Thursday, June 3, 2010

joy intertwined in daily life, day 11: on graveyards and weird food metaphors

Sunday found us at the Preston Cemetery, a small quiet spot in rural southern Idaho--- calling it our family cemetery wouldn't be too far from the truth. With Memorial Day on the horizon, we made the family pilgrimage with mums and other flowers in hand.

A brief glimpse into a life that so many of us don't live anymore--- Memorial Day is for remembering.

The cemetery was spotted intensely with color - each grave decorated with pots of flowers, families standing in clusters. We gathered and talked from one gravestone to the next: grandparents and great grandparents, an aunt, an uncle, a few cousins. Their memories brought forth as we talked about each one. My mom said that my great grandmother loved pansies (there were some left on her grave, we guessed who might have put them there).

Alice jumped through the grass, kicking her legs high and running from gravestone to gravestone. She picked a yellow mum before I could stop her. And when I tried to prevent further flower stealing, my cousin Kristen stepped in and gave her one (From Kristen: "It's always easier to spoil other people's children. You have to be a good example and tell her to do the right thing. I get to give her flowers from Grandma. We all win, don't we?").

We took pictures as we mingled in monuments for the dead.

I have always loved cemeteries. They comfort me. The air is thick with memories of love. If you stop in a quiet cemetery and close your eyes, you will be able to feel that love grown thick and soft as moth wings. It will brush by your face with a whisper.

The dead do not haunt cemeteries, at least I don't particularly believe they do. But maybe they stop there from time to time to glimpse their loved ones, to offer hope and company to those they left behind.

These were my thoughts on Sunday evening as we drove back to my parents' house. I wasn't sure how to tell you about the visit in the context of this experiment to excavate joy. I decided to let it percolate for a little while.

What I came up with is another memory from the weekend with mom and Winston: a barbecue at my sister's place (her family just moved to a town about an hour from my parents', this was our first visit). The house was bustling, alive with the sound of kids and conversation. We ate things like baked beans and tri-tip and potato salad. There was chocolate cake with thick fudgy frosting. Bean was surrounded by cousins and utterly fascinated by all these people who wanted to kiss her.

It was a nice afternoon, a good way to spend the evening--- but as we drove home, I felt melancholy creep over me. A disconnect.

I spent the entire afternoon with my family, but left feeling like it was the briefest of brushes by, that it wasn't enough, that we didn't talk about the most important things. That I didn't say I love you, I miss you, I want to know what you're thinking about. I do miss my siblings. I miss having a face-to-face conversation of the whispered contents of our hearts (I don't know the last time we did that). I wish I could invite them over for a slumber party so we could stay up late and talk about what's on our minds. What's really there--- the worries and the hopes and the fears and the secrets we'd love to share with each other if only there was the time and the inclination.

As Chip drove down the freeway and I tried to keep Bean awake, I thought about how difficult it is to write about family, that no matter how sweet your words there can always be a dark thread that is misunderstood. No matter your intention of conveying love and ardour, you can mistakenly (and literally) hurt the ones you love.

The good and the bad, irrevocably intertwined. We can be surrounded by loved ones and still feel lonely. We can be standing in the middle of a graveyard, marinating in grief gone by and the loves who left us behind, and still feel totally content. Joy and pain, sweet and sour, dark and light. It's how I've taken seeing joy: no matter the circumstance, it is always embedded in something else. There's a line of a Stephen Dunn poem that comes to mind, "I acknowledge there is no sweetness / that doesn't leave a stain, / no sweetness that's ever sufficiently sweet..."

I imagine joy and darkness wrapped like some kind of cosmic bacon/filet mignon delicacy. (Don't ask me to identify which is which in that metaphor... it's just too weird.) But there it is: what I've gathered from this experiment.

Tell me, what have you learned? Anything new that you gathered along the way, or something you re-learned that you'd forgotten? A favorite moment to share? I'd love to hear from you.

But before then, two promises.

I promised I'd pick a favorite post from one of the participants and that person would receive a Whimsy Care Package. That, my friends, will be announced tomorrow--- because today is the last day of the game and so I still have some posts to read.


I promised that if you stopped by today (THURSDAY), I'd give you a treat, which is this: I have a story for you. But I will only tell it in private, because it's awesome and also somewhat embarrassing. So. If you email me today (THURSDAY ONLY, NO EXCEPTIONS), I'll email the story to you. Chip tells me that it's worth it. When I told him the story, he laughed so hard he cried. whimsyattack AT gmail DOT com.

And one last bit---- I'd be remiss if I didn't recognize the joy that these fine ladies brought to me during this little dip into joy. They entertained, they inspired, and they helped me to remember that we're never alone in anything we do. Just wonderful.

Eight Twenty Eight


One Day at a Time

City Mouse Country

Four Molnars

Midnight Rambler

Hannah's Song


Anonymous said...

Ooooh, I can't wait to hear this slightly embarrassing tale!

Rose said...

Well, I've noticed that most of my joy posts revolved around my family. Was it cheating? Maybe a little... but it makes me realize that no matter how crummy I'm feeling, no matter how bad a day (or week, or month) that I'm having, I always have my beautiful, loving family, and that alone should bring me joy!

I'll be sending an email soon. ;)

Amy said...

Ooohhh, looking forward to the story!

I feel like I cheated too after reading some other comments/posts.

I had a kinda crappy week but slowing down to find the little things put the rest in perspective. However, I didn't have to dig too deep or think too hard about it. Hmm, cheating or lucky or just lazy?

Bethsix said...

This is beautiful.

I did, however, for a split second, think that you said your great grandmother loved penises. /levity

I'm up, bare frickin' naked.

tearese said...

Dang, I missed the story.
We went to the cemetery for Memorial Day (in Logan no less) for the first time since we've been married. My family always went, but we had so many relatives in the Cedar City cemetery that it made sense. Every year I suggest we should go, no matter where we live, but Joseph finally agreed this year because I have great great grandparents buried here, and I knew where the headstone was. I was suprised by all the people and abundance of flowers there, and was a little sad that we hadn't gone before this year, to teach our children about honoring our loved ones that have gone before.
Also...we visited Preston for the first time last month, so exciting.