On a drizzly day, before I began to clean up the rest of the garden, I tidied our old dog Bill’s grave on the south forty. I cleared the beginning-to-rust can that holds greens in winter and flowers in summer, and fashioned an insert from a yogurt container.
Thick grass (well, grass and weeds) surrounds the gravesite and encroaches. Neglected while waiting for the daffodil foliage to mature, then we were gone, and now it was just unkempt. Winter rains and winds tattered the prayer flags and knocked down the stone stacks we build up in the summer to mark the grave.
I gathered flowers deer avoid to fill the can, and thought about Bill, and also about the photo my painter friend sent of my parents’ gravesite in Anchorage. Two little markers in the old downtown cemetery. My friend visited them on Memorial Day and placed a bouquet of early spring flowers from her Anchorage garden. I was touched.
Cleaning up the debris on the big stones covering Bill’s grave, I thought about people forever tending gravesites. Like those depicted in the movie “Forever,” about the Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris – French women brushing and polishing marble of loved ones, and leaving flowers. I wondered about having a place to go for remembering – a place where the act of tidying is devotion. Comparing that to scattering ashes in a meaningful place. My friend here on the bluff built a beautiful memorial for two beloved animals – a horse and a dog, Charlie. One day the Garry oaks she planted will grow huge.
Some of these thoughts come from travelling in a country with so much history, so many memorials, so many stone houses hundreds of years old. Been thinking, too, about how even our wooden house will far outlive us and feeling inclined to paint the year of building over the door – even if not carved in stone – and maybe consider other permanent marks that say we were here.
Rain and dark clouds encouraged these thoughts. Glad to shake them off, I headed back to the house and the Buffalo to cook and make the bed for cheerful guests coming to stay.
The important thing is paying attention to this life now. We’ll light a fire and tell stories like people do.