Running late again. What’s new? I always make it on time, a little less for wear. About a block from the bus stop I smell the delicious scent of bacon frying or maybe already on someone’s fork hovering before their quivering mouth. I see and smell the toast, eggs and maybe even pancakes, and oh we must not forget the fried potatoes! Perhaps lightly oiled just a bit with the glistening bacon fat…… A good old-fashioned midwestern breakfast for a blustery March day. I could probably eat it every day, especially the potatoes…..
As usual walking past the cemetery I feel a serene and almost lullaby kind of calm. Just looking at the old headstones and the people buried there, I can hear a hushed voice whispering “Don’t worry….. everything will be okay.. And if not, so what?” So what? What can I do, I am just a person walking to catch the bus on my way to work….
Very early this morning about 6:00 a.m. I saw red flashing lights outside and two huge fire trucks with lights blazing like a fury of bloody mosquitos— sharp and frightening like an impending heart attack. They sat there for a long time silently like some restless animals blinking. I wondered if a neighbor was in trouble…..
Bacon. I can still smell it. The hot crisp edges, the delicious fatty salt melting like a rare exotic butter. I had a small bowl of Cheerios for breakfast and still felt hungry, but I am not a farmer or a lumberjack and bacon, potatoes, toast, eggs, jams and jellies I do not need. I wish sometimes that I was a farmer or a lumberjack waking up at dawn somewhere to a pink and lavender sky just breaking. To a chorus of birds just awakening. To air that smells like a freshly powdered baby……
Hoe, rake, axe, scythe, my own two hands and feet, sturdy back and legs are all I want sometimes. All the equipment I need. I think I would be happier, healthier, saner and then I could eat all the bacon I want. And buttermilk biscuits with fig jam and cups and cups of strong black coffee made in a percolator with egg whites and shells the old fashioned way.
Every day I go walking to the bus stop and I am either in the fields or the farm or some long forgotten place, a quiet place, a peaceful place. For the fifteen to twenty seconds that I walk past the old cemetery I am transported. Why does it bring such peace, an almost harmonious and even toned frame of mind? Joy even. The cars to the right, the endless stream of cars that always run beside me, finally disappear, and I feel intense silence, an almost tangible nothingness, the cessation of chatter and nonsense, and if you listen very closely the music, the deep and silent music if music can be silent, of those now only dreaming, and sleeping in their distant beds.
There is a cemetery in Lviv, Ukraine where I went long ago, full of gnarly old trees—, elms, oaks, lindens, maples, willows, and huge monuments. As big and wondrous as a national park. A famous and beloved Ukrainian singer is buried there…. murdered decades ago because he dared to sing in Ukrainian….. I remember my mother and sister and I walking around the cemetery as tourists, looking at all the monuments and memorials, not knowing at the time where his grave was. It was very silent there yet alive with bird sounds and the hush of things flitting in and out of the old leafy trees. Suddenly we saw a tombstone surrounded by what looked like hundreds of marigolds, poppies, roses and lilies, and we thought someone very rich or popular or famous had just died. It was this singer’s grave decorated with so many bouquets it was as though he had died yesterday… and was still on stage singing…
And then still wandering around this cemetery, on what was a very warm and dry August day, we saw something ahead that was wide and long, like a kind of shelter. Lying on a commodious bed of stone was a beautiful young girl with long golden hair trailing down the sides of her body and along her breasts in long loose waves and curls. She was all stone but you knew she was blonde, you knew she was very young, you knew she was very loved, you knew she died very suddenly and you knew that she was deeply deeply grieved by her distraught parents and family.
Along her sides were long-stemmed roses, dozens and dozens of red roses, in fat silky blooms about to open. There was a bouquet of roses on her chest and she was clasping them with delicate slender fingers. There were also roses strewn at her feet and they covered her like the hands of loving parents. Whoever sculpted this memorial must have loved her too, because each and every line from her beautiful strong chin, to her long and fragrant hair, delicate Roman nose, half closed dreaming eyelids was filled with pure love– you could almost see the moisture in the dewy skin… the artist who created her must have been weeping and dying too..
I have never forgotten that girl and even now I see her in my mind, and she seems strangely alive, as though taken abruptly from a nap or party, she looks like she might be dreaming, or had just touched something or someone, just said something— or was about to say something….was returning to the room to retrieve something she had forgotten…. like the toy soldier left behind by Little Boy Blue….or maybe she was wondering why she was covered in all those roses……
The bus is coming and I still smell the bacon and see the customers at the counter or tables inhaling the rich and salty smells of their morning meal, eating with that pure childlike happy way that human beings have at breakfast…. so grateful to be alive to eat and smell and drink and I also smell those burning red roses back in Lviv, Ukraine and the beautiful young girl and almost see her fingers at her dreaming lips going…… shhhhhhhh….