Posts Tagged ‘Robert Frose quote’

“I don’t ask for the sights in front of me to change—only the depth of my seeing.” (Mary Oliver)

In a small Indiana town I stand admiring a gravestone from the mid-nineteenth century—it bears my name. Sure, I added my husband’s  surname more than forty years ago, but I wore this one until I married. And that part of me exists, if only in the past. I have no idea who this woman was, or anything about her husband, Leonard. However, there is something sobering about seeing your name engraved on a gravestone, something that triggers the imagination.

As I wonder through the roughly parallel lines of monuments I see other graves with the same last name I had. My father didn’t know all his relatives. And he lived in Indiana for several years. I don’t know the full story about the distancing among those persons, only one incident that stands out because it reveals my dad as an innocent, vulnerable child.

He had an uncle, known to be cruel. At my father’s home he asked my father if he wanted to see a match burn twice. Dad always had a scientific mind. And, like all children he understood words at face value. The uncle lit his cigar, and then burned my father’s young arm. Dad howled and his mother came to his aid. She asked the uncle to leave and never come back.

No one else in that family ever returned either. The family tie burned as well. I never asked for the uncle’s name. The mama in me had the same reaction as his. I dismissed the uncle, too. Now my father has died.

I look at the layering of graves, from the earliest to the most recent. Moss covers some. The oldest are swallowed by black algae as well as yellow and green lichens. Time, rain, and wind have erased names, memories. No flowers decorate the older side. However, the past leaves unanswered questions. This person lived only twelve years and this one managed to reach his eighties. Unusual for early 1800. Personalities lose their touch. What color hair did she have? Did he treat his wife as an equal, or with the attitude of the times? Even the most ornate statue remains carved stone. It never speaks, leaves clues about the human spirit.

My meditative stroll reminds me of the last four lines of Robert Frost’s poem, “In a Disused Graveyard:”

It would be easy to be clever

And tell the stones: Men hate to die

And have stopped dying now forever.

I think they would believe the lie.

A baby sparrow hops among the stones. I maintain my distance. Unnecessary fear helps no living creature. He is no longer in that area when I return ten minutes later. Perhaps he has found his way to the sky. Perhaps not. I can’t help him any more than I can help my father’s long-ago past, or anyone’s past—including mine.

Instead I fly back into the moment: overcast, yet warm, externally quiet, internally alive with possibilities. The secret is to stay in the present and to love with as much power as I have. Now. On this June day. I pray to remember that, for longer than it takes to think it.

Peace to all, continuously renewed.

(pic from Morning Coach.com)

only live once MorningCoach


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