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Life in a Cemetery

15 June 2013 | Category: Stories | Author: Clare

I found myself standing on the precipice of an old graveyard.

The cemetery is the hallmark of a town that is no more. A crumbling memory of what once was. The shadow of many people's lives.

It is nestled in the forest, hidden, just across the river from the cabin. And I haven't been there for a couple of years.

I clambered across the train tracks, wading through deep snow, listening intently for the rumble of the monster coming, as presumably the inhabitants of Donald did 150 years earlier.

It was a Sunday, and felt like one.

The world was slow, lethargic; and I felt no rush or stress as I scrambled up the bank and stood beside the half broken, half fallen perimeter fence.

Staring in at other people's obscurity.

There is no menace in this cemetery, no sense of foreboding. Only a gentle sadness, and I pondered the sentiment as I surveyed the frozen world, looking for monoliths. The snow banked against some stones, completely disguising others, except for the knowledge that the ridges, and bumps were the insignia of human passing, not the inalienable fall and rebirth of the forest.

Donald cemetery is historic. There are no links to the contemporary world, or society. The umbilical cord is broken; there are no fresh flowers, no signs that the living still frequent this place to grieve recent loss. No-one clears the snow, the memories abandoned until the Spring, when the bears may pass through; and the people may return to visit the hallmark of a lost era.

The sadness that tugs at your heart is not simply for the death of people, but the end of a community. The transition from something so simple, so honest, and straightforward, to the complexity that we live everyday in the modern world.

I stood there for a long time, not wanting to disturb the virgin snow.

No animals had walked through there recently, no people. Nothing.

There is something beautiful about the silent patience of a graveyard that is mostly historic; holding it's breath for that colourful, and loud disturbance of long forgotten life dancing through it's very soul.

The poignant moment, when you realise you are bringing energy into a forgotten place, with it's forgotten people.

As I stood at the entrance to a physical record of the rise and fall of a community, I felt incredibly lucky to be alive.

To be able to stand there and feel empathy, feel loss, feel acutely aware that as the living, we have a fleeting responsibility to actually live.

To throw open our arms, and embrace the world, and everything it has to offer.

For one day, as these people now know, it will be over.

We will be gone, remembered only by the dusty reminders that people have placed in the earth to recognise our lives.

The light from a late afternoon sun, shone through the trees. Generously bathing the tombstones in warm, liquid gold; gently bringing them to life. Allowing them to bask for a moment in simply being a part of the world.

Before dipping behind the ridge of the surrounding mountains, and gently slipping away across the snow, across the tracks, across the divide that separates the living from the dead. You could almost see the stones reaching for the retreating warmth, yearning with a need we can only imagine, then resting back against the snow, resigned to be markers forever more of the passing of lives, and of people.

I found myself cold, and saddened.

And I turned from that place, feeling the winter creep into my heart.

We have a responsibility of sorts. Not only to ourselves, but to those who have gone before us.

We have an obligation to live; and to do it with a reckless abandon that brokers no dissent. For this is all we have, and every moment we are in it, it is silently slipping through our fingers.

I am damned if I am going to curtail my love for anyone, or anything.

 


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