I’ve been crying again and don’t really feel like doing this walking assignment for my Becoming Mindful in Place workshop, but I carry my key and a heavy heart out to the garage.
I drive Hope, my new red Jeep, down the paved entrance lined by American flags and through the gate. I bear left, then right, then left, then right again into the “K” section. I pull to the grassy side on the right and park in the usual spot across from the King headstone. My inlaws are buried here under a big maple tree.
I pull dead heads of purple and red petunias from the cement urns on either side of the headstone (where there is room for three more names) and from the marigolds planted on either side. I usually plant red geraniums and white petunias in the urns, red geraniums in the ground. But this year my husband’s cousin took care of “decorating” the grave since her parents lie on the other side.
A youngish woman with short blond hair parks her black Kia five car lengths behind mine, exits and approaches a site on that side of the road. She stands in front of a headstone a few moments with head bowed, then lowers herself to sit cross-legged on the damp grass. I try not to stare.
I turn right (we usually go left) and walk next to the woodsy hill that slopes down to the stream. I’m careful to stay on the paved path for fear of ticks hiding in the undergrowth. The path curves right past the newer, grassy section. Highway traffic rushes by beyond the wooded barrier on my left. I stop several times.
I went to church with LouAnn. She tutored my daughter through high school algebra. She was the first person I ever knew who married someone she’d met on the Internet. Her husband, a Greek Orthodox priest from out west, moved here to Michigan. They buried his mother here.
I worked with Marilyn at the health department. She died in her 40’s from lung cancer after a long fight. She never smoked.
Duane was driving his tractor home when he was hit by a semi. Megan and her mother were killed at a railroad crossing in town when a train hit their car.
Stories. This place is filled with stories, with friends and relatives, with friends of friends and relatives of friends, with names I recognize though never knew. But there are also unknown people and neglected places, toppled and propped up headstones, faded engravings, and a woman marked only as “wife of Ezra” (did nobody know her name?) here in the older, hilly section that’s shaded by several aged trees. I can’t find her today. Maybe her husband’s name was John.
I remember my father-in-law sent me here years ago to collect leaves for a botany class project because he said I wouldn’t find more species of trees in one place than in Maple Hill Cemetery.
I hear the town traffic on the other side of the hill, and I ponder the stillness of this center surrounded by busyness of life. How my faith is both strengthened and weakened in this place. How I’m both shaken and settled.
I stroke a concrete tree trunk that at first glance reminds me of a totem pole, but a concrete cross hangs from the top. Vines and ferns tangle around the base, and, further up, the “bark” is peeled back to reveal that George Ward was born in Devonshire, England, and was 65 at death—though the dates on a smaller marker show he was 67. I wonder how much this cost to create.
I see some square, Scrabble-like blocks scattered on the ground and a giant urn planter without a planting. I chase a still unidentified bird through the “baby section” snapping blurry photos with my phone. I stop at one ground level marker to touch the three Matchbox cars that sit atop it. They are free-wheeling, and I marvel that they’ve not been stolen.
I follow the path back to the car, stepping around puddles and over twigs. I stop to pick up a teardrop-shaped petal stamped with a heart.
Madeleine L’Engle wrote, “When I am constantly running there is no time for being. When there is no time for being there is no time for listening. I will never understand the silent dying of the green pie-apple tree if I do not slow down and listen…”
For the next several weeks I’m going to intentionally practice slowing down, becoming mindful in place. I don’t have time for it in this season’s life chaos, which is exactly why I needed to enroll Tweetspeak Poetry’s online workshop of that name. I think they designed it with me in mind. This is a reflection from our second writing assignment, to observe what we see on a walk.
In the stillness,
Are you a walker?
What does walking do for you?
If you take a walk today, tell me what you see.
With Laura and Jennifer