Seventy-nine steps, almost in the backyard. Leave your shoes at the bottom and, of an evening, you can climb from shade to sunshine, cool to warm, and feel it through the whole of you. God is mostly made of earth here – buckeyes and flower petals, prairie grass and leaves gone to tattered lace.
You don’t run those steps, do you?
At the top, a cemetery that won’t abide with sorrow. The bones here rest easy; they weep no more. Above them, a vault of sky, fading blue and smooth as porcelain. Here are massive oaks predating the ancestors of the longest dead, roots dug down to fiery core, bent arms outstretched, scooping sky.
I sprint, all the way to the top, fast as I can.
Not a spirit or a spook in sight. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust, and a soul flies onward, into the glaze of sun. Not looking back, not peering down. Transforming, remaking itself from flesh and bone, he/she/black/white/straight/gay into layers and layers of light and love. Imagine.
It’s easy, actually, in this place.
You’ll turn an ankle, bruise a shin, roll to the bottom, fall down and break your crown.
Kids play here. It’s close to town, after all, and do they dishonor the dead with their laughter? The gargantuan trees are made for Hide-and-Seek, the buckeyes for tossing, the headstones for shivers and shrieks; it’s good to be so alive in a cemetery.
At the top, I fling myself down, breathless with the rush, and the earth is sun-warm beneath me, grass like flannel, sky like cotton and just me, rolled up in the in-between.
Dragon and Damsel Flies dart, sleek wings glistening in the long shadows, and the early fireflies begin a dance between the gravestones. A blink at Filbert Hodgepodge, and a flit past Eunice Whosit, catch-me-if-you-can.
I can. I can cup the light in my hands just to see the magic.
The old stones rear their heads against the pink and lemon light – arches and towers, capped like acorns, like turbans. Mossy, ancient, the names worn beyond legible. Carved hands, carved roses, fat cherubs and lambs resting over “Our Darling Babe”s. Nobody there, nobody home, and that is more comfort than sorrow. There’s no rest in the ground, and maybe there is no rest at all, because dead isn’t dead, not really, but a state of life more alive than ever before. Imagine being nowhere and everywhere, all and nothing and all made up of light.
Is that death?
Over here. Grandparents under heart-shaped stones, a lost little baby named for a flower, Joseph Henry who came here first, back when corn was planted in check rows and picked by hand. They’re not here but they’re not gone either and, like the precious blood and body, that is only possible if you believe it so.
Why if we believe, do we even call it death?
“Death” better fits a darkness of the soul, does it not? A twist, a grudge, a hatred-blackness-despair. But . . . not this. Not this light, this easy peace, this jubilant rush to God.
Seventy-nine steps, from evening to night, sunshine to stars. Back again, running.
Importing my blog onto the new website has been quite the feat. My team and I are still in the process of categorizing and fine-tuning the years of posts you'll find here. We hope you enjoy our work-in-progress library. Check back soon for updates!