Walking Through the Cemetery Listening to the Avett Brothers

Hello, friends, hello world. It’s been too long. I’m on a bit of a mission — to write more, and I guess, to keep it simple, maybe brief (ha!). More to the point, to be less afraid of thoughts in draft. To reflect on the day, the way I do in my journal, but little by little, to reflect more publicly — at least for now, one day at a time, in this season.

Here is one thing I got to do today: walk to work, through the Forest Hills Cemetery, with the cold bracing but not crippling, the sky smeared gently with clouds, my eyes watering, moving over the gravestones, bare branches and snow. While I was doing this, I was listening to “No Hard Feelings” by the Avett Brothers.

When the sun hangs low in the West/and the light in my chest/won’t be held at bay any longer/when the jealously fades away/and it’s ash and dust for cash and lust/and it’s just halleluiah…

It’s a song about death. It’s about letting go, and being unafraid to do so. I put it on a Spotify mix for my Dad. I hope he doesn’t get the wrong idea. I put it on there because I believe, or at least as I see it, he has few “hard feelings” toward people. He is often at peace with himself and others. Or at least, he’s getting there; he inspires me towards it. I’m getting there, not expecting to have achieved this while I’m on this earth, but it’s sure enough work to try for a lifetime.

I was imagining a film of the cemetery while the song played — just stone after stone, the camera panning over all the names. Some from the 1930s. Little children from the 1890s. Huge mausoleums with familiar-sounding names associated with brands or businesses. Ice covered the pond, and I was grateful for the stillness everywhere. The timing of these songs as they come up on my playlist gets me sometimes. What a perfect song to walk through the cemetery, you know? It was just time for it to play.

On the walk home, I listened to “Uptown Funk.” I had to turn if off to just listen to the silence, then I turned it up again. Of course, this is not a cemetery song. It works, though, if you are just passing through, putting one step in front of the other toward your future.

This morning, I wasn’t passing through in the same way. For a few moments, that song, that cemetery, were everything. I’m grateful for this mini-film in my own mind on a Thursday morning before work. I’m grateful for a tiny moment like this. I’m convinced there’s at least one to notice every day.

I Want to Be One of the People Inside

One of my favorite things to do when it’s dark is to look into the lighted windows of people’s homes.
Yes, that sounds totally creepy. I do not sneak up in the bushes.

But I’ve always been fascinated by dwellings that aren’t my own. Other places, other lives. When I look inside these little worlds during brief moments walking or driving by, I see comfort and contentment that doesn’t live within my own heart.

Blue television light flickers on walls dotted with family pictures. A person bends over a sink by the window of a glowing kitchen whose fresh wood cabinets I can almost smell. A Christmas tree silently illuminates an empty room after midnight.

As I pass by, I’m filled with fleeting curiosity and longing. Everything I see looks familiar, reminding me of my own experience, and at the same time, hauntingly out of reach.

Although it’s usually homes that have this effect on me, it was also true of the Vicente and d’Oro Barber Shop in Dorchester, whose window I passed in early spring almost a year ago. This is where I met Jalijah, a young woman who was getting her hair lined out on a Saturday night. Continue reading

I’m Just Getting There Fast As I Can, Same As You

It takes a certain kind of person to live in the woods on and off since 1998.

Jimmy has what it takes.

The first time I saw him, I was driving in Belmont, near McLean hospital, and there was a man, walking on the sidewalk, carrying his belongings on a bag tied to the end of a stick. Original hobo. I marveled and drove on.

The second time I saw him, it was on the bus. He wore mirrored shades. It was winter. Shorts exposed his bare calves, which were riddled with thick veins. His face was fuzzy with whiskers, wrinkles, chapped skin.

We exchanged a few words. Probably about the weather. I realized this was the same guy I had seen walking in Belmont. Not because of his stick, which I don’t think he had. Rather, it was the way he carried himself – slowly, as if trying not to fall apart. But steadily, too, like he couldn’t be broken. Continue reading