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.

A Lonely Moment to Dream

I couldn’t take my eyes off Rusty dancing alone next to the little silver boom box, surrounded by beer bottles and cigarette butts. He swayed and shifted under a few bare trees at the top of a rocky beach in Collins Cove.

It was Saturday afternoon in Salem, almost a year ago – January 5, 2019. A light, misty rain fell, with an intermittent wind that slapped my wet pantlegs onto my skin, promising a dank and lasting cold long after I returned indoors.

A few feet behind Rusty, a chain link fence enclosed a set of imposing, white National Grid tanks. Beyond that, the shore continued and bent out of sight. A walkway lead to a park, houses, pizza joints. Across the cove, more tanks and houses lined the shore, windows and roofs scrunched together.

There was evidence of human life all around, but the only person I could see was him. Continue reading