lost: one to breast cancer, one to bone cancer, and one to brain cancer.
Not to dwell only on those lost, I also released balloons for those undergoing treatment at present. We began with a public prayer, personal prayers, and then we released our balloons. During the prayer, I fumbled with my camera. Damn! Given the direction of the wind, I would be shooting into the sun! But my delayed shot, was OK. The glint of the sun against the rising balloons was just right in terms of transcendence.
Walking along the park-to-park path, I came across a neighbor couple. I told them that I was a fan of the Rosita Cemetery and on my last visit I had noticed their family name marking a plot. I wondered if the empty plot belonged to them. And it did! Just to the east, there are unclaimed plots. I’m pretty excited. If Mark and I can buy nearby plots, we will be in close proximity to our neighbors. After death, we can keep one another company.
A friend recently shared “Afterlife,” a poem by George Sibley – a feature writer for Colorado Central Magazine. The last stanza of his poem reads: “And there, then, something of us leaves, lives / As a tree, and if blessed, something of those / We loved will come to lie under us, / Or in our branches build nests, or just sing.”
Seeing the four-poster fence with a bird’s nesting cavity in each post, reminded me of this poem. Let the birds sing and I will be happy.